February 2nd, 2016

(old one because the site stopped working temporarily)

I am leaving Paris once more, in the morning, from train to bus to plane to Berlin. Right now I’m at the computer downstairs, it’s a relief to stretch my fingers out over real keys instead of this tiny phone screen.

It was my intention all along to stay after she left, to go through the farewells at the airport and then return to the city alone. I wanted this… but I didn’t think about being left behind. I didn’t think about missing her. I fell out of love with this city through the melancholy: there was too much french, I didn’t want to get up in the morning, I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to stay inside. Then, when I moved out of the Luxembourg Gardens area, I didn’t want anything to do with my new location. The hostel wasn’t right, the streets weren’t right, I wasn’t happy. In simple terms that is the truth there, and I wasn’t, but I learned to see the charm again. Now I don’t want to leave. 

Of course. 


Part of what brought me around was taking the time to take care of myself for a second, to put aside concerns of expense and to do what I felt that I needed at the time. So I found myself quite by chance next to the oldest tree in Paris, in the oldest english tea shop in Paris, across the street from the oldest church in Paris, with food and tea and a treat, a book and a chance to write. I felt like a whole new me when I stepped out some hours later–you’d think the walls had been lined with books. I begin to suspect that I am not satisfied with just wandering. Is it that I do not immerse myself? Were I trying to learn French while here perhaps it would be different, I would have something to occupy my mind while walking around the city. As it stands I have developed an entirely new interest in the founding fathers’ story, especially Hamilton. (Thanks Lin-Manuel Miranda. Thanks, friend who made the introduction to this unceasingly addictive music. You know who you are, if you’re reading this).


Parc LaGrange


It's all there, just hard to spot. Church and tree and tea.

Then there was the Egyptology exhibit at the Arab World Institute, a collection of incredible treasures from the Osiris Mysteries, a suite of ceremonies related to Osiris and the Nile Delta. Pieces discovered underwater, some perfectly preserved from marine deterioration, and supplemented with items on loan from other museums. It is a glimpse, so small, of an entirely different world, a different people, that one cannot help but feel something when you walk through. 

I certainly felt something to emerge and discover it was raining, and not just raining, but really raining. Hood up, jacket zipped, umbrella non-existent. 

Today was the Marmottan Monet Museum, a diverse and detailed and oh so rich collection of Impressionist pieces, with a lower floor dedicated to Monet, with a whole section for Morisot, with so many others besides whom if I were more educated in the world of art I would as easily be able to bring forward. Van Gogh makes an appearance, as does Renoir, Cezanne, and there were two others prominent… a B… a V… ahhh but I forget. What struck me most of all was that this museum is not as any museum. It was once a house and as such retains some of the character of being not only a place to view and appreciate art, but to live. I felt I could. I felt comfortable there, surrounded by the beautiful furniture and paintings that brought me peace. 

Dinner with friends tonight, and coffee yesterday afternoon with one. What rare treats, when out in the world, for me. Coffee was not, in fact, coffee, but a trip to another art museum dedicated to Debuffet. It is quite hidden, there is a green door and a small gold plaque, a buzzer, and a narrow courtyard lined with trees. A studio previously, it holds examples from his definitely varied artistic history, a style that is close to the “art brut” my friend informs me–art by those who are not generally considered capable. Children, the mentally insane, but he brought to the world’s attention the importance of this art, she says.

The dinner was a whole other affair. In the company of intelligent, literate, successful people of the world of poetry, painting, writing, theater, sculpture, philosophy. In the company of women who can talk about art, about politics, about the world. Women who are from the world and have lived in it, who speak with authority because they can, in at least three languages and without sounding at all pedantic. In the company of such women one can only feel, if not inferior, a strong desire to better oneself. 

“Parlez-vous français?”
“No, I don’t speak much french anymore, I used to.”
“Oh that is lazy.”

February 5th, 2016

There is a church across the road from the apartment, chiming its bells in exact time with the ticking clock in the kitchen where I sit. At night the arched window facing the street is lit up with a nightclub-neon blue, streaked by yellow and green. Rumour is it’s a convent, attended by women in pale blue, though I haven’t seen signs of life other than the ringing bells and the bright blue nightlight. The bells have stopped now and the clock, freed from competition, tocks all the louder.

Berlin… in any city there is simply too much, and here there is even more. I have a good feeling about you, Berlin, although caution warns me it is far too early to tell.

I walked around after arriving, initially trying to make it to a free walking tour that I was woefully late for and so missed.


While walking to the meeting point at the Brandenburg gate I passed something I didn’t understand at first, though it didn’t take me long to figure it was a memorial. I went back after deciding I’d missed the tour entirely, and walked in. The rising blocks are unsettling, children scampered between the gaps, appearing and gone like waifs in the wood, like faeries, like ghosts. It was cold, and the wind rustled tissues and dead leaves over the cobblestones, but the sky was bright and blue and felt ever further away as I walked in.






There are no signposts, and no emblazoned descriptions of what you should think, feel, or read into the piece. If you find it, there is a guarded staircase leading to an exhibition underneath that I have not yet made it to, but which tells sounds of the stories of the people and families, the lives lost.


I went on, wandering.



Eventually, making it home to the apartment, I was greeted by the cousin I came here to see and we went out, picking up a beer to drink along the way (apparently it is quite legal here), to the East Gallery. I didn’t take any pictures then, in the gathering dark, of the murals and graffiti that cover the remaining wall, but it is not something easily forgotten, I think. There is a strong feeling residing there, a reminder, an uneasiness to think of walking along a wall intended to keep you out, or keep others in.

It was thinner than I expected. Today, without the guards, the floodlights, the second wall behind… ah, but still it stands there so much taller than you, and stretching ahead for as far as light reaches in the evening.

January 27, 2016

Today I did something quite stupid, and then I made it all go away. It began with the kind of afternoon where you stop before stepping out the door to take a deep breath and put up your hood, when you walk looking at the ground. I wove between people on the footpath as if I wished to slip into the atoms of the air and so move unnoticed, I wrapped my arms around me and avoided eye-contact, and did not speak. I took a turn off Rue de Rennes when a light turned red so that I did not have to stop, and another, and then ended up on an entirely unexpected road, which truly is the expected in a city like Paris. I stopped in the middle of the bustle and stood there, peeking out from under my dark red canvas hood, hoping for bearings, until I walked and found my way once more, ending up outside of the Monoprix store I had been heading to.

I need an adaptor so I can charge my phone, but a one that converts the voltage also. This store has a worldwide to France/Europe plug that would not change the voltage and so is fairly useless, or a usb wall port. After much debate and second guessing I took the latter, picked up a comfort camembert, and went to make my escape. When my turn came at the cashier I did not speak, and I did not make eye contact, and I wanted so badly only to be gone from the store that when the price was rung up as near thirty euro for the two items I did not outwardly complain, handed over my money, and ran away.

This kind of thing happens. You become stuck in your head and can’t break out to help yourself, you can’t cope with people. It’s harder again when you don’t speak their language. Some days are made for staying away from interaction, but this time it was because I had made it so, and this time I made it be different. I hadn’t yet gone a full block down the street in my self-recrimination and spite, my upset and desire to hide because of what I had done, before I stopped myself and said, this is stupid. Why am I punishing myself for making a bad purchase? Why should I pay thirty euro for a thing that isn’t even what I need? The situation is not so desperate and besides, a big store like that, they must have a return desk. So I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and pulled back my hood, smiled at the security guard and asked where the desk was, returned the confounded thing and got my money back.

I might not have done anything with my afternoon, I might not have achieved anything I said I would, but I feel a sight better about it having done that. In a way, it is an achievement of its own.

On my own once more and soon to move out of the comparitive luxury of AirBnB and back into hostels once more. I’m hoping it will feel a little like going home.

January 22nd, 2016

The horizon was a suggestion in the dark. Casinos brightly lit stand planted with their feet in the French Riviera, and with your back to them the Mediterranean stretches endless into the night. The horizon was only a suggestion, tonight.

The water was a real nighttime blue. The kind of grey that holds colour but cannot conceal it, as if the very essence of blue were sighing in the waves. Little waves, and all on pebbles. Our feet sank into these, rumbled over them like the waves of a river, and all around us the lights of Nice illuminated the air we breathed.

I was put in mind, tonight, of a passage from the train south:

I will not take a picture,
what could a photo say
of our passage, like a knife
slicing through the grey.

The fog is gath’ring ’round us
on the winsome hazy day
that we leave Paris behind and
roll on endless, far away.

Too far, I cry, from your cold arms,
too far from your cold lips.
And too far will this cold train ride,
a knife through my heart slipped.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes a thing will come to you, fully formed. It will step forward and say “hello, it’s my turn now,” and you don’t know its story, all you can do is say “okay, yes, it’s your turn now.”

January 19th, 2016

Nice, France.

And then we had a hot drink, and missed our train… lulled into complacency by an information agent’s information (twenty minutes before, the train will be displayed on the screen for which track to go to), whispered into inattention by the calm and serene atmosphere of a train station without announcements, we were happily sitting in a corner near a café, sipping tea and coffee, backs to the tracks, as our perfectly-timed train slipped off and away.

I will say this, only in France could you buy baguettes at the train station cafe, not to mention how delicious the pastries and sandwiches looked.

I was upset and she was not, I remonstrated myself, chided and scolded and beat on myself and she laughed and said “you know, I find it pretty funny that we missed our train.” I came around to the humour, and what could possibly follow but almost the best three hours we have spent here yet.




From the Gare de Lyon to the Bastille, to the Port de l’Arsenal, to the Seine, to a little green crêperie so crowded that the waiter pulled the table out from the wall bench so I could sit down, mere millimeters from the fellow to my left. The same waiter later had to push an empty table closer to the wall simply so he could serve those at the next. After a few Paris cafés I begin to properly appreciate the amount of space in our first eatery, where our server would skate on the tiled floors in his shining black shoes every time he approached a corner to turn.

I thought of taking a picture of my first crêpe, but then I looked at it, and I ate it.
It was delicious.

January 18th, 2016

How quickly time flies when you’re feeling exhausted, isn’t that how it goes? For certainly it has gone, and I have felt it fly. In the morning we traipse on out of Paris, and take a train to Nice to stay for a few days. It was chosen instead of going to the alps, mostly due to the significantly less freezing weather and our lack of adequate footwear for snow. It’s cold here, not so numbing as Boston or biting as New York, but in a seeping, creeping, and tiring way. Likened (not by me) to the London fog that would pad through streets and slink around corners, it is wearying. The sun rises at eight thirty and sets at half five, and the first morning we stepped out for coffee and a croissant the sky was a brilliantly deep and bright blue, one lone star hanging over the Palais de Luxembourg.

Paris is enchanting but she bleeds now into the sky, her cityscape marred by a tower that looks like an implant from New York, a highrise that should be forbidden in such an historic city and, in truth, actually is. I don’t know exactly how this one was allowed to be built but you can see it from all over and I don’t like it.


Possibly this is the same reaction as of those who opposed the keeping of the Eiffel Tower after the 1860 or so world fair. I do not know.


Of all the places I have seen before and return to now, Notre Dame stands as one still capable of stirring the spirit, and I count myself truly lucky to have had the good fortune to be standing inside when an adult choir walked to the front of the seating and began to sing. Sopranos that flew in the vaulted ceilings on the uplifting drafts of metsi and contralto, baritones and basses that trembled the stone to the tenors’ clear ring. You cast a spell on me minstrels, and I will follow as if the piper were calling. They sang separately at first, women then men, and came together at the end before leaving with barely a whisper, and a quickly silenced applause. A brief hug, a smile, and gone.


I think the only irritation was the sudden rush of people with phones, cameras, go pros, eager and ready to record. I find myself more and more reluctant to use my phone, wanting only to check locations and basic directions as one would on any map, happy to otherwise leave it in its place in my pocket when out and about. Present, but unseen. I do not want to have to look everything up online, what discoveries can be made if everything you approach is from the internet? I want to go out in search of what it is I look for, and come back sated. In the beginning, when every bite tasted better than anything back home, this seemed the easiest thing, but even Paris can supply a traveller with a day of disappointing food.


January 15th, 2016

Charles de Gaulle airport:


If we don’t come back, someone come after us, but make sure you find the immigration, customs, passport control after entering France. We may have been taken aside for finding ourselves halfway across Paris with no sign of any such formalities since Iceland. Is this Schengen? Curiouser and curiouser. In other news, we have arrived in Paris, and I am quite hungry.

January 14th, 2016

JFK, New York.

And then it was us, and then we were off. Packed and strapped and checked out of our New York hotel home. It’s official, we are beginning our trip! So, of course, on the very last morning we finally find somewhere that still serves eggs after eleven. In fact, they serve up breakfast all day… how ever did we miss this place before?

There is an appeal in these bustling streets I don’t remember feeling last time I was in this wild city. Is it a factor of spending so much time on my own, out in the world, the wilderness, the desert? Is it my inner and quashed city girl emerging? I’ve always had a thing for the bright lights. All gone now though, we are at the gate waiting for our flight, I have said my goodbyes to the city and my friend, and though I may return again, most likely she will be gone. There is nowhere lonelier than a city where you have no friends.
Thank goodness for big, sprawling, everywhere families.

I hope for rest on the flights, and hope I do not hope in vain. I need sleep, as evidenced by the paragraph of rambling I just removed.