Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Paris, France

Paris. A city I never get tired of visiting. The beauty and romance of the city of love and lights. It is magnificent draped in Christmas lights. Mulled wine and roasted chestnuts for sale as I walk the Champs Élysées. Do I mind being alone and single in Paris? Not a bit! I am with the person I love! Many of you may find that odd but 10 months ago I would not have said that and meant it. I have learned to travel solo and love myself and all I am capable of doing. What caused this change? Solo travel. It makes you be in the moment and become comfortable with yourself. Nobody else is along to make you laugh, smile or cry. My experience is authentically my experience. I am stronger, more confident, outgoing and independent than ever before. I love my freedom and my time. I enjoy time spent with others but there are many activities that really are solo activities. I like relaxing at cafe's and watching the people. Staring at beautiful artwork and seeing something inspiring. Watching a couple walk down the street. All of this is life and I am 110% engaged in the sights, sounds and smell of my journey. This is me time.

I arrived in Paris an hour behind schedule. I was excited and had a stupid grin on my face. I love this city. I have a strong connection in my soul with the city. I think you either love Paris or hate it. I have had a love affair with this city for the past 21 years. It was the first city where I spent time alone. Excitement. Awe of the beauty. The smell of fresh croissants. The sound of the French language lyrically on the lips of Frenchmen. The feel of cobblestone on my feet. Ahhh. Love. I get that same feeling every time I return. 

I had planned to stay with a friend but got a last minute message that was not going to work out. I checked in to St. Christopher's Inn an got a great bed for 28 Euro. Yes, it was a hostel but the type I love! Each bed has a curtain, so you get privacy. I dropped my luggage and went to see the Tour Eiffel. A quick metro ride and I saw her shining and welcoming me back to Paris. 
If you go to Paris, wait until evening to get your first glimpse of the Tour Eiffel. It is beautiful and will be a memory you will never forget. I walked across to Trocodero, bought a savory crepe (cheese) and mulled wine and waited for the sparkling lights. It was splendid! I never tire of this view. I walked back to the metro. It was 11:00 pm and I needed  to get to bed. 

I got back to my room and was greeted by my roommates. A young woman from London and the other from Shanghai, China. We talked travel and I gave them suggestions what to see. They asked me to join them in the morning but I declined. I have visited Paris five times and never made it to Pere Lachaise Cemetery. This is the final resting place of the rich and famous of Paris. I had a few hours in the morning before going back to the airport for my onward flight and I wanted to walk it and enjoy the beautiful monuments. 

I was tired when my alarm buzzed and I fell back to sleep. Suddenly, I awoke and looked at my watch....8:00AM. I had over slept. No walk down my favorite street, Rue Cler in this trip. I took a quick shower and was out the door in a half hour. I left my luggage in storage at the hostel and made my way by the metro to Gambetta metro stop. 
I had downloaded Rick Steeves' walking tour of the cemetery. I felt prepared...until I realized I had forgotten to pick up a bouquet of flowers to leave at my favorite headstone. Oh well. No turning back. It was cold, my breathe hung in the air but the sun was shining. 

The cemetery was amazing. Large tombs and crypts to the rich and famous writers and artists of Paris.
I found Oscar Wilde's tomb. Single woman use to come, put on fresh red lipstick and kiss his tomb. His family has had to clean the tomb numerous times and have started pressing charges as it is ruining the statue. They have placed a glass structure around it to prevent the fond along and kissing of the angel in inappropriate places. But there are still numerous red stained lip imprints on the statue.
Oscar Wilde has one of my favorite quotes and one I follow. "I never travel without my dairy. One should always have something sensational to read in the train." Yes, my journal has all the juicy details of my travels. Those that aren't appropriate for a blog. Ha ha! 

I continued on to Gloria Stein's, Francois Chopin, Moliere and the tombs in remembrance to the Nazi Concentration camps. 
But the most visited site in the cemetery is to American musician James Morrison. 

I was thankful I had downloaded the walk with directions. I met a Russian man that asked if I had found Morrison's grave. I tried to give directions but my lack of Russian and his limited English made it difficult. I told him I would walk him to the grave site. We arrived and I said goodbye. He said "No, no. Come." I was intrigued. He pulled out a bottle of vodka and took a swig followed by "Za zdarou'e" and handed me the bottle. I obliged. Whew! He took another swig and then poured the rest onto the ground for Jim. Not often I drink vodka at 10:30AM! He started singing "Mister Mojo Risin" and I waved goodbye. As I walked on I ran into 3 others people searching for Morrison's grave site. I gave directions and kept on walking. The morning light bathed the crypts in a soft glow.
I enjoyed the solitude of the morning as I wandered the cobblestone paths and I was amazed at the statues I passed.
I was glad I had the time to wander this old and beautiful cemetery. I left with one feeling. When I die, don't put up a stone monument to me. Take all my usable organs, cremate me and scatter my ashes by a tree- where life will go on. 

It was 11:00 and I was hungry. I had eaten an orange, almonds and a croissant as I walked. Time for my next favorite activity in Paris... Sitting in a cafe with a cup of coffee, a croque madame and salad as life passes by on the streets. That is what I did. It was magnificent, beautiful and relaxing. I made up stories about the people passing by and smiled. How often did I have the to just relax at a cafe at home? 

I looked at my watch and realized it was time to go to the metro station and catch the train to the airport. Ar revoir Paris, until next time. 

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