(And a third time).
And then we went to Paris: that beautiful, old city.
We arrived pretty early on New Year’s Eve, without a map, or a place to stay for that night. To further complicate/ confuse things, as we were eating breakfast at the train station, and in the process of attempting to wake up enough to figure out how best to proceed, a police official walked into the café and told all of the customers that we had to evacuate immediately. I couldn’t complete grasp the reasons for the sudden evacuation, but the sudden presence of a dozen heavily armed members of the military, and the words “suspected” and “attempt,” were enough to make my friends and I grab our bags and head for the door.
The next hour and a half was a miraculous blur. We went from being lost and stranded in one of the biggest cities in the world, to tracking down a map, and finding a fantastically located and unbelievably cheap apartment that had just become available for temporary rent the morning that we arrived. Additionally, when we went to the apartment renting agency to pay, pick up the keys, sign the papers, etc., the agent that I had been talking with all morning told me that he didn’t realize I wasn’t French until I handed him my American passport! (Hello, ego boost). A mere half an hour later, we found ourselves in our furnished apartment, complete with a fully-equipped kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, about ten minutes off of the Champs Elysées.
After an attempt at an afternoon cat nap, we all wandered out into the city, making our way from the Arc de Triomphe down to the Seine, and across to the glittering Eiffel Tour. Elbowing our way through the giant groups of tourists, some with champagne bottles already cracked open, we eventually managed to find our friend’s apartment. From there, our group set off for a night full of bars, wandering the packed streets, toasting new friends made on the metro, and utter chaos.
Needless to say, the following couple of days were a bit tamer. On New Year’s day, we did a respectable amount of wandering, walking down to the Eiffel Tower, crossing the Seine, and doubling back around the Christmas market.
The day after, we headed to the Notre Dame, which is still probably one of my favorite places in Paris. I somehow always manage to go when there’s a mass taking place, and the giant cathedral is filled with the smell of incense, the echo of Latin prayers, and the deep hum of the organ. This time, I lit a candle for Joan of Arc, who’s been one of my heroes since third grade.
Afterwards, we crossed the Seine for a visit to Shakespeare and Company, the famous bookstore frequented by Hemingway and Joyce, to name a couple, back in those classy days. We spent a while there, wedged between the hipsters of various nationalities, shelves of old books, and antique typewriters (one of which my friend decided to repair-a process that somewhat disrupted the dusty quiet of the bookstore, much to some/all of the other patrons’ annoyance, and to my amusement).
After trekking up to the Sacre Coeur, watching the sun set over the Parisian skyline, and one more night in our flat, it was time for me to return to Lille, and to work.
For the last few weeks, life has returned to its slow rhythm. Work, small trips, afternoons spent in cafés, tutoring sessions, and completing the never-ending stream of administrative paperwork (I’ve found that most establishments here have a habit of asking for the same documentation multiple times).
PS. These blogs will start being accompanied by pictures again. I finally got new batteries for my camera!