A Weekend in Paris

I’m clearly doing this way out of order, but I just can’t help it.

You know how sometimes you experience something so magical, so dreamlike, so perfect, and when it’s over, it feels as though it never happened at all?

That describes my weekend in Paris in a nutshell. But let me explain a bit more.

May 31 —  The journey begins

Jackie and I set out on our adventure Thursday night, laden with a backpack stuffed with an assortment of sandwiches and fruit to sustain us and a rolling suitcase where we crammed all of our essentials. An 8 and 1/2 hour overnight bus ride loomed before us, but we were either too excited or too clueless to think much of it. We took the tube to the coach station, checked in and awaited the arrival of our bus.

The first two hours passed quickly. We chatted a bit and prepared ourselves for a night of uncomfortable sleep. I did everything I could to remain awake until we arrived at the entrance to the Chunnel — something I had been raving to Jackie about from the moment we left our flat.

But when we arrived at the Port of Dover, I realized we would unfortunately be taking a ferry rather than the Chunnel, and my excitement to ride through it was squashed. And a ferry ride in the middle of the night did nothing but make me dizzy and a bit nauseous.

But that’s beside the point of this post — we were on our way to Paris, after all, so I have no right to be complaining about anything whatsoever.

June 1 — Highs and lows 

After fitful sleep and squirming around in our seats for a few hours, we finally arrived in the outskirts of Paris, only a Metro ride away from the heart of the city. Our destination —  the hostel where we would be spending the weekend, so that we could drop our luggage and get started on our adventure. Getting ourselves checked in proved to be quite the challenge, as we had to find a currency exchange before we were allowed to do so, and seeking one out in a completely unfamiliar city combined with the language barrier was no easy feat.

But, despite confusion and headaches, we sorted everything out, and after changing, began an endeavor to reach the Eiffel Tower. My initial impression of the city (since we basically walked the entirety of it just to make it from our hostel in Bastille to the Eiffel) is quite hazy. I remember thinking of how gorgeous it is, but my mind was so clouded with exhaustion I could hardly soak it up and enjoy it fully.

So, when Jackie and I finally reached the Eiffel Tower, this was basically the situation we encountered: we stared up at its massive frame, sat to eat some bread we packed, took very few photos, and made the decision that nothing would be more enjoyable at that moment than a nice, long nap.

Which is exactly what we did next.

When we awoke, we noticed we had a missed call from a girl named Lina (Jackie’s sister’s boyfriend’s sister — not as complicated as it sounds). See, our plan all along in going to Paris was to spend as little time as possible going through touristy attractions and as much time as possible experiencing the true Paris. Lina was our key to do so, and she had asked that we call her around 5pm when she was off of work to meet up for an apéro (basically meeting for a drink after work hours). We missed the call, not realizing the time difference. Rookie mistake.

But we ended up meeting with Lina and her friend Maylis within the next hour in a very uncommercial area of Paris. We sat outside, ordered wine and ate a platter of cheese with bread. I cannot imagine anything more perfect, or even find the words to describe the pure joy I felt. It was everything I love about life, in the simplest setting I can imagine.

We took our time, but when we finished, Jackie and I headed back to the hostel to get ready for a night on the town with Lina and Maylis. We met the two of them in a park, with the Eiffel Tower shining brightly against the night sky in the distance. We talked. We laughed. We drank. And we set out to go to a club, where there was plenty of dancing to keep us all entertained for the evening.  

On the Metro when Jackie and I were headed back to our hostel, Jackie remarked that I was ‘glowing.’ And I was — I had not been that happy in quite a long time.

June 2 — Sweets, cheese and more sweets  

Imagine a place where there is a bakery around every corner, where crepes of any variety can be purchased on the streets, where chocolate can be found in practically every brand of breakfast cereal. That is Paris. It is any person with a sweet tooth’s paradise.

Jackie and I spent Saturday morning shopping around in Bastille, snatching Nesteas from the people handing them out for free on the streets and, of course, scoping out all the pan au chocolat that we possibly could. We met up with Lina around noon, and she showed us all of her favorite places in Paris, including her favorite crêperie, where I had my first crêpe ever. DELICIOUS. That’s all that needs to be said.

We walked past Notre Dame, explored Montmartre (where we had the best view of Paris, hands down) and ended up in a pub-type place for lunch. Jackie and Lina both had authentic French salads, while I had a ham and cheese platter, which was simply heaven.

Afterwards, Lina went off to get some rest, and Jackie and I continued on with a bit of exploring to Arc de Triomphe and down Champs Elysees. Of course, our energy from the morning puttered out as the day wore on, and we headed back to the hostel for some rest before meeting up with Lina once more for ice cream.

And the ice cream place she took us to…perfection. I admit, I teared up a bit when I took my first bite. Not ashamed. The place, Gelati D’Alberto. Ice cream will never be the same again. I can’t even write about it right now without getting emotional.

So, moving on, Lina walked us to see the Louvre at night, which was absolutely breathtaking, and then we ran to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower sparkling as it does each hour.

Overall, it was a no-pressure, eat-your-heart-out sort of day — just the way I like it.

June 3 —  Goodbyes

Sunday morning was a mixture of enthusiasm about what the day before us had in store and sadness because we knew we would be leaving in a few short hours.

Jackie and I started our day by doing a little more shopping, a lot more eating and tons of wandering. We reunited with Lina one final time, went to get more gelato (I’m telling you, it was life changing), and ended up heading to the area where Lina goes to school. I especially enjoyed this, because this made it all seem so very real — here we were, with this amazing girl who has lived in Paris for five years, walking around an area of the city that meant so much to her and contained so much of her life, and I was simply blown away. It was in these moments that I knew I would return, by any means necessary.

The three of us met up with Maylis again, which made me happy because I would have hated to leave without seeing her one last time, and we stopped at a cafe to relax and have a coffee.

Though the environment was slow and calming, the time seemed to slip away far too quickly, and before we knew it, it was time for us to retrieve our luggage from our hostel and head to the bus station. Lina and Maylis rode the Metro with us, getting off at their respective stops and kissing us on both cheeks in farewell. It’s strange to say, but in those three days we had spent with them, I feel as though we formed true friendships. Jackie had met someone she had heard stories about for years, and I met someone I had heard Jackie talk about for weeks. In either situation, we all had a real connection, and I could not be more grateful that we did.

That evening, as we pulled onto the highway and began the journey back to London, Jackie and I recounted our favorite moments and the way Paris made us feel. I could not help but shed a few tears as we left the city, remembering the happiness I felt at (nearly) every moment and how I realized what a great, big world we actually do live in.

The memories are endless. Paris will be in my heart always. And there is not a doubt in my mind that I will return.

*   *   *

“Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris.”

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