Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
A. A. Milne
Is it a coincidence that the past five years (barring one) when I go to Paris, my trip is peppered with a little drama?
Would my adventures be more enjoyable without the mishaps?
Would my blog be simply a dull account of me meandering around Paris without the added drama? (Some may say it is anyway).
Let’s take a look:
2010 – My luggage was lost for two weeks out of my four:
As it turned out, my broken heart was enough baggage required. No luggage was liberating and an excuse to shop!
2011 – No dramas:
I must have slipped under the radar, or perhaps it was noted that I needed a break.
2012 – Luggage lost again but only for one day. Cancelled outward flight, due to unusually heavy snow in Paris, grounding air traffic, resulting in a 35 hour journey, instead of the normal 24 hour journey home:
My romantic dream to see Paris covered in crisp white snow was realised, even although it was for only two days but what this meant was I didn’t have to deal with the harsh day to day reality, of trying to slip and slide around the city but had the opportunity to see how Paris is in the snow.
2013 – My handbag and camera gear stolen, including the keys to my apartment, resulted in a night of homelessness.
A test of resilience? Taught me a lesson of who to trust and showed that my friend Chicky Babe came shining through to my rescue with her credit card and warm hugs.
2014 – Terrorist attacks, apartment changes and a broken toe.
Partaking in my first demonstration during an historical moment in Paris, is one I will never forget and can finally say that I now know what it feels like to break a bone.
Before I left for Paris I was asked; ‘I wonder what dramas will unfold for you this year’.
Also, I was presented with something to ponder …
‘Perhaps Paris doesn’t suit you anymore and perhaps you should select a new destination.’
Back in 2010, Paris was my saviour, my go to girl for recuperation, my friend.
The way I see it; each year, Paris tests me a little more, checks my strength, pushes me that extra inch. Helping me grow, and each year, my bond with the city strengthens.
There was a long list of things I wanted to do this year, photographs I wanted to capture and places I wanted to visit that of course, I could have shared here on my blog with you.
But excepting for temporary exhibitions, most things will still be there when I get back.
If I look on the positive side, I won’t have a lot of research to do this year. I already have a solid unchecked list!
Of course I was disappointed about a few exhibitions that I was very much looking forward to, and extremely disappointed at not being able to attend the musical; An American in Paris at the Châtelet Theatre.
Wasting such an expensive ticket and a prime spot in the theatre, added to the pain of the broken toe.
It wasn’t easy getting around, and the pain was intense trying to get up and down the stairs unaided on the day of the break, but I guess now I have a painful yet funny experience in a Parisian hospital – with a not so funny bill to match.
At least I can now claim that I have had a broken bone, but most importantly, I still had a wonderful time and realised, that in my time of need, I had true friends, who came to my aid.
Broken toe or not, I always leave Paris, with a sense that I wasted time and didn’t achieve much.
But on reflection, what a wonderful time I had.
Château de Chantilly, in all it’s golden, opulent glory managed to burrow an ear worm into my head for days. As I hummed the tune Chantilly Lace and a Pony Tail, whilst I explored the magnificent Castle of Chantilly.
Only a day after arriving in Paris, I explored Senlis’ winding cobbled streets, it’s market and had the pleasure to rest my weary jet-lagged head in the delightful Côté Jardin.
I sipped champagne by a roaring fire and dined on a soup made from chestnuts gathered from Thérèse’s country house.
In the company of warm and welcoming hosts; The French Historian and The Chef Extra-Ordinaire, I savoured homemade Pot au Feu.
On the outskirts of Paris, I learned how foie gras was made, amongst good company and fine steaks from the famous Rungis markets.
Château de Versailles offered a spectacular ballet performance of Snow White with costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier in the opulent, yet small Opera Royale.
The brand new Foundation Louis Vuitton had me grateful for digital cameras and spare memory cards as I snapped away in awe.
Although I am still unsure if ‘mouse of the lamb’ is a lamb shank, it was a fun experience shopping, discovering a new market and cooking for friends.
I enjoyed re-exploring the covered passageways of Paris and came away with two souvenirs.
A pretty ring and new napkins, that gave my Parisian dinner a personal touch.
Speaking of passageways.
Much to my delight and excitement, I discovered enough secret passageways, to pacify my addiction for another year.
Visiting two Art Deco churches, that promised to be different, resulted in a wonderful day full of discovery, in the company of Thérèse.
Finally, after much anticipation, I managed to visit Musée Arts Forain, accompanied by the French Historian and feel like a child again, as I rode the ancient fair-ground rides.
Of course there was my broken toe and more importantly, the terrorists attacks on Paris.
My friend, The French Historian, a Parisian, comforted me, when on the night that the terrorists were swiftly killed by the police, by saying; it is a very grim time for Paris but you were here, during an historical moment.
He was right, and taking part in the demonstration with millions of others as we walked through the city of Paris in solidarity, is something I will never forget, broken toe and all.
If you believe in fate, which I am not sure that I do,
but just say, by chance,; that each of my visits to Paris, which are sprinkled with a fine dust of adversity, were presented before me to help me distinguish each trip from the other.
When I visit Paris, I am at my happiest, and relaxed. Let’s say, that maybe, just maybe, that is when life dishes out a few curve balls, to see if I am up for it, to check if I am getting stronger.
Many of us go through so much in our lives and at times we wonder how we will ever get through it.
Now that I am safely over the line to recovery, I can reveal that I never thought I would make it passed 2010 or 2011, if I am honest.
With the aid of a couple of very special caring people, a good amount of counselling and Paris …. I am finally on the other side.
Therefore I don’t think now would be a good time to give up on her. Not now.
Besides, I have already placed my feet upon Point Zero again, so it is already set in stone (excuse the pun) that I am destined to return.
The new me that I have been hoping to emerge since the past five years, is finally breaking out.
However, and I say this with a pause, a slightly uglier me emerged at Brisbane International Airport, after a long yet unremarkable flight on my return …
My last Sunday in Paris, on the whole, was mostly spent with my darling friend Julien. The day started with Sunday Brunch at his apartment and it was there that he thoughtfully presented to me a gift that he knew I would love and savour; two jars of duck rillettes.
Knowing that we would spend a day exploring the Montmartre Museum, he offered to bring them to me on my last night in Paris, at our pre-arranged dinner.
When he arrived, at my apartment on that night, my last night in Paris he joked that he had forgotten my present and my smiling face dropped to my knees until he pulled the heavy jars from his bag.
Australian customs are strict and a warning to anyone travelling to Australia with food in your luggage or pockets BEWARE.
The cute little dogs scurrying around your feet are not a unique and friendly Australian welcoming committee, they are sniffing out drugs and food!
That tiny little packet of airline peanuts that you thought that you would slip into your handbag to give your mum as a souvenir, or that sole Smartie that you forgot was rolling around the bottom of your pocket, will have the cute little dogs up on their hind legs, bringing attention to you as fellow passengers slowly form a large circle around you.
Understanding and respecting the country’s diligence of not wanting to introduce foreign matter onto our isolated shores, I am always, have always, been honest and declare any food stuffs, or whatever they require to inspect.
Therefore, anticipating for a swift thoroughfare through customs, I carried my two jars of duck rillettes in my hand luggage. Knowing that I wouldn’t have anything in my house to eat when I got home, I had deciding on grabbing some wine and bread en route from the airport and savour my rillettes in the comfort of my own home.
Not pre-empting that my jar of duck rillettes would attract a liquid restriction, French security instructed me to open my carry-on. Rillettes, I say – they look at me strangely – I try again – ree – et. They give me a slow nod, a smile breaks across their faces and they move me on. You got to love that about the French, the understanding of food.
Singapore security presented the same scrutiny, but similar to the French, these guys also understand food – it is duck, I say a little too loudly and slowly, as if they can’t understand English.
They check the jars, a warm smile and they nod me on.
It is duck, I tell the Australian customs agent, he shakes his head, you can’t bring it in.
Seriously, I begin, my temper flaring, what harm is going to come to the whole of Australia if I eat two jars of duck meat in the safety of my own home, I ask him.
He weighs the jars.
Oh man, I am mad, what are you weighing them for, to see how much you can share around for dinner, or how much you can fetch on e-bay?
This probably wasn’t a smart tactic on my part, and I was waiting for him to strip the lining of my suitcase in search of a lost Mintie, but instead he informs me he doesn’t know what harm it will bring to the Australian public, and if it was in a tin, I could have brought them in.
Brushing me off he asks; do you have anything else to declare – yes I do, I hiss at him. I declare that I am angry and bon appetite, I hope you enjoy my present, I end with a snarl.
You should have bloody well eaten the whole two jars in front of them.
That was the advice from a friend.
And, do you know what? If I had thought of it myself, I would have done it, scooping it out with my fingers, making little slithering, clicking sounds with my tongue, like Hannibal Lecter, for good effect.
But what I did come home with was my glorious memories of Paris, and no sniffer dog, or ill-informed Australian Customs Agent can take that away from me.
Now it is back to the drawing board, counting down the days until December.