Wednesday was quite a passionate day for me. I spent the night prior rolling my clothes and packing again to reorganize for my check in at a bed and breakfast that I rented for my final days in Paris. I would be leaving the lovely Chartres for Paris’ roaring city center near l’Opera. I would bother the tellers at the Ticket Information of Chartres one more time with my poor French and leave my RER travels behind me. We boarded the train on voie 1B and as the SNCF train glided us northbound toward Paris, I took advantage of a must needed nap after a late night of re-packing.
When we arrived at Montparnasse we did our best to pull my luggage through the swarm of people in the city. We bought our day passes through le Vente Information for only 6€80 and took le metro toward l’Opera. Surprisingly, Paris’ metro isn’t as handicapped friendly as one would think, so we continuously pulled my luggage up flights of stairs following exit signs that read Sortie.
With the help of Google maps, we found my stay, which was only three blocks away from the beautiful Opera building. My host welcomed me to cinqeme, or the fifth floor and I checked into my cozy B&B. I would miss the company in Marco’s petit appartement, but I wanted to be closer to the city during my last days of travel. After settling in we set out our itinerary. I wanted to see le Tour Eiffel, but the rain was upon us. But, today was the day, I told myself. I would put on my hat and bring an umbrella for the le rue.
The first agenda item of the day was to take the M to the 16th arrondisement, in which a friend suggested had the best views of le Eiffel. After pushing through the doors of the metro we walked up toward the Trocadéro and I gazed ahead at a much closer peek of the beautiful structure, this time being blocked by pillars of the Trocadéro. When the pedestrian signal gave us our right to way, we continued walking behind the building and ahead of me was what I was finally waiting for. Very light rain joined us for the viewing and I was astounded by the moment. Solicitors tried to interject the incredulity, ‘un euro’ they repeated, shaking their souvenir towers in hand, ‘no, merci’, I declared.
I looked ahead and I could not move my face from the stunning view. I could have stood there for hours, in the rain, just staring at the Eiffel Tower’s beauty. I politely demanded a miniature photoshoot and made sure to capture the moment as best as I could. Although this was not Marco’s first time seeing the tower, here we were, just a couple of kids from Rhode Island checking out one of the most remarkable structures in the world. As we walked down the hill, I could feel the command of the tower all around me. Next, we would head to le Louvre to enjoy the artistic culture that France provides.
We were escorted into the museum by descending through pyramids outside of the palace and I was overwhelmed with the crowd of people. I was reminded of every big city’s department stores as the holiday season approaches. There were hundreds of people mazing around the four floor gallery. I was given a Plan Map and I knew it would take me hours to accomplish even a bit of the work in le Louvre. I decided to begin my journey with the History of le Louvre, which was fascinating, as it originally constructed as the home to royalty before it became one of the prestigious museums in the world.
We walked through room after room exhibitions on Ancient Egyptian and Greek-Roman Sculpture work. I saw the Venus De Milo in person which is absolutely incredible when one takes just a few steps away from it. I listened to my audio guide which was set up with savvy on the newest Nintendo 3D’s and I was enlightened to the founding of the Venus De Milo. It’s a story of serendipity and treasured finds; the artist is still unknown to this day. Two hours of gallery viewing had passed us by and Marco would be catching the train back to Chartres soon. Before we would depart ways until he returns to the states in May, I promised that I would treat him to some sweets, on me, for his hospitality.
With such short time, I expedited my visit in le musée and headed to the most notable piece of work in le Louvre, that being the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. Our feet took on the rhythm of a metropolitan people through the Italian Portrait section of le Louvre and we found ourselves in room six which withheld the beauty. A large amount of people congregated around the painting, which is actually very small in person. I slowly walked up to the work and I could feel heat begin to rise inside of me. I was overcome with an emotional warmth. As I fought the passion, I pondered on why I did not feel the same during my visit to le Eiffel. When I viewed the tower, I experienced nothing but cheerfulness and utter joy. Yet, during my five minutes with the most historical portrait in the world, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and then it finally hit me, I was in Paris.
Almost two weeks ago, when my trip across the Atlantic began to arrive, I remember being continuously asked, can you believe it? Even when I arrived, others reminded me through emails and Facebook messages, that I made it. But, even with the deep immersion that I had taken into the Francophone culture, it did not hit me until I saw that painting. I cannot emphasize how significant this experience was to me, especially in considering my past. As I stared at the expression that Da Vinci depicts, I reminisced on my time as a child, growing up in a big family where the stereotypes of poverty were commonplace and inevitable. Although we were blessed enough to never have to beg, I wonder how a woman like me, growing up in such circumstances, could have held on to such a dream. At what point, did I say, this is something that can happen, and will happen!
I left le Louvre satisfied, even though after almost 2.5 hours, I probably did not see even half of the actual museum. Marco found us a café on Yelp called Anticafe, which offered such a great vibe and unlimited coffee, hot chocolate, desserts, and bread for only €4/heure. The seating was limited, as this place seemed like a go to for the young professional, but we were able to place stools in the corner high rise table and enjoy the café. I thanked Marco for hosting me and joining me on my travels. I honestly expressed appreciation for his patience with me, especially since travel buddies can sometimes cause agitation. “Pas De Souci,” he said, don’t worry. We laughed at our time together and as the clock continued to tick it was time for him to blaze toward the Montparnasse station for the train back to Chartres. I practiced my two French kisses on the check and made sure to leave him with a big American hug.
I walked back to l’Opera from the nearby café to get a better feel of the neighborhood. I bought a bottle of Cabernet to join me for the evening and headed back to the B&B. I began to get ready for my evening out. I had no idea what I was going to be doing and where I was going to go, alone for that matter, but I knew I would figure it out. I picked out my outfit and as my painted nails dried, I explored Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Google recommendations of some cool jazz places in Paris. I found one, Le Caveau des Oubliettes in Chatelét. I decided that would be the one. It was free and it included live music.
Since my day pass would not expire until the morning, I took le metro toward Chatelét where the jazz spot was. I walked in and did a general survey of the place. It was laid back, intimately small, and gave a hipster vibe. Before the live music began, I was entertained by two guys visiting from Amsterdam. I was impressed with their talents in the English language and they even amused me with jokes and the like. The music began and I headed downstairs where the show was. Little did I know, it was open mic night, but it was a different kind of open mic. Several talented musicians sat in the room and they would literally play their instruments to a song chosen by the performer.
A woman with curly locks courted us with welcome belting out Stevie Wonder’s “Very Superstitious.” The bass player complimented her perfectly and as all of the instruments came together in harmony, I knew this was the right place. I sat in the back next to a couple that I met at the bar, they were newlyweds from Texas, but I needed to be closer to the music. I needed to feel it! The night continued with classic American jazz and soul and moved onto Francophone artists of which I had no idea. I cheered for each performer with enthusiasm because they deserved it; these people were good. The night progressed and just as the music in the room kept getting better, so did the energy.
I continued enjoying the night and was blown away by one of the female musicians. An older woman, probably in her late 30s took the stage with guitar in hand and microphone ahead of her and regaled us. Her confidence was admirable and I was drawn in by her zest for music. My body language, usually very expressive, must have connected with hers and she invited me to the stage. “You wanna’ come sing with me. There’s something about your energy. Come up, come up!” Wow, how did she even know that I sing? It was crazy. I shook my head no, because I could not believe what was happening. She insisted and I took the stage and harmonized with her for a minute of a song. It was truly one of the coolest moments ever. The night ended sooner than I thought it would and closing came upon us quickly. I woke up the next morning, smiling, still thinking about the evening before and just the amount of fun that I had at Le Caveau des Oubliettes. It was official, I was smitten.
I took my time getting out of bed on Thursday and decided to finish the leftover items on my itinerary. It rained heavily a couple times throughout the day but I was able to get photos of the Arc De Triomphe, Parc de Monceau, and le Moulin Rouge without drops in sight. I had dinner in le Quatier Chisnois and enjoyed Vietnamese in Parisian Chinatown. I thought about how I would spend my last night in Paris but I did not want to make too many plans. As someone who banks on curiosity and inquisition, I recognize the importance in pausing and sulking in the moment. Visions compliment my futuristic strengths but they also cloud the glory of the moment. So as I waited for l’adittion or check in le Madarin de Choisy, I thought about my new found love, in the city of Lights, I decided to end my evening in exactly that, the lights of Paris.
As I’m concluding this post in the Iceland airport, I am entirely thankful. First, grateful that God revealed such an experience to me and allowed it to happen. And then, appreciative of my family and friends who supported me, and especially to Marco who hosted me. And then, grateful to the city of Paris. I’ve met wonderful people and I’ve been to amazing places. Just being here for a short time has reminded me of the world’s beauty and for some reason, has reminded me of my own beauty.
I am an expressionist, addicted to discovery; creative, cheerful, positive, spiritual, amusing, and much more. Paris has reminded me of this and Paris has showed me that this fusion of who I am is beautiful! I rededicate my life to never settling and always believing in myself and my dreams. I recommit my thoughts to ones that speak positivity, not just for myself but for others. I regain my trust in the Lord who is my foundation and strength. And I declare a harmonious balance of confidence and humility that rejects disbelief. I am everything because I am beautiful, and I am beautiful, because I am me. Au Revoir Paris, Hello Beautiful!
See more pictures here.