It’s Monday night in Paris, and I’m sitting around in the hostel room eating more than my fill of roasted chicken and thyme-flavored Lay’s — they’re like a meal in your mouth! The future of eats! — while Kayla sleeps off her exhaustion.
We’ve had a wild few days here, capped most vigorously by a Saturday night in the basement club of the hostel. It was preceded by a room party with hostel roommates and, well — for lack of better words — a large, long cake called Ker Suzel.
Before those events, though, we experienced a lovely day in Paris. The day began hot and sunny and with a tripe to Montmarte. We climbed (see: breathlessly lagged) up the elaborate steps of the Sacre Coeur, a beautiful piece of architecture indeed.
Later, with Kayla as navigator, I finally made pilgrimage number one to Pere Lachaise cemetery and the grave of Oscar Wilde. It’s a strange must-do, perhaps, but I felt at great peace in Pere Lachaise. It’s secluded, complacent, but vibrant in the way only a grandiose house of the dead can be. And I was glad to finally pay a visit to the resting place of a man whose wit and grasp of language inspire me.
After a brief lunch in that area of town, we headed toward some parts of Paris one knows and recognizes — The Louvre, the Seine and the Champs Elysses. There the skies opened, and with the rain came a sort of temporarily surreal euphoria, unmarred by the wet chill, until no visible change in weather eventually drove us to the Metro.
But after that aforementioned crazy Saturday night, our energy dwindled significantly. The sun briefly graced us again Sunday afternoon, but our health, unfortunately, didn’t match the brightness. We made some lovely albeit painful stops at Sainte Chapelle, whose jewel-like stained glass goes unparalleled, and the outside of Notre Dame.
Hours later, after serious hostel hibernation, we again ventured into the rain, this time to the Trocadero. I’ve seen Paris before, and though I’m not jaded by the city, a certain bliss that comes with the novelty of a foreign place had been absent from my trip. Until, that is, I rounded the court of the Trocadero to see the Eiffel Tower looming across the water, lighting the city as the universal beacon it’s wont to represent. I still don’t know precisely why, but a wave of emotion swelled within me. I think it was a bit akin to the romantic notion of the sublime; for a few mere seconds, I was lost in what I saw.
Then I remembered how hungry I was. And that my feet were soaked. And that I was freezing cold. Back to reality.
But then! We moseyed closer to the Tower, crossing the street until it stood above us. The time unbeknownst to us, it so happened that moments after we arrived below, the hour struck — sparkling lights overtook the Eiffel, and nearby onlookers cheered with delight. Again, magic.
What isn’t magical, though, is the fourth consecutive day of rain out of four days you have to spend in an enormous, difficult-to-see city such as Paris. We awoke today to 50-degree weather and incessant downpour, our plans to see the Invalides and other outdoor locations thwarted by wet chill-induced crankiness.
— I daresay Owen Wilson’s character in “Midnight in Paris” and Diane Keaton’s in “Something’s Gotta Give” and all those other characters who love Paris most in the rain must experience it rich-people style, ’cause when you’re a backpacker who couldn’t fit rainboots or a warm coat in your tiny luggage and you can’t afford to take a car everywhere, it gets old rather quickly.
But one cannot complain about the ability to retreat to the Louvre on a rainy day, I suppose. Among my favorite places in the world, the Louvre again did not disappoint me. The throngs of tourists did, but thankfully, the art transcends them.
If you ever visit, be sure to visit the ancient Iran wing to see the relics from Mesopotamia. It remains my favorite, and it’s wholly undervalued by the Louvre populace. One forgets, I think, the incredible ability art has to capture a capsule of time one can never regain. This arguably applies most intriguingly to relics from societies disappeared.
But ahem. It seems I need to blog more frequently so I don’t write one novel per city. Duly noted, self.
Tomorrow we head to Leiden, the University town close to Amsterdam where Kayla spent a semester. Before that, EGAD I will get a crepe.