I know, everyone loves Paris. It’s like saying you love chocolate. But since I ended up there by accident, I feel especially entitled to gush. After three frustrating weeks in Fountainebleau – I highly recommend NOT taking a European bouldering vacation just after knee surgery – I missed my plane home. That morning, I leisurely sipped cafe creme in Fountainebleau, while my flight was boarding. I caught a series of trains to Charles de Gaulle long after the plane had taken off, and arrived blinking at the reflection of the empty Delta kiosks in the shiny airport floors. There wasn’t an airline employee in sight. When I finally coerced a Delta operator to speak with me in English, the news wasn’t good. She said, a little rudely, that there were no seats as cheap as mine for a week, and if I wanted to fly home tomorrow, it would cost 2500 Euros, which, exchange rates aside, is like, crazy, especially when the only thing I had to get back for was making cookies and coffee at a cafe in Boulder.
I’d never been to Paris, I don’t speak French, I was alone, and it was practically dark when I got there. I dragged my four heavy bags to a tiny hotel called Paris New York, and grabbed dinner —a $2 bottle of wine, some bananas and a packet of peanut M&Ms.
Days were simple. I had my camera, my journal and the entire city to explore. I drank café crème, ate croissants and read Edmund White’s Paris memoir, Le Flaneur.
Every morning I left my room on the Rue de Gobelins at 7 am, walked the city with blistered feet, and returned around midnight. I zig-zagged across the Seine, wandered from Notre Dame to the Marais and back to the St. Germain.
I walked the arrondissements and never got lost because there was nowhere I had to go, or be, for days. There were no plans to coordinate, no schedule, there wasn’t even anyone to talk to, and I could finally relax.
It was the ultimate vacation from “me”—that airtight entity deduced from friends and family, language and country.
Underneath that, was someone less familiar. I drifted between the sculpted trees and worn streets while Paris pulled me apart, suspending my native language, enhancing it with silence.
When the week was over, I didn’t want to go home, and I wondered if I could miss my plane again.
In the taxi to the airport, the radio blared and I committed as many familiar French phrases to memory as possible. Paris floated backwards in the rectangular rear window of the cab, as we drifted through the foreign sprawl of slums and farmland towards the airport.
The next time I’m there, I hope I miss my plane.