At the beginning of my second week of annual leave in May, I decided that I wanted to spend a few days in Paris. I am not sure why. Just perhaps a desire to get away by myself and visit a city that I have loved since I first went there in 2005. I booked seat on the Eurostar and a hotel for two nights, packed my little suitcase and off I went.
I arrived in Paris just after 10. I got to my hotel at 11 and was informed that check in time was 1500 (a small but important detail that I had forgotten to check). So I left my luggage with the hotel staff and took a walk around the area. I stopped first for a croissant from a bakery round the corner then I sat in a local park for about 90 minutes, where I discovered that Theresa May had resigned and British politics had fallen into further turmoil.
I finally checked into my hotel and took a little snooze. I was woken by a tap on the door. It was on of the hotel staff offering me a plate of macarons. Just heavenly.
So with my energy levels improved I decided to take a walk to the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. It was a very long but pleasant walk. I stopped when I got to Eiffel Tower and sat down in the garden to read. I did this for 5 minutes before I was approached by a guy who wanted to spend time in my company and that he did for he next hour. It turned out his name was Uri he was 27 years old and from Russia on an exchange program. I have no idea if any of this was true, it does not matter much really. He spoke Russian, French and some English. I only speak English so we spoke in English about our jobs, what we would do if we did not do our jobs, films we both liked, the leadership of Putin, the vastness of Russia. When I found our his name was Uri (actually this was the shortened and most pronounceable version of his name). I asked him if he’d heard of Uri Geller, a stupid question on my part, which was met with blank stares. So then followed a little Google search where it transpired that he’d truly never been aware of the spoon benders existence, that Uri is in fact of Israeli and not Russian origin. Who’d have thought it…? I cannot remember how the conversation came to it’s natural end but soon enough he told me that he had go and meet with the people he was staying with. So off he went and I carried on reading.
Eventually I left the park and started the long walk back to my hotel. This included stopping at the Arc de Triomphe, which looked kinda amazing at night. I also stopped at a restaurant on the way home, dinner for one. I really enjoyed my meal. I did not mind so much that I was alone. I ate slowly and mindfully. I was peaceful and happy. That was nice.
I was pretty shattered when I got back to my hotel room. I slept well!
The next day, the plan was to visit the Sacre-Coeur and the Notre-Dame. I started off with a hotel breakfast. Ensuring that I got my €14 worth, I consumed 3 cups of fresh orange juice, 2 slices of bread with a multitude of cheeses, a bowlful of fruit salad, a pot of apricot yoghurt, a plate of scrambled egg with some crepes . It was very filling and set me up for the morning. I took the metro to the Sacre Coeur. It was a cloudy morning and I found I was perhaps I was not as impressed with the external facade as I should have been.
The inside was something else. I think I liked the inside. I sat in one of the pews, thinking, offering up my usual platter of tears and fears, but also finding some peace. I noticed that there were however plenty of signs telling tourists not to take pictures. I couldn’t understand for long time how where going to actually to police not taking pictures inside, especially when I noticed that actually everybody was taking pictures. There were even people posing and taking pictures. It was quite simply bizarre. Then I saw a large round man walking around and doing his ‘job’. This at some point included taking a phone from a woman who was visibly upset by this because he did not quite take it but he attempted, grabbing her hand with the phone in it. This also included talking to children and telling them off, which I personally found distasteful, and generally saying shishush every few minutes. It somehow did not stop me taking a picture, as I realised the picture taking was banned only in certain parts of the building.
I left the place, eventually, not before sitting for a long time on the stairs and just looking out over Paris.
I was making my way to the Notre-Dame when it started to rain. I was passing a restaurant so I stopped to put my camera away and get out my umbrella. I started walking again, in the pouring rain and I thought ‘why am I doing this?’. I knew I wanted to continue my walk but I didn’t see what was to be gained by walking in the rain. I did not have a time frame to reach the Notre Dame, nobody was waiting for me at the end. I think that at times I put myself under pressure to achieve things that don’t really matter. So I turned back and took a table for one at the restaurant that I had just passed. I’m so glad I did.
I indulged myself with a long slow lunch at this restaurant that was called Le Brebant. I was so relaxed and I was there so long that eventually the waiter asked me if I wanted to pay. Of course I paid. What was I doing that was so amazing. Not much really. Eating and drinking. I ordered a salad containing burrata. My quick search on the internet told me that burrata is a fresh Italian cow milk cheese (occasionally buffalo milk) made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the inside contains stracciatella and cream. It was really nice! I loved it. It was covered in melon slices and surrounded by cherry tomatoes (and a few leaves of rocket). I ate slowly and mindfully. The bread was also nice, well not just nice, in my opinion, out of this world. I demolished the whole basket. I was rather too full for dessert but I did manage to sip through an espresso. Not normally anything I would drink in the middle of the day but I felt a little bit like doing things differently and I think I needed a kick after my long slow lunch. I also spent sometime experimenting with my Instax camera. I managed to get a good shot of the restaurant after working out how to use the bulb exposure function. When I was not doing all of these things I just lost myself in The Fifth Season. Just pure bliss
I left feeling content – fuelled up physically, mentally and spiritually and continued by walk through Paris to the Notre Dame.
I got to the Notre Dame and could not see a thing, because of all the construction, so I sat by the riverside, people watched and continued reading on my Kindle.
After about an hour I left my spot on the riverside. I did find another view of the Notre Dame which was just as spectacular.
Then I continued walking along the river Seine with heading towards the Eiffel tower.
And then I was back at my hotel room and my mini-break was over. I was not sad, because it did what it needed to do. I felt refreshed and revived. I feel like, depending on my finances and other commitments, I should do this kind of think more often. ‘This’ being heading away by myself, for myself and just resetting myself. I love being around people, my husband, my family and my friends but sometimes I just need time by myself. I think that’s OK. I think its OK because I chose it. I am guessing that enforced loneliness might be less palatable and I’d be singing a different song. However this choice to be enjoy my own company feels right.