City of Love. City of Light. City of serendipity.
Paris was a charmed four days, from beginning to end…of course, because the city is beautiful and historically rich and legends await on every corner…but this time, it was more. Three years ago, I hosted a world traveling couple that hailed from Paris through couchsurfing. When I knew we were adding it to our itinerary, I looked them up and asked for Paris recommendations. And their recommendation was to stay at their apartment…which was located in the absolute center, just 200 meters from the Seine at Pont des Arts. They welcomed us in, fed us, wined us, cheesed us (well, Sangbyeong), and chatted away as if we were their oldest friends.
But wait! It got better! We had been in their home no more than an hour (and in the city a mere two), when I happened to glance at my facebook. My dear, beloved dance sister Colleen had just posted….to say she was in Paris! A flurry of texts ensued and we agreed to spend the following day exploring together. In front of Musee Cluny, we embraced and then wandered through halls of medieval mementos, including the famous and mysterious Unicorn Tapestries.
Next, our trio made its way to Notre Dame, where we stood and gaped at the rose windows, ancient stonework, and crowds of other people. As we were making our way back out to the doors, we struck up on the idea of going up in the towers, where one can see the gargoyles and the views of the city. The line was not terribly long, and once up the endlessly winding stairs, we were in the menagerie of stone that appears in so many photos and movies. Back on the ground, we crossed the Seine and dove right into the shelves of Shakespeare and Company, the English language bookstore that was the hangout of luminaries like James Joyce, Henry Miller, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Anais Nin, Gertrude Stein, Alice Toklas…and on and on. My own favorite author, Jeanette Winterson, often lurks in the shelves here, as well.
How to finish out such a fabulous day? Why not drink a couple bottles of wine underneath the lit Eiffel Tower? Colleen was leaving bright and early the next morning….serendipitous that her only day there coincided with our first full day. Sangbyeong and I started just where we had left off…we went back to the Eiffel Tower in the daylight to start our second day of exploration, then wandered our slow way back through the city streets.
Long were our wanderings, and our feet were so sore….so we found some outdoor seats at a little cafe and sipped our coffees while the world went past. We braved the heavy construction at Les Halles to find a movie theatre. Mockingjay had just come out a couple days before. I know, I know…why go see a movie when we are in Paris, of all places? Well, I really wanted to see it and I know every time I watch it, I will remember the perfect days of Paris. And our feet were really, really sore. Afterwards, we jumped back into the French culture by eating at a nice restaurant which served veg*n versions of French classics. Including creme brulee for dessert! On the way home, we wandered past Notre Dame again, with her Christmas trimmings all up, and then walked through the empty courtyards of the Louvre (conveniently only a 5 minute walk from our home base).
The next morning, our hosts, Liouma and Vineta joined us for a bit of a walk, past the Louvre, the Tuileries, into the Korean/Japanese neighborhood, and past the Opera. From there, we caught the Metro to Abbesses, the deepest station in Paris, the one at the heart of Montmartre. The kaleidoscope of art, street performers, spectacular views, hidden alleys…it all felt like deja vu after all the years I have spent reading about the artists and personalities that once called this area home…and after years of watching the movie Amelie!
When we climbed up to Sacre Couer, we found a lovely farmer’s market outside, where we tasted a few wines and Sangbyeong had his first taste of foie gras. Inside, the guards strictly enforced the silence rule and the only murmurings to be heard were those of prayer. Outside, we walked back towards the art market and passed a siffleur…a musician whose main “instrument” is their whistling. Of course, we had to stop for a glass of vin chaud while listening…and I wandered down an alleyway and found a flawless photo op of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. We continued to wander and found our way past Dali’s old house and studio and eventually made it down to Pigalle, where the red lights and XXX signs take over.
Remembering our promise to cook Korean food for our hosts, we walked back uphill toward Abbesses, soaking in the last of the Montmartre scenery and vibe. Right behind the Metro station entrance, we spotted many people taking photos against a blue wall…turns out it is a mural that has “I love you” in a plethora of languages. We spotted several versions of Korean, although one was upside down. Ah well. We still found one at picture height and enlisted the help of a lovely couple from Spain to take our photo…and returned the favor for them. Back at home, we spent the evening making japchae and bulgogi for Liouma and Vineta and trading wild travel stories late into the night. The next morning, we were sad to say goodbye, but happy to say we will see each other again. Always good to know you have a home in Paris! On our way to the bus station, we made one 5 minute pit stop to see the Arc de Triomphe. When my grandfather was there during the Liberation, he brought home a keepsake bracelet with the major sites, and that was the only one we hadn’t seen from that 1944 bracelet.
While our stay in Paris was far too short (it wasn’t even on my original plan!), it was perfect. Travel friends, dance friends, a city of dreams, connecting the dots (grandpa, my Mom who lived in France, and now me), and best of all, spending it with my beloved! C’est magnifique!