What a whirlwind of a week! Trying to recall my weekend in Paris is exhausting and a colorful mix of emotions. The trip was bittersweet; bitter because of the area we stayed in and the nostalgia I had when reflecting on my first trip to France at 18 and sweet because I was experiencing this city for the first time without a real game plan and with a better love for macaroons.
We arrived on Friday evening and had a scheduled boat tour of central Paris. The Seine River gently guided us past historical landmarks that I used to dream about as a child. I looked for Quasimodo at the Notre Dame, stood in awe at the sparkling Tour De Eiffel against the velvet-black sky, and imagined attending a meeting at the Parlement Francois. The boat gave us a 360 view of the beautiful city and we waved to tourists and locals alike from the top deck.
After getting some much-needed sleep, we boarded a bus first thing in the morning to see the sights from yet another method of transportation. I remember seeing Paris for the first time after arriving from the South of France (and a French countryside to die for) and thinking that this isn’t the place I imagined. I was struck again with the same feeling. You have to plunge inside the deep history of France, travel outside the tourist spots, and converse with a local to truly feel France in Paris. Amid the hustle and bustle of the city lies endless amounts of trash and the strong stench of urine. We were harassed by drunk locals in the metro station and by men selling cheap figurines of the Eiffel Tower. At the end of the bus tour I really wanted to be back in London but my friends and I decided to head off on a twenty-minute walk to find the best macaroons in Paris. We were not disappointed. As we got further away from the Louvre and closer to this bakery, we discovered a different life inside of Paris. There were less tourists in berets and more locals conversing in French outside of lesser known coffee shops. The smell of urine was taken by the smell of bakeries. We found our destination and forgot all about carbs and the like that so often plague our American thoughts. We each bought a box of six hand-picked macaroons and shared two decadent desserts. We sat outside in the sunlight and ate to our heart’s content. It was perfect.
We saved our boxes of macaroons for a different venue. After finishing our desserts at the bakery, we jumped on the metro and headed back toward the Eiffel Tower. Under the shade of a tree, looking on at the infamous sight, we devoured three macaroons and saved the rest for later. They were absolutely perfect. Each bite I swear I got closer to heaven.
The next day was less eventful. We tried to make the most of the little time we were given until we had to board the train back to England. The three of us ventured off to Versailles after an accidental sleep-in. Versailles stood in its beautiful glory among throngs of tourists. It took about 1.5 hours to get inside the building and then we were squished to death by eager (and quite rude) tourists. An asian man elbowed my sides so hard that I found a bruise the next morning. I had enough after fighting our way through the estate rooms and we decided to exit the building and walk the gardens.
Some of my best memories in this life were made in those splendid gardens. When I was 18, my mom and dad took me to see them. We spent the whole day at Versailles eating crepes and baguettes, strolling, and chatting. I learned so much about France and myself that day. We wandered so far away from the palace that we saw open fields with bison chewing on the dewy grass. Storm clouds lazily rolled in and soaked us through as we ran for cover. To seek refuge from the rain, we opened a random side door in Marie Antoinette’s garden “play house” and met people from all over the world who sought refuge from the rain in this secret room. We chatted with people from Spain, Portugal, and Russia. It was the most diverse experience of my life at that point. Now I have far exceeded that! How incredible and blessed I feel.
Versailles wasn’t the same this time. By the time we found a place to eat, it was already noon and nearly time to go. So after enjoying my first and last crepe of this French trip, we headed back to catch the train. Exhausted, I watched the scenery change from France to England. The green hills rolled by my window and I played classical music on my iPod to match the mood. I let my mind wander and form stories – some I thought of telling, others just for me. It was relaxing and exciting to be back on the train that would lead me home.
If there is one thing I learned after my short stay in Paris, it is how in love I am with London. I didn’t want to be that writer who quotes Samuel Johnson but I think it’s time:
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.