I’m really terrible at talking about trips. When I got home from Paris and people asked how it was, I simply responded “great!” Expecting more than a one word answer, I’d follow that up by reiterating “so good.” When that still didn’t satisfy whoever I was talking to, I’d add “we ate and drank, walked, biked, shopped, saw a few sights, and drank more wine.” Then I’d change the subject.
Unless you want every detail, I can’t sum it up in a short conversation. So this might be a long one.
To start, the reason I went to Paris in the first place was for my former job — at a high school study abroad non-profit. In February I was awarded a chaperon flight to Paris, long before I had decided to leave the organization. Lucky for me, I was allowed to keep the flight even though I hadn’t worked there for months. So in early September, I headed to New York for a few days where I met the 46 teenagers who I’d eventually take from JFK to Charles de Gaulle airport. Just me and them, with an hourlong layover in Zurich where we had to go through security and immigration. I only yelled at them once, but it was well deserved. Needless to say, we made it to Paris and the staff there took over. An hour after arriving, I had completed my responsibilities and was ready for vacation.
Sarah had been visiting our friend Kim in London the week prior, and the day after I arrived, the two of them took the train down and met me in Paris. There is something really special about meeting up with friends in another country. You get to see a side of someone that you wouldn’t normally. The night they arrived, we went out to dinner at a highly recommended neighborhood restaurant in the Marais, where we were staying. It was packed, and we needed to get on the list. Neither of them speak a word of French, so I was elected to do all the communicating. I proudly got us on the list, but somehow inadvertently told the bartender that I’d like to go to his house. You’d think three years of college French would get me a little further than that.
Thanks to Kim’s special European credit card with a chip in it, we could rent commuter bikes by the hour. There was a bike station right out side of our apartment, and conveniently there was always a station to drop them off near wherever we went. One day we seemed to bike all over the city to see many of the major sights. When I was 18, my cousin and I spent the summer in Paris living with her former exchange student. We were young and dumb, and didn’t even have a guidebook to tell us where to go. But I think we made our way to all of the major museums that summer, and most of the famous attractions. I’ve been lucky enough to go back a couple other times between then and now, so I was totally content letting this trip be purely a vacation of eating, drinking, and wandering around. Luckily Sarah, Kim, and I were all on the same page. Everything was seamless.
By the end of the week, we’d buy multiple baguettes and at least two bottles of wine at a time. Just in case we needed them when the stores had closed. We didn’t want to be caught without either.
I’m not sure how familiar you are with Parisian café culture, but it’s something people do: sit at cafés and sip espresso. Did you know that the espresso is actually really gross? For a couple of Portlanders and a Londoner, the coffee was totally sub-par. While Kim could handle it, Sarah and I couldn’t. We made it our mission to find decent coffee. We never really did, but we came close at Rose Bakery. We’d each order two drinks during breakfast so we could feel properly caffeinated.
I was talking with a friend the other night about Paris, and he said seeing photos makes him feel weirdly nostalgic, which is how I feel, too. I’m not sure if it’s even for a time that I’ve already had there, or if it’s for a time I want to have. But there’s something about that city that makes me feel like I want to make memories there. Maybe that’s what we just did?
All photos taken on my film camera.