Paris is always a good idea

{translations of french words/expressions can be found at the bottom}

Last Tuesday and to my own surprise, I found myself at the Gare de Lyon, Paris. I had gott
en out of the train happy I got to my destination in spite of the eventualities of the day. It is a fact that in your first solo trip something will not go as planned… Like the bus I planned on taking that morning to the train station, instead I ended up taking a taxi and paying what it seemed like an arm and an eye so I wouldn’t miss my train. A few minor incidents followed that day (getting in the first class wagon and being totally lost, not finding the knife and fork for my train lunch, asking myself if it was actually the right train) but hey, I ended up getting there.IMG_0642 (2)

I walked nervously through the train station looking for the friend I had talked to for months but who I had never actually met, he would be hosting me those wonderful 6 days in Paris; that’s the exchange students’ community. We host and are hosted by strangers or once-seen friends from around the world knowing how much we already have in common just for the bravery – or maybe the folie* – of deciding to go live abroad.

I found him and his host mom and they made sure I felt comfortable from the first day. Later I would discover she was a lovely woman who shared my interest for photography (she even took me to tour and capture the city of lights at night) the need of traveling and discovering. Also some common points of view in politics, and the fun of pairing up against some of Brock’s opposed views .

That first day we went thrift-shopping. It had been my idea and Brock found himself trying what he called “what could be dead people’s clothes”. I shrugged it off as I IMG_0658 (2)responded with a smile “that’s part of the charm”. We lost track of time bubbling with the heat of the city and between lots of weird clothes stacked n’importe comment*. We were getting back
home late and Murphy’s law applied: we missed our metro station. We were forgiven (once again, his host mom, a lovely lady) and we promised we would be more punctual the next days. Of course we weren’t.

Wednesday we proceeded to wander and get lost for 5 hours in midst of the wonders of the Louvre, under the ever following eyes of the Mona Lisa, getting convinced to pay a bike-taxi to Champs-Elysées and walking down the  most expensive avenue until l’Arc de Triomphe; where we tried not to get ran over while getting the perfect touristy picture.

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The day we went to the Eiffel Tower we were victims of a raging wind. I remember putting down my bag on the floor and having to run after it for the wind was taking it away. But in spite of being a cloudy, cold, windy morning, it was perfect: thanks to the weather we had the Tower and its surroundings almost for ourselves. If  you ever go I highly recommend you that after the mandatory pictures, you do like we did. Just go sit on the grass and enjoy the view, soak in the beauty around you, let your senses create a much more valuable memory than pictures will ever be able to capture. Include taste in that sensorial memory, you are in France! Either hot street crêpes, macarons or cheap wine.

We had lunch in a cute little restaurant nearby with a view to the tower, where we tried snails for the first time. Yes, snails. We were shocked: they were actually good! IMG_0969 (2)Expecting a slimy texture and to the amusement of the waiter, I grabbed the shell and tried to pour the contents into my throat; nothing slid down. In between laughs and bad english the waiter showed us how they were really  eaten: you are supposed to grab this little fork and take the contents out and over some bread. Yum.

Besides eating, Brock loves history, and if it is from a good storyteller – which he is – I’m always willing to listen. So afterwards we went to Les Invalides, the army museum, and Napoleon’s tomb (again a recommendation: go at night the lighting inside is spectacular). Brock’s history facts made my tour much more lively instead of just watching majestic but cold places, where the dead lay. The Musée d’Orsay followed; since he had already visited, Brock let me wander around while he waited (thanks a lot Brock). I walked around with cello music thundering in my earphones, feeling like the realistic paintings were alive, being soaked in by the landscapes of Monet and Cezanne and getting soul-touched by Van Gogh.

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Friday I met up with other exchange students: Cecilia and Philip. The first a Brazilian staying in France and the second, an American  who’s host country is Czech Republic. Once again, I had only talked to Cecilia through social media, and Philip was introduced to me by her, while she barely knew him too. But being us teens going through the same experiences and some wonderful chances of the universe, we clicked perfectly. We laughed our as*es off while sitting on the stairs of Sacre Coeur, walking down Montmartre and completely failing to pass by two through the gates with one metro ticket: in the panic of the moment I threw myself down to the ground in all fours and crawled down the ticket gate. Of course my integrity stayed intact. We got out of the metro with starving stomachs looking for this waffle place I had found online and well, a toilet. After getting lost and walking as fast as we could while holding our bladders, we found it. And guess what? Turns out it was a very expensive place which didn’t even serve waffles. Half laughing and half complaining at our luck, and at me, we walked a little more (a little according to Philip, not such a little distance for Ceci and me, with our suffering bladders and short legs) until we arrived to the William Shakespeare’s Library and Cafe. A lovely place situated in front of Notre Dam, where we had some hot coffee and pies before checking up the Library, one of the coziest place I’ve ever been. Besides the vintage decoration and the charm that already comes with stacked up books, you can find a piano, typing machines, and a wall where you can leave a message. Facing my indecision between what book to get I let Philip choose randomly in the poetry section, it was the loveliest surprise to find out the book was amazingly good.

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At the end of the afternoon when the time came to say goodbye, we did it several times, unable to finally go each one our way. I think we hugged at least five times before being able to go. Au revoir* we said, with the promise of meeting again. A promise exchange students always intend to keep… but it’s a collaboration between the will, and mostly, destiny.

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“We don’t feel our chains if we don’t move” … much prettier in french though.

After saying au revoir to Ceci and Philip, and again late (for  me, the little town girl, had gotten lost on her way) Brock and I entered the Greek Restaurant his host mother had asked us to meet her in, along with her youngest daughter and her husband. After a tasty dinner with good food and good company, she took us to tour Paris by night. Brock always says he likes Paris more when the sky is black, and I could see why. While riding with the windows open and jazz on the background until the end of the lights the Eiffel Tower showcases every hour at night, I had what I call my “hit” moment. The moment where it really hits me that I am somewhere special or living through dazzling experiences. The moment where my chest swells with joy and pushes a sigh between my smiling teeth. Sometimes a few shy tears.”Wow. I’m really in Paris. A thousands miles away from home. I can point out on a movie, on a picture, and say I was there. I spent a wonderful week with people I had never met before. I’ve seen beyond beautiful things and crossed out a bunch of stuff out of my bucket list, I am living some of my dreams. I actually am.” Also I feel extremely lucky and thankful, not only for the economical efforts my parents have put into this exchange, but for the bravery, the sensibility and curiosity they passed on to me to squeeze it all out from this experience. So mom, dad, if you are reading this, once again: thank you. Thank you.

We spent my last day in Paris with exchange students of AFS and PIE and I took them back to the William Shakespeare Library and Cafe. We had to sit outside for there was no place for 15 teen foreigners. So we froze and talked for hours, trying to warm ourselves up with some coffee and, in true french style, some warmed themselves up with a cigarette. That night we had a reunion. What I can say is that we sang our lungs and danced our legs off until morning, and other details… we’ll save them to ourselves. *Wink*

Sunday morning exhausted, and with a mix of sadness and joy, I took my train back home. I waved goodbye from the window like they do in cheesy movies, thinking already to the day I would be back to the city of lights.

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Left my name somewhere in Paris..

*folie: crazyness

*N’importe comment: no matter how

*au revoir: means goodbye, but literally translates to “until we see again”

4 thoughts on “Paris is always a good idea

  1. Beautiful, belle Renata! You made me relive those wonderful memories of my week in Paris, step by step! Well written! Fresh, easy to read, charming!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s been two hours ago since I’m reading your blog and I want to tell you that it is incredible the way you convey the emotions and the desires of returning “home”, it is astonishing. I encourage you to chase your dreams and also I encourage you to keep writing and sharing you experiences to the people who does not decide whether to go to an exchange or stay in their country clinging to their culture without the luxury of knowing others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, I feel so flattered you´ve spent that much time reading the blog! I always pour my heart and soul into it… don´t worry, I´in the proccess of going after them, now I´ve been busy with exams and stuff, but hopefully I´ll get back to posting soon and hopefully you swing by again to read! Thank you for the beautiful words.

      Liked by 1 person

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