Sunday, November 25, 2012

Two (or three) days in Paris

I can't hear myself think. It's not that it's too loud or that I have too much other sensory stimulation, I just feel all jumbled. I don't know how the last few hours passed so quickly and yet so slowly. After spending the morning with Dana hanging around the Disneyland Paris Resort, I made my way back into the city proper so I could experience some more sights of Gay Parr-ee as well as get on my way back to London, the city that actually holds my heart.

I've had an extraordinary time here. Even though I just spent about 20 or 30 minutes walking through the sex shop district near the Moulin Rouge and had around three or four men casually walk past me and say "Bonjour" with disturbingly meaning-filled eyes, I'm still glad to have gone through the city. To have seen a new part of it. To have gone out of it and found myself both amused and confused by the Disneyland Resort.

This has been the least stressful of all of my European trips. Getting to and from the various airports in Denmark, Germany, Austria and Italy was a strain. Even reaching my train on time sometimes has been difficult. But somehow this just worked out. And it didn't coincide with any due dates, surprisingly.

Of course the real object of most excitement was Disneyland Paris which occupied most of my time and most of my cash. After spending a whole day in the park, I thought I might have satisfied my thirst for Disney paraphernalia and celebration. But this just wasn't the case. All I feel inside me is a greater need for the Disney I know.

It makes me excited to go home, which makes me sad because I still consider London my home.

Right now I'm going home. But in a few weeks I'm going home home. It's a confusing distinction.

One place that is most certainly not, nor shall it ever be, home is Paris. Even though I've found myself warming up to the city and enjoying getting to run through its streets as if I know what I'm doing (and clearly I don't; everyone can see that and they make it known), I still don't feel at ease here. I don't think I have since I was seven years old and was being brought to all the sights by my mother and my grandmother.

There's something stressful about being in a country where I should know the language but somehow I just fail massively at getting to exercise my awareness. I try and ask questions to servers, they don't understand me. I order in French, they respond to me in English. I make an effort, then I become more and more uncomfortable and I stop making an effort.

Yet I've had many of the lovely quintessential Parisian experiences that I've always longed for and never seemed to be able to accomplish.

Maybe it was out of knowledge and wisdom that my mother never took me around to Montmartre to experience La Moulin Rouge and its surrounding environs. There are, after all, a lot of sordid shops that I assume she wouldn't even want me passing by now.

But getting to see that side of Paris was new and exciting.

This afternoon I had crème brulée at Les Deux Moulins. This is the café where Amelie works in the so-titled film. It's lovely with a warm yellow lighting, filled with mirrors and red walls and writing. There are several workers and even though it's well-appreciated, it's not over-crowded. There's a mixed crowd, certainly not made up of locals, but it's fun to experience just the same.

I was glad to have gone. And glad to have taken a rest on what was otherwise a really lengthy and tiring journey.

After climbing all the steps up to Sacré-Coeur, the cathedral that stands on a hill looking over Paris from Montmartre, I wanted to stop and just feel the calm of a Parisian café. In my many visits, this is one I Never committed to out of fear of not having enough time to see anything else.

But I think Parisian cafés are a true raison d'être. In a city made up of too much to do, sometimes it's better to just do nothing and be glad with it. And if it just so happens that you're doing nothing in a place where they filmed one of the most adorable French films ever made, then all the better.

I think this was the first time when I actually felt like I had wound down in Paris. And I like it. It's the kind of city you imagine it to be when you stare out the windows or watch the servers run from table to kitchen and back again. Like Hemingway might have seen it.

Every time I visit Paris I always think I'm satisfied. There's no need to go back because I've done it due justice. But there is a part of the city I haven't seen yet. The part where I don't so much long for a homey atmosphere that I find easily in London or California or even Chicago. But where I find it.

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