I am on the train, speeding my way to Luxembourg. My stay in Paris is over, at least the physical aspect is. The essence of Paris is likely to linger, coating, colouring the tangents of my thoughts for the next little while.
‘Did you like Paris?’
It’s complicated, I would need more time, a few more visits, to provide a definitive answer. Assuming there is one. But, there is not a moment I would change, not a site I would substitute for another, not a smell, pastry, restaurant choice, sleepless night, metro ride, nor turn down a random street I would modify for fear of missing a crucial step of the process leading to the final product.
Never have I been so acutely aware of how a seemingly insignificant choice can dramatically direct life towards one set of outcomes, away from another, opening and closing doors invisible just days, hours, minutes before, as if I was walking my way through one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books. What Paris does better than any other single destination I have visited so far is to provide an endless maze of twisting corridors filled to bursting with a plethora of doors, their handles placed like outstretched hands beckoning, tempting.
I can forgive the uncomfortable, crowded feeling, the monotonous sand coloured stone walls, the constant reminders of my privilege when I pass people sleeping on warm metro vents, to a point. I can temporarily push aside my cravings for a greener horizon and cleaner air. My Paris cup is half full grace to the existence of the richness of opportunities which presented themselves, sometimes with no more forethought on my part than a quick eeny-meeny-miny-moe.
So, while I am hesitant to say whether or not I truly like Paris, I am wholeheartedly grateful to the city that was instrumental in bringing these drawings out onto paper. The city that holds the door leading to the neighbourhood containing the small side street where you can find the wine bar run by an ex-bass player with an easy smile, and which now holds a few small pieces of me.
‘Les bouchons chez M. Henri’ (‘The corks at Mr. Henri’s’)
‘On veut ce qu’on veut’ (‘We want what we want’)
‘Mieux entre amis’ (‘Better with friends’)
Now, while I would not change a single thing about my time in Paris, I will be dining on salads for the next month to try and counterbalance some of the side effects of all those suppers of cheese with bread and breakfasts of pain au chocolat.