Our driver was waiting for us upon arrival at Charles de Gaulle. He was a jovial, rotund man displaying a hospitality that, at times, I've found is not as immediate in this part of the world. As he helped lift my suitcase into the trunk, I took a moment to soak in the adventure I was about to embark on - spending a month exploring Europe with my father, recently diagnosed with stage IV cancer. We had already seen a good portion of the world together and while I hoped that we would see more in the years to come, there was a bittersweetness to everything. As written about before, you can't escape the "white noise" of a loved one's cancer diagnosis; it is omnipresent at every moment in every situation, reminding you of the fleeting time you have on this planet and the importance of holding value to love above all.
Seven hours previous, I was in my home and snow-blanketed native land which was experiencing one of the coldest winters on record. Now I was in Paris, France, sitting at an almost tropical by comparison 20 degrees celsius. Our driver expertly navigated traffic while singing along to Gloria Estefan's "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" (his favourite song, I presumed, as it was on repeat during the hour-long ride). As we inched closer and closer to the Seine, I could barely contain my excitement pointing out every iconic bit of architecture to my dad. "There's Sacre Couer!", "There's the Opera House!", "There's the Eiffel Tower!!!". No matter how many times I see it, there's something about that last one that continues to hold me in awe. Perhaps because it symbolizes that I am in the world's greatest city, a source of inspiration and enlightenment for some of the greatest minds in history, and that I have every bit as much potential as those who were before me.
Our hotel was located in Montparnesse, a neighbourhood known throughout history as a place where creative-types would congregate. I booked it, intrigued for this reason (Man Ray called Suite 37 his home at one time). I'm also a Left-Bank girl at heart. After dropping off our stuff in Room 57 - and eating my first purchase, an authentic French baguette - my father required rest so I ventured out alone to the Musee d'Orsay to see the Gustave Doré exhibit. I've become obsessed over the past while with the intricate illustrations for which he is known and was awestruck to see more of his original output, including sculpture and painting. It was also interesting to read about how vilified he was from critics back in the day, who felt his work was amateurish and lacked substance. I left rejuvenated, inspired…and overwhelmed. I now wanted to paint, sculpt and do intricate pen-and-ink drawings in addition to everything else I am filling my time with. It's hard to be a renaissance (wo)man without focus though. I know myself enough to know I won't change. Reading random shit on the internet with whatever spare time I have may not be fulfilling nor legacy building, but it is entertaining and lord knows I need the schadenfreude distraction. So much for that potential...
I walked back to the hotel, getting purposely lost for a bit in the Latin District and then not so purposely by turning the wrong way down one of Paris' famous narrow, curved side streets. You'd think that the Eiffel Tower or some other high landmark is visible at all times but they are not. Paris' seduction is deeper. It wants you to stroll and admire less superficial things.