Have I had NOTHING to SAY since APRIL?? Maybe…no, anyone who knows me knows I hardly ever have nothing to say. I was busy quenching my burning fernweh the rest of April, until we left in May. So April was a prep month for shopping, to be stylishly clothed and reasonably equipped, for my first overseas destination ever~
France. Paris. Normandy. Aaaaah.
My first view of…wow. A tower. An arch. Huh!
9 days in that beautiful, puzzling, amazing city; 3 days in Normandy at D-Day sites. Paris was…hard to describe (no wonder most visitors just show pics). It was great, and hard, and stressful, and fascinating. My physical limitations were a major challenge, more than I thought they’d be. I was SO sorry I had not worked out harder, gotten my stamina up more! (as if.)
Trying to navigate Paris’ twisted, narrow streets; the colored spaghetti-maps for bus, Metro, train with their teeny lettering. Google maps maybe? Umm…..
“How do we get to…(fill in blank of famous landmark)…?”
“Easy, Madame…” said our concierge at the hotel– “only 5-10 minutes to bus! Only 10-15 minutes to Metro! From there, you take 58 bus to 10 Metro, then walk a short…” After “walk” all I heard, after Day Two, was ‘blah-blaaah-blah.’ You will see why in a moment.
First day there (Day Two technically), we wanted to get our Paris Museum Passes at the CityVision office north of the Seine at (x) address. Emmanuel, the concierge, told us how to get there but it was a different address. “Take this bus to that bus, then a short walk of 10-15 minutes…”
[I had yet to learn what ‘a short walk’ means to a Parisian.]
“Buuut…it says so-and-so on line,” I protested. He smiled indulgently (a slightly all-knowing Parisian look that I learned to know) and repeated HIS directions. But I knew better! The God-Ordained Address on the website with our tickets was RIGHT. So we went MY way.
Oh, foolish wanderer. Except, the vouchers exited my purse at some point while walking, walking. Except, I had no idea how far we’d need to walk–blocks. Long blocks. And LOST is not a strong enough word for how lost we became, and how FREAKING FAR WE WALKED down the Rue du Rivoli. *shudder* To find the office I “knew was right” was… closed. A sign directed us to, yes, the one Emmanuel had given. *INSERT HUGE FREAKING SIGH HERE* Which we could not, after more WALKING (now a much-hated word), find to save our lives.
We were saved by an elderly lady who used to teach English, who basically told us to obey her, get on the bus with her, and get off when she told us to. And thank God for her…she was totally right. I’d missed the office while taking pics of golden Jean d’Arc earlier, before all the wa—
I can’t even type the word. But here’s that pic of ol’ Jean. You may know her as Joan. Not even a good picture to make all that LOST worthwhile!
So, okay, the w-walking. First of all, within two days I discovered: Parisians do NOT walk. None but the very elderly and even then… No. They “stride purposefully” to their destinations, so of course it takes them only 5-10 minutes to get ‘there.’ (choose your ‘there’ -pretty much anywhere) Only tourists walk, stroll, amble, peruse. And if you deal with chronic pain, it’s more like 20 minutes pour moi, monsieur. Minimum.
There is an exception for the strolling-thing for Parisians. Lovers may stroll. Lovers stop on the sidewalks, in the museums, at lines at take-away counters, at cafes, at bus stops–and entwine themselves and make-out. Yeah, I used that old hippie term of the 70’s. It’s very descriptive of what Parisian couples do. (and boy, do they smoke a lot too. shocking)
Lovers lip-lock whenever they want to. I got a little jealous, since my spouse and I are past that phase (and speaking of him: the walking was nothing to him. nothing! but as always he didn’t hold it over me, bless his soul) HOWEVER, I ain’t dead yet, so I noticed those lovers. And the dark, Gallic men…ooohhh la-la-laaaa. So Paris is still the City of Light & Love. I wish I had pictures of the lovers, but it seemed a wee bit intrusive at the time (now, not so much).
Oh Beloved, take me.
Liberate my soul.
Fill me with your love and
release me from the two worlds.
If I set my heart on anything but you
let fire burn me from inside.
take away what I want.
Take away what I do.
Take away what I need.
Take away everything
that takes me from you. ~ by Rumi
That poem was “just because” – just because it’s so pretty, so romantic and soulful, and I thought we needed some Love just now. I know I do.
Anyway, what did I take away from Paris? Time will tell if it was anything profound. So far: Wistful, bittersweet Joy. Humility of my, how-you-say, lack of exposure to…all of this continent, this Europe–this slice of it called France? The small, very small slices I was blessed to experience. Somehow, it filled me yet left me wanting much more.
Within, oh, a week or two, I found myself wondering…and astonished, really. Kind of like forgetting the suffering of labor while birthing a baby. Afterwards, all you remember is that it was painful, but what you really LIVE is the joy of having your child.
Pain mostly forgotten…new plans simmering in my brain. Fly to the coast and spend a night or two. Then fly over that ocean to…next year? The year after that?
Be quiet, fernweh–you spoiled brat, you.
And thank you, app-gods, for Citymapper.com