Waking up in Paris is like waking up from a dreamlike state. The sunshine pours through the windows and wraps itself around the room so tight you can’t help allowing a smile to stretch across your face. The clock was reading 9.30 and you could finally hear the city coming to life. The garage doors creak as they reveal the businesses tucked beneath, french conversations begin to dance within the air and the buzz of traffic below your window becomes a soothing melody. It was a weekday but there was no need for a rush. Slink down the stairs, hope you don’t slip and pray that you didn’t forget anything. Nestle yourself into a cafe, order a pastry and a latte while we plan our day.
For the first two days we would use the Big Red Bus company as our taxi service. I thought it would be an easy way to get to and fro. Unlike the metro you could marvel at the historic architecture, people watch and get dropped off at all the biggest tourist destinations. One thing we didn’t take into consideration was traffic and how bloody hot the bus would get as we slowly cooked in the construction zones. It seemed that everywhere we went we ran into construction. There were cranes, and pilings of stone, honking cars and real angry humans. It was astonishing, really.
Once we made it through the bottlenecked traffic and sweat stopped popping out of every pore we were able to plug in and listen to a little history about Paris. You could hear hearts still breaking as we passed the scarred Notre Dame, we learned that the reparations will not be completed for another 15-25 years and the design of the tower is still very much undecided. The wind was cooling our skin as we passed the never ending Louvre which holds over 35,000 pieces of art, including the Mona Lisa. It would apparently take two months in order to see all the pieces.
I remember looking at this city, watching as the Seine river lazily meanders through and having flashbacks of all the history that has taken place here. The French Uprisings where people were flung off the bridges into the river, the swaying of Victorian dresses, artists lining the streets and musicians playing accordions. Class and grace evolving into human form on these tiny streets that once held horse drawn carriages which are now clogged with black sedans playing chicken with the humans in the sidewalks. This is by the way a real thing, in Paris, you take your life into your own hands when crossing the roads. The French don’t play around and it seems that they would all like to have a tourist as a hood ornament. Just a side note.
Over the next few days my Mom and I sat under trees that framed the Eiffel Tower as we sipped bubbly. We sat by the riverside with a glass of rosé and a shawarma in hand as the sun drifted across the sky and invited ourselves to a private boat party. Climbed the hillsides of Paris in order to be serenaded in front of the Sacré-Coeur which when you stand on the top of you see the city spilling out in front of you sprawling to the edges of your vision. It was then we realised how little of Paris we have actually seen, how densely populated the city must be and how incredibly gorgeous this whole experience was. Five days would never be enough, but alas it is all we had. Le sigh.
All in all, Paris stole my heart again. It was a bit more crowded then I would have liked and walking down the street next to two men carrying full-grade military weapons was a little unsettling. But there is something to be said for bonding with people on your way up the Arc de Triumpe’s stairs, watching your Mom charm the shawarma worker and making fast friends in the wine section of the grocery store. Did you know that in France the cashier will open the wine for you right then in there? It’s a thing, a real thing. They have bottle openers and think its weird that I was wide eyed about the whole situation.
There was a moment tho. One where I thought everything could awry. I almost lost my Mom. We were doing some Metro training and my Mom is this lovely human, who is so polite and kind but you know what that shit, it doesn’t work on a public transit. As I shoved myself onto the sardine packed train I just heard my Mom say my name and ever so slowly I saw the door slam into her and I thought Shit this is it. She is gone. She is stuck in the fucking metro. She doesn’t have my phone, shit she doesn’t have any phone. Does she even know the hotel? Fuck that might be the least of our problems cause damn well might not have an arm. It was the longest nanosecond in my life, where my mind had millions of thoughts and my veins were filled of fire but thank goodness my Mom made it and all her limbs were attached, discoloured but they were there. Just in case you were wondering, no she didn’t know the hotel, or my phone, or where we were going but she figured she could mmmmmaaayyybe get home if she could get to The Quiet Man. The Quiet Man by the way is a pint sized bar that shares a wall with our favourite grocery store where they get mad when we use any bill larger than a 5. You best bet your bottom dollar that Mom and I were now playing a new game, called where are we staying? Role reversal, in full effect.
In my mind the Seine will always be glistening in gold, the Metro will bring laughter to my heart and the memory of splitting sides on stairwells will brighten the darkest of my days. But still nothing beats the amount of happiness that I saw reflected in my Mom’s eyes the whole time we pranced through Paris. We were greeted with a lunar eclipse that waxed and waned above the two of us on our way to the Eiffel Tower, and as we left Paris Moses ppparrrdooonned the Metro crowds for my Mom. The first time I set foot in France I adored it, but it was the trip with my Mom that it became unforgettable.
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.” – Thomas Jefferson