You know, I sometimes think, how is anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city. You can’t. Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights. I mean come on, there’s nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you can see these lights, the cafés, people drinking and singing. For all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe.
– Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris
Even before this week’s sad and shocking events, I had been thinking about Paris. Recently – on a rare evening in which my kids and husband relinquished the remote control and I got to choose on Netflix – I finally got around to watching the 2011 film, Midnight in Paris. As a francophile, a writer and a hopeless romantic, I couldn’t help but fall in love with its quirky premise; but what I loved most about it were the gorgeous shots of the city. I’m pretty well travelled so it’s no small thing when I say that Paris is hands-down the most beautiful city I have ever been to. (That must be why I keep going back! Eight times and counting…)
Paris has also been on my mind since I was just there a few months ago with two girlfriends to celebrate their 50th birthdays. My souvenirs – vintage plaques picked up at the Marché aux Puces – are still sitting in my kitchen and I spend a few minutes every day carrying them around the house looking for the perfect spot to hang them. A couple weeks ago I even wrote an essay about the City of Light, specifically about how each of my visits there has changed me in some way. I’m still working on getting my essay published and every time I pitch it out, I tweak it a bit. With each tweaking session, I daydream some more about Paris and scheme about how I will finagle my next jaunt over there.
If that wasn’t enough, I just finished reading Paris, Edward Rutherfurd’s educational and entertaining historical novel.
Maybe it’s because of this recent immersion in all things Parisian that I’m feeling a more-than-normal connection to recent events there. I’m glued non-stop to CNN, despite the fact that reporters have nothing new to add. Like everyone I know here in North America, my heart goes out to Parisians – both those affected directly and indirectly. But I’m a bit obsessed about it.
Back to Dusty Journals… lots of my pages do cover Paris, but I won’t be getting to them for many more months. In fact, 25 years ago today, I was in Japan – a world away from the European capital. I was full of wonder there; it was the most exotic location I’d ever been to, and every moment was an eye opener. I’m having a great time reliving Japan through these entries, which are extraordinarily long and full of unremembered details.
That said, today I was really tempted to skip ahead to my time in Paris, instead of reading about my explorations around Kyoto. I have a strict self-imposed no-peeking rule for my Dusty Journals project, so it took a lot of discipline to not cheat. (I didn’t.)
Not that I need to peek, really. That time in Paris is very well-preserved in my memory. It wasn’t my first visit there (it was my fourth, in fact) but it was definitely a special one. My then-sort-of-ex-boyfriend, Mark, came to find me and persuade me to come back home. I hadn’t planned on ending my tour so soon, but seeing Mark again in person changed everything. My wanderlust, amazingly, began to fade. I did travel around Europe for a few more weeks after that, but it was never the same.
I recognize now that those days in Paris marked the beginning-of-the-end of my year of travel. And the beginning of an exciting new chapter: 25 awesome years with Mark.
Thinking of you, Paris. Sois fort et prends courage.