Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Our Last Day in Paris: True Confessions

I confess, I was ready to be home. Or at least that is what I thought at the time. The previous night a head cold hit me and with it came a desire for my own bed, my closet with different clothes, and a washing machine and dryer with English instructions. Oh, another entitled American tourist! The previous nearly two weeks, however, I rarely thought of home. I enjoyed the fullness of each day, the wonder of what we would see and experience next, and the voyeurism that comes with being a stranger in a foreign country. 
     Until that moment I had not been bothered by sitting in a cafe next to someone smoking or by not being able to eavesdrop on what I knew must be a fascinating conversation because I couldn't speak French. I had actually enjoyed using a few French words and phrases and was even considering taking a conversational French class. Up until that moment I had been in the moment, soaking in the famous French light made famous by Monet, adapting to the slow pace of cafe' time and later evening meals, and appreciating the ongoing parade of beautiful women wearing exquisite clothes. I must dress better at home, I told myself, and incorporate a bit of French style into my everyday routine. It had all been good. C'est bon. What an amazing trip this had been, and we would be leaving knowing we had barely scratched the surface of the city, but at that moment, blowing my nose, I didn't just want to go home. I wanted to BE home. 
     It seems to me that the last day of vacation actually occurs prior to the last day of vacation. Vacation ends when one begins to worry about exceeding the airline baggage weight limit, when one checks the calendar for appointments the first days home or when one just can't go into one more museum.
     On our last day of Paris we went to the Louvre. True, that was probably not the best plan for a final activity, but that's how it worked out. We arrived before 9 a.m. and the line wasn't too bad. The crowds in front of Mona Lisa weren't even that thick, but we were just done. Not even Rick Steves' usual stellar museum tour could entice us to stay. We'll start with the Louvre on the next trip. We were done.
      Instead, we headed back to our nearby apartment, stopping at the boulangerie across from the apartment, the oldest bakery in Paris we had been told, and bought crudités and poulet baguette sandwiches and Diet Cokes (not wine--I was even weary of wine!). We decided to get our books and go to the Palais Royal Courtyards only steps away from our historic apartment building. Rick Steves describes it this way: "This is where in-the-know Parisians come to take a quiet break, walk their poodles and kids, or enjoy a rendezvous--amid flowers and surrounded by a serene arcade and a handful of historic restaurants. Bring a picnic and create your own quiet break, or have a drink at one of the outdoor cafe's at the courtyard's northern end. This is Paris." 
     As I started planning this trip, I read this quote: "Until you've wasted time in a city, you can't pretend to know it well." (Julian Green) This is what I actually needed--not to go home, but to waste some time. To take a time-out to read and write in my journal. To doze in the sunshine. To enjoy a midday pause. To join Parisians and tourists alike and to pretend that I really and truly live here--can't you tell? At that moment I returned to the present and was able to fully delight in the pleasures of Paris on the last day. 

NOTE: My last post on my previous blog, sacredsixties.blogspot.com was written soon after we returned from our trip to Paris. I continue to learn from those sweet days there and am grateful for the chance to revisit them and share with you.   

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