Saturday, December 12, 2009

An American in Paris

Crammed into a photo booth, smiling our hardest.

I spent most of my time in Paris huddled underneath an umbrella, shivering violently and avoiding puddles. But as cold and as wet as I was, I couldn't stop smiling and awwing at everything. I find most metro lovers in Madrid pretty gauche (I once tried drowning out the slurping noises by turning up the volume on my iPod. It didn't work.), but in Paris, I couldn't help but smile at them. Good for you. Please, carry on with your public displays of affection.

I licked powdered sugar from my fingers, wiped Nutella from the corners of my mouth and gleefully cracked my crème brulee with a spoon at the count of three.

Paris turned me into a child.

We rode a ferris wheel near Champs Elysee in the rain and a carousel near Sacre Coeur. A song by Edith Piaf was playing.

Oh and then there's that famous tower.

We waited in line for more than an hour to climb the Eiffel Tower in the coldest cold I have ever felt in my life. I swear I felt my heart rate slow down. My feet turned into blocks of ice. But leave now? Yes, we are delicate Californian flowers. But quitters? NEVER! I wrapped my scarf around my face and clutched Raya's arm.

Finally, about 700 steps later and more than 1000 feet above the ground, we reached the top, only to find that not only was it colder up there, but windier.

We ran across "le etoile" (the star), the area surrounding the Arc de Triomphe, which Zoya explained is not covered by insurance companies because it is notorious for car accidents.

We were the only people there, or so we thought until two French guards appeared. Zoya charmed them with her impeccable French and they asked us how we got there because the Metro passageway to the Arc was closed. We ran, she told them. "Well, that's the only way you can get back!" they said.

Cars honked as we dodged traffic in the rain. We laughed nervously, madly, from the adrenaline rush.

We had coffee at Cafe de 2 Moulins, also known as the Amelie cafe. She was everywhere.

The Amelie cafe is just a short walk from Moulin Rouge, in Pigalle, which should always be said with a wink.

We took a muddy walk through Les Tuileries.

I spent my last day at Pere Lachaise, where I paid my respects to Chopin, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde.

The cemetery cat was there to greet us.

We finally found Oscar's grave. I totally kissed it.


I was in Paris for four days and I wish I could tell you everything. What it's like to be on the Eiffel Tower when it lights up. How unbelievably small you feel in the shadows and candlelight of Notre Dame.

Paris is magic. You just have to see it for yourself.

Here’s what I can tell you: The French were nothing but friendly and helpful. You can’t have a bad meal in Paris. It will make you lovesick but here, have this macaroon that just melts in your mouth. Better?


Zoya was glued to her map, as she was for most of the weekend. We were outside the metro station by the opera house, when I saw them.

They were standing across the street. There was nothing overtly special about them. Just another couple in Paris whose preferred mode of transportation is by motorbike. They were on their way to dinner, I was sure. He removed her helmet and her hair fell like a curtain across her face. He brushed her hair away from her eyes, tucked it behind her ears, his hands poised at her temples. It reminded me of a line from a Billy Collins poem. "You hold a girl's face in your hands like a vase."

I just stood there, witnessing this quiet little moment unfold on a wet street corner. That, right there, I thought. That’s Paris.

*Special thanks to Zoya for letting us stay in her flat and for being our unofficial tour guide. You are awesome. And as the French would say "ELLE EST CANON!"*

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