I had walked around the streets of Paris for what felt like at least 30 miles before I gave in and bought a ticket for a red double-decker “hop on-hop off” bus. it was a bold move for someone who admittedly would rather slit her wrists and bleed out slowly than to take in a bus tour. but the feet were aching and I needed some wind in my hair. this would do it. I’d get around town, see some stuff, maybe take a few photos to prove that I saw some stuff before I could get the hell outta there.
I hated Paris.
it was 2011. 5 years ago this week. since today is Bastille Day, I’m seeing a lot of mention of Paris on social media and it takes me back to the couple days I spent wandering the city. I had no plan. this was me being brave. me going to Europe for my first time, to Switzerland for work. so why not jump on a train (as Europeans do!) and go to Paris? makes sense, right? but while wandering the city, my mind in a fog, earbuds in, I admit that I broke into tears more than once. my heart was broken. divorce imminent. bad decisions literally all around me, even in Paris. I was a disaster on two blistered feet. the crying happened mostly while lying in the grass below the Eiffel Tower, but it wasn’t reserved for this lover’s spot. it happened while looking at fruit. once on the bus. probably a few times in my hotel room.
I hated Paris.
by the time I hopped off the bus at the Louvre, and stuffed myself into a room to see the Mona Lisa, I had reached wit’s end. it is hard to believe I didn’t punch someone in the face in that room. I walked in and walked out in disgust (but not before snapping a few photos, of course.). it was absolutely awful. and I love art. but this was just not a good day.
my room in Paris was so tiny that the bathroom was more like a closet than any bathroom I’d ever seen (remember, this was my first time to Europe. I’ve seen worse since.) I am not kidding that I had to turn sideways to get through the door, which made me feel fat and awful and emotional and just absolutely ridiculous. the entire thing was just that: absolutely ridiculous.
this is a little of my short history with Paris. this is how I felt in that moment, at that time. confused. hurt. sad. emotional. drained. fat.
a train wreck.
but today I am surprised. while looking through photos, I’m smiling. because looking at the photos, 5 years later, I finally remember something else. I think I also was happy. hopeful. I felt brave and proud of myself. I felt adventurous and alone. I felt strong.
I have photos that show a glimpse of a smile. I remember moments of knowing things would be different from that exact moment on. I listened to music a lot. some of it made me sad. some made me smile. it was an awkward time, I’ll say that. it was incredibly awkward. I made some missteps. I was getting my feet back under me. I was figuring it out. and I was in Paris! PARIS! alone. I wanted to hold on to every smell and sight and feeling, no matter how raw and awful or hopeful or naive.
looking at the photos from Paris, I realize it was a huge turning point in my life. and for that, there’ll always be Paris. and it’s still there. and I’m totally open to making new Parisian memories.