Well, I have officially been whisked away to Paris.
Good things come in small packages, and this did: two train tickets in red wrapping paper with a bow on top, accompanied by Florent’s explanation. We were going to explore Père-Lachaise cemetery, visit the Shakespeare & Company bookstore…do all the quirky little things I’d been talking about for months. Merry Christmas.
(*cue squealing and a tear or two*)
After researching, studying maps, and planning (while leaving room for n’importe quoi), the Saturday finally arrived, and we lugged our backpacks to Lyon’s Part-Dieu.
We arrived in Paris around 11am. After leaving our things at the hotel in Montmartre, we set out just to wander. Our “itinerary”–just a page in my notebook–had some blank space, so we decided to go to the Louvre.
It was relatively quiet, a ten-minute wait, and even the crowd at La Jocunde (Mona Lisa) was diminished. I had a feeling that Florent would be the perfect museum companion and I was right. If the painting was French (or Spanish, or Italian…), he could, 9 times out of 10, explain to me something about the context or significance, making it so much more interesting than just a picture on a wall.
We made a good team, Florent with his knowledge and me with my curiosity and “what if” ideas. You could spend a lifetime in the Louvre, but we made the most of a couple of hours, discussing why the Mona Lisa is so celebrated, why renderings of Jesus are different between countries, and simply, the meaning of any painting that caught our eye.
I still have my freshman English professor to thank for an interest in art. She assigned us to choose a painting, any painting, and to form an original argument about it, based on the work itself and based on research on the artist’s life, the applicable movement, or anything else we thought was necessary to write a six-page argumentative paper.
At first I was completely stuck. The assignment required a line of thinking I’d never been exposed to before. Desperate, I chose a Dalí painting with a lot of weirdness, The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used as a Table, because I figured that with a title like that, there had to be something there. And there was.
After that, I saw art as a lot more interesting. Full of symbols, challenges, and codes. Even better, you didn’t have to be an expert to understand it; you simply had to look, observe, guess, theorize…and you just might end up believing your own argument, and you might be right.
Not everything in the Louvre is artistic nor interesting, however; thanks to the presence of…the selfie stick, that extendable mini tripod that attaches to iPhones. Using the back camera, users can take perfectly-posed pictures of themselves with any background they choose. It’s large, distracting, and it’s everywhere.
I watched a girl my age move around an entire room in the Louvre, full of gilded sculptures, chandeliers, and grand paintings, and she would have been like any other visitor, with one exception: her back was facing all of the artwork. Her only interaction with the art was through her tiny phone screen as she moved in a slow circle, smiling for the camera.
We saw this kind of thing happen again and again, at the Eiffel Tower, at Sacre-Cœur…
So here’s my business idea. Why not sell, along with the selfie stick, realistic-looking backdrops? Of major cities, classic works of art. That way, users won’t have to leave the living room as they show their friends how good their face looks against a variety of well-known backgrounds.
We spent some time soaking up the view from the top, watching the sky get darker and the Eiffel Tower light up.
Then we headed down, down, down the escalator to the famous tea-room Angelina, which was Audrey Hepburn’s favorite place to drink a chocolat chaud. It did not disappoint. The chocolate was thick and incredibly rich, like a melted truffle. It came in a little pot, pour your own, accompanied by a bowl of the richest chantilly I’ve ever had.
It was magic, feeling like Audrey Hepburn while drinking a melted truffle in a cup and talking about the future, the grand “what happens after college.”
Later that night we headed to Montmartre for dinner. Already wearing tights and a skirt, I simply swapped my boots for heels. Strappy new 4-inch Zara heels.
I had already visited Montmartre twice before. It requires climbing up steep, steep hills. Wobbling across rocky cobblestones.
So why not, I must have thought, do this again, but in the dark? In high heels.
We reached the top, which took much longer than it otherwise would have, and by then I was nearly crying out of pain and frustration. I was mad at Florent, he was mad at me, and it all started with an idiotic choice of footwear.
I knew this was going to be hilarious the next day, but we weren’t at that point yet. We found the restaurant, me just trying to stay upright, and were seated near the piano player. The restaurant was beautiful, old, classic. The waiters were incredibly friendly, and we spoke more to them than to each other at that point. We ate escargots, confit de canard, and a pear tart. We drank wine. It should’ve been perfect.
The best way I can put it is with a Bible verse that’s always stuck with me for its relatable truth: “better a dry crust with peace and quiet, than a house full of feasting, with strife” (Proverbs 17:1).
We left, still quiet. Florent wanted to look at the view from Sacre-Cœur in the dark. I discovered I physically wasn’t able to walk down that part of the hill with my ankles at that angle. I was so frustrated. Such a waste! But I still couldn’t quite see it as funny.
Florent gave me a hug. “This has all started over a pair of shoes,” he said in French. “Franchement…c’est bête. C’est juste bête, non ?” (it’s stupid)
That did it. Yes, so stupid. We started laughing.
I later put a picture from our evening in Montmartre on Instagram. A couple of my friends commented about how I had the perfect life…and I had to laugh. As beautiful as it was, that dinner was the least-perfect one we’d had. Let that be proof that the things we post online are probably not telling the whole story a lot of the time (except on my blog, right?)!
The moral of the story: wear sensible shoes in Montmartre, ladies and gentlemen (mostly ladies). And more than that, value those non-perfect times. They provide some of the strongest memories, best stories, and most comic value.
That is why (the only reason) I am not completely sorry I wore high heels in Montmartre.
Though I would be the next day.
[stay tuned for paris pt ii. including creepy-cool Pére Lachaise, Notre Dame at night, Je suis Charlie, and more]