Day three was momentus for a few reasons, most notably for the arrival of one of my best friends who would be joining me in the City of Light. It would be her first time in Europe, but not the first time we’ve travelled together - she was my partner-in-crime during previous excursions to San Francisco, Chicago and Dubai. Despite enjoying all of those places, I set the expectations high for Paris and promised, né GUARANTEED, that this city would would surpass those experiences and positively change her life. After all, Paris IS life. When we met up though, I realized I had my work cut out for me.
“This is not Toronto. The people—the men—here are very rude.”
Granted, the metro system was a clusterfuck because of the fire at Notre-Dame the evening prior. And granted, my friend had just flown in from Canada with little sleep and was now lugging a heavy suitcase through cobblestone streets and crowded sidewalks. But negatively comparing the greatest city in the world to a place I don’t even consider one of the greatest cities in Canada (fight me) was so beyond comprehension that I felt I greatly misjudged Paris’ power as universal tonic.
We slowly made our way to the next place I was checking into, an apartment in Paris’ famed 7th arrondissement. I booked this location for two reasons: it was in close proximity to nearly everything, Les Invalides was literally around the corner and the Eiffel Tower was a 10 minute walk away, and, more importantly, it would be safe. The latter is something I research thoroughly before traveling because the world is not the same for men and women and I often travel alone. An easy target. I’ve been followed. I’ve been harassed. I wanted to limit any possibility of this for us both and just live, as should be our right.
There was another, more superficial, factoid though that I knew my fashion-loving friend might be impressed with.
“Karl Lagerfeld lived in this area.”
“Really?!!” Her eyes widened. My friend’s number one goal of this trip was to visit the Chanel boutique.
Over the next ten days, the magic of the city would eventually do what I promised it would.
Prior to obtaining the keys to the apartment, we sat down for lunch at a traditional Parisian café. I ordered a green smoothie and a cheeseburger—yes, please judge, but do realize that a honey and goat cheese burger I ate in France a few years ago was one of the best I’ve ever had. My order this time came to 35 Euros and was, admittedly, pretty mediocre. At the time I paid no heed and just enjoyed the moment as my friend and I played a guessing game on whether the well-dressed characters walking by were secretly spies but I later nearly had a heart attack when I realized the currency conversion would make the meal over fifty dollars (Canadian). It would be my only splurge on dining at a restaurant. For the remainder of the ten days, I would cook my own fresh meals (wine included) at a much, much reduced cost.
I would, however, indulge without limit or guilt at Paris’ many amazing bakeries.
After lunch, we checked in and my friend hit the couch and immediately fell asleep. Her adventure would begin the next day. I spent some time marvelling at the apartment before heading out for another walk. The fifth floor unit was bigger than I imagined it would be with a small kitchen, bathroom with laundry, bedroom and living area (with couch that pulled out to a bed). It had great light and air flow and I couldn’t help but imagine what my life would be like living there and actually becoming a Parisian. My father would always tell me that life would be the same as it is here; that life is what you make of it and I would get as bored in Paris as I do in Saskatchewan. It’s not about location, it’s about motivation. Yada yada. I get this. It’s still nice to dream though. It’s also good to set goals in life. If I can’t live in Paris, then I want to spend as much time as possible there.
On one of our first days together, we visited the Louvre. It would be my first time walking its galleries. My first impression was that it is truly massive; one could spend an entire week perusing it and not see everything. We visited in the early evening, which made the line-ups slightly less intimidating but still present. Most of the wait had to do with security measures. Once in, we immediately went to the Denon Wing to see the most famous painting in history - the Mona Lisa. The artwork, which, as everyone says, is much smaller than you imagine, is located in its own massive room with barren walls, the only focus of which is her mysterious smile. At one point I got within maybe twenty feet but I gave up on getting closer. A more interesting observation, to me at least, was standing in the back of the room and watching people clamour to take pictures and selfies to prove that they were there.
The ceiling work in the Louvre, but especially the Denon Wing, was unbelievable. I wished I could lie on my back on the floor and spend some time staring up at it but instead I left with neck strain. Parts of it felt so heavy that I thought it might crumble onto the patrons below. But it was hundreds of years old and would probably be there for hundreds more. The artistry and craftsmanship impressed me as much as anything hanging on the walls.
My absolute favourite part of the Louvre was the opulent Napoléon III Apartments. Entering this area, in the decorative arts-focused Richelieu Wing, was like stepping back in time. I imagined the ghosts of Parisians, who once sat in the exact chairs laid before me, drinking from gold-plated goblets and conversing about life during the Third Revolution. I’d honestly never even heard of this part of the Louvre before … and considering there were few tourists walking about, I don’t think I’m the only one. It was the perfect cap to the evening before heading back to our apartment and enjoying some bordeaux of our own.
*Abbi and Ilana may be more accurate.