That’s exactly what I did today. I find myself taking aimless walks whenever I get the chance. It’s important to take advantage of moments to recollect and relieve the mind of successional issues. Most of them, minute in their own respect, but collectively straining. Therefore, I find peace in my ‘any which way’ walks and today I found solitude on the streets of Paris.
My morning wouldn’t be typical if I wasn’t running late. I’m convinced that I’m addicted to the bustling commuter attitude. Marco and I left his appartement en le matin a 0920h. Luckily he lives right around the corner from le gare, so that gave 15 minutes to get mon billet stamped and head on the train. Today’s journey would be my own. Marco made his way to work, while I prepared to take on the City of Lights independently. I’ve never been the type of person to be scared to do things alone. I’ve always rested on the idea that if you wait for others, you may be waiting forever. I own no insecurity in declaring that I often walk alone because I know I do so with purpose and reason.
When I arrived a le gare de Montparnasse, I was embraced with a sense of comfort because I gained familiarity with the place, since I had just traveled from there just a couple of days before. I quickly turned on my cell data and pointed my compass toward le Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris on Google Maps and headed Northeast. And I walked, and walked, and walked. I took plenty of photos on the way and made necessary stops to rejuvenate myself. I bought an orange juice to join my on the go breakfast for deux euros trente or 2.30 euros. I gave it in coins since I had collected enough in the amount of time that I’ve been in France.
I walked away from the café continuing down le rue, continuing north east, toward what I would hope would be the Notre Dame at some point, but in my mind, if it didn’t show up, I would be content. The walk was simply for myself. I certainly want to take advantage of every minute in Paris and be the tourist that I deserve to be, but I have to respect the process of my journey. While it is important to use your authority and give yourself permission to create the experiences that you want and need, it is incumbent that one internalizes the development of it as well.
As I continued up the road the atmosphere began to change. The common commuter soon became a sophisticated pedestrian. People were no longer walking in or out of the train station toward their daily routines, these were people doing some serious shopping. I followed them up the road as they walked out of Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and Empirio Armani. I stayed modest and took on my role as a window shopper, but I still basked in the moment. Although I try not to indulge myself in the materialistic world because of the unfortunate messages it can send, it was cool to see the shoppers getting their fix.
Finally, I was met with the road’s end. And right in front of me was exactly what I wanted. Me, just a young woman raised in South Providence of the tiniest state of America, collided with French glory. I had made it to le premier arrondissment and joined the congregation of others appreciating the beauty of what was faced us, le Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris. It was nothing like I had imagined. And as I reflect, I realize that I could never imagine what it would have looked like. It’s reality cannot be duplicated even in high definition. And as I continue reflecting, I realize there are some things that we will never, and I mean, never have the capacity to imagine. That does not mean that we should not dream nor should we tether our curiosity, it simply means there are things that in life that are bigger than our thoughts, bigger than what we can imagine. One of my favorite scriptures emphasizes this, the God given power that we have to speak things into existence, things that we don’t even have the capacity to imagine: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,” Ephesians 3:20.
Hand in hand with serendipity, I found my way to le Louvre, also very beautiful. Of course, I had to confront many solicitors who promised to create the best caricatures or even sell the most wonderful souvenir. I entertained them with my smile and politely said, ‘no, merci.’ One of them almost had me as they boosted my ego, ‘tu es trop belle’. ‘Merci, beacoup,’ I replied. He continued to try and convince me to purchase one of his key chains for cinq euros, but even a simple compliment did not get me to budge. I later found the same key chain for only .50 euro anyway.
It seemed in every corner there was something to be surprised about. Straight ahead was the infamous Champs d’Elyssees and Arch de Triomphe, probably a mile away from me, but it was still a gorgeous view. I walked by the well known carousel and to my left was a closer look of le Tour de Eiffel. I was getting closer to the iconic destination, but in due time, I reassured myself. I continued walking and was astonished at the security forces among the international consulates. As I walked aimlessly, I began to get lost, but I didn’t know it yet. Having made an almost three hour journey at this point, I decided it was time for some rest.
I made it my mission to examine restaurant menus and prices before I entered. I mean, this was the 1st arrondissement, everything was bound to be très cher. After looking at several expensive places, my legs did not shy from reminding me that they desperately needed rest, so I would stop in the next place I found. I discovered un resto, whose name escapes me, sitting right on the edge of the 1st. arrondissement into the eighth. It gave me a quick diner feel. I was greeted by a handsome waiter who unexpectedly dove right into French conversation. My ignorance convinced me that I should be given a little time to humble myself to the experience and gather all of the little French pieces that I had, enough to gauge somewhat of a conversation. Yet, I failed miserably. After I could barely get out my ‘ça va bien,’ the waiter realized that my French was elementary and resorted to English. *Sighs* I did not want to be that American; especially since that’s what American’s often do, get comfortable in doing it ‘our’ way. If I was going to embark on such a journey I would be as authentic and vulnerable as possible, even if I was bad at it.
My thoughts were completely flushed every time the waiter made his way toward me. I think it was un petit peu of bashfulness on my part. I needed to reevaluate what was occurring. I had just succeeded in ordering my own food just the day before. I definitely noticed the difference in my attitude when I did not have support. It was okay, I would pick myself up and try it again. I closed my order at le resto and the waiter charmingly commented on my pink lipstick. Without much understanding and still in a complete daze of his beauty, I couldn’t reply with my wit. Instead, I quickly paid the bill par carte and signed the receipt tu as sympa. What was supposed to be a simple compliment of his patience as ‘you are nice’ became, you have nice because I mistakenly wrote, ‘as’ instead of ‘es’. Good job, Tyjo.
As I remembered that I really had no goals for my day, I thought about a neighborhood that I wanted to visit, Montmartre which is known for artistic culture. I stopped at the nearest Metro and tried to comprehend the map for the city. After five minutes of pointing my finger here and there and mumbling to self, I allowed the next ‘voie’ or track welcome me with whatever train. I trusted in whatever life decided to give me. And with a bit of my own knowledge and trust in the journey, I was brought several blocks outside of Montmontre but close enough. This was a more genuine area compared to the noteworthy 1st arrondissement. There were street venders everywhere who were thankfully much more softer in approach. I even fell upon a protest led by a group of people mostly of African descent who seemed to be advocating for a change in immigration policy. The French currently own a system that allows for random asks for “papers.” Even in the states, we know this brings forth discrimination, yet are challenging like-minded policies in Arizona and New York City. Yesterday, a couple of Marco’s friends spoke briefly about this situation and the racism in France. It was interesting to see proof of this having just heard about it the day before. It was also rewarding to see advocates all the way on the other side of the world, speaking out, peacefully demanding change.
I continued walking up and down the streets and made my way into a small bar to charge my phone. I ordered a vin rose, or glass of pink wine. This time I would be more confident in my French. ‘Quel est le mot de passe de Wi-Fi,’ what’s the Wi-Fi password? — Café Cognac, the same as the restaurant, the bartender replied, in English. I would continue to speak to him in French. ‘Où est le salle de bains?’ He pointed downstairs, I suppose that was fair because he technically did not respond in English. As I returned upstairs, I said, tu parles anglais? He said, oui, un peu, j’aime la langue. And then I realized, he was just doing the same as me, practicing his linguistics. I enjoyed the rest of my break in Café Cognac and began to see dusk upon me.
I wanted to visit le terrace of Montparnasse on their 56th floor. It shows le plus belle views of Paris! But I was also battling time and the fact that I was lost. I needed to be back on the train to Chartres by 2009h to prepare for an evening with more of Marco’s friends and also get ready for our early trip to London. I made it to Montparnasse with perfect timing. I took advantage of the student discount and for 11€ I saw an amazing view of the city. Wow, le Tour De Eiffel really is something else when lit. I made it to le gare SNCF early enough to enjoy an expensive blueberry muffin or muffin myrtille and napped on the train back to Chartres. Darkness sat on my shoulders and I walked safely back to Marco’s apartment. Wow, this was big. I made it. A day in Paris. On my own. It felt good to enjoy all of that and more, by simply taking a walk.
See more pictures of my walk here.