Ever since I started learning French in Class 8, I have dreamt of going to Paris. The towering and twinkling Eiffel Tower, the famous Champs Elysees avenue dotted with luxury stores, the quintessential French cafes, the pretty patisseries- I have romanticized about it all. So when I finally got the opportunity to visit this charming city that I had grown up reading about, one would presume I would be ecstatic. I thought so too, but I wasn’t. I was more apprehensive than excited, and a complete bundle of nerves when my husband dropped me off at the airport. I had never travelled solo before. My overtly social personality has ensured that I never do anything by myself. Hence, travelling alone to another country was very overwhelming for me. The only thing pacifying me was that I was reasonably comfortable with the language.
Love at first sight
I landed at Charles De Gaulle airport after quite an uncomfortable flight where I barely slept, only to find myself in a serpentine queue at immigration. I got a taste of the infamous Parisian queues at the airport itself- it’s probably a way to prep you up for what’s in store in the city. From museums to metro stations to restaurants, you will find queues everywhere. After battling with some teething problems at the hotel, I set out to see the Eiffel Tower. I was tired and sleep deprived. As I passed all the gorgeous cafes, I caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower- it was playing peek-a-boo with me, almost teasing me. As I closed in on her, I was completely love-struck. There she was, looking as grand and spectacular as I had imagined her to be. And then it hit me-This was it! I was finally in the dreamy city of Paris! All my fatigue and frustration vanished, my heart and my mind promptly concurring with Audrey Hepburn that ‘Paris is always a good idea.’ And I think it was the perfect city for a solo trip.
Initially, it was awkward and lonely. I would struggle with asking strangers to click my pictures. But, gradually I began enjoying my own company, and finding silver linings. I loved the fact that I could plan my day however I wanted to, and also change my mind impulsively; it felt liberating. I would love walking through the streets gazing at all the quaint buildings with lovely flowers peeking out of the balcony. Getting lured into a patisserie and walking out with a macaron or a Paris Brest, if I felt more indulgent. Sipping on a traditional café noisette with a croissant, watching the many Parisians zip by. Relishing a Rosé at the end of the day with a divine cheese platter. I was exploring the city in the quintessentially Parisian way! My commute to work every day by the Metro only added to the authentic Parisian experience.
Somehow the city felt strangely familiar; as though I had been travelling on the Paris Metro for years. Sitting on a bench gazing at the Arc de Triomphe through the fall foliage against the azure sky would have a calming effect on me. I was alone in a foreign city, but it still felt like home.
Paris, je t’aime
I may not have seen all the must-visit places in Paris (since it was a work trip), but I saw enough of Paris that reinforced all the clichés. The charming cafes and brasseries with colourful awnings, the cobbled streets and lamp posts, the alluring window displays of macaroon towers in patisseries, the boulangeries with the smell of fresh baguette wafting through, the fromageries in busy market areas, the walks by the Seine, I fell head over heels in love with the city.
I think the fall season in Paris is very picturesque! Even though the leaves were shedding, I think the city blossomed into something pretty and magical. I remember the time I was crossing Jardin de Tuileries to go to Musee D’orsay, and the garden with its assortment of yellow and orange leaves looked so spectacular that I sat down there to soak in the beauty. That scenery will be etched in my mind forever.
I think I carried a part of Paris along with me when I came back to India. I think about it often and I am immediately teleported to a busy street in Le Marais dotted with honey-coloured fall trees in front of a chocolaterie- the delicious aroma of chocolate enveloping me as I enter inside. That’s when it dawned on me- Paris is not a city, it is a state of mind.
This post is a part of the series- #12TravelTales wherein I plan to explore 12 new places in 2017- one every month and share my experiences on the blog.