“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
– Marcel Proust
I am going to severely miss being in the minority. I was an American living among the French and, more specifically, a girl from Aldie, Virginia who briefly lived in Vanves, Ile-de-France. I would take the train daily from these suburbs, where I lived with my adorably endearing French family, into the Sixth Arrondissement of Paris for classes at l’Institut Catholique. I would do my utmost to appear Parisienne in class, on the Metro (shout out to Line 4), and strolling (and occasionally strutting) down the Haussmann aggrandized boulevards Paris is famous for. I visited all of this city’s great monuments whilst wishing I could, yet knowing that I could never discover every secret corner of this French metropolis.
I believe that I mastered the masquerade of living in Paris because by the end of my trip I no longer felt like I was trying to fit in, but instead considered myself a fully adapted city dweller. The Metro was no longer a monster, for I could ride between its fourteen lines and five RER tracks without a hiccup as well as navigate above ground easily. French slang and customs no longer felt foreign, and (actual) Parisians were no longer distant, unapproachable creatures, but possible friends who I felt comfortable communicating with. I had, quite understandably, developed a taste for any and all French pastries and could walk into any café, brasserie, or restaurant and confidently order a meal and stay there contentedly for hours. What annoyed Parisians annoyed me and what pleased them pleased me also and their city gradually became my city.
Reflecting on the changes the last few months had brought during one of my last days spent in Paris, the lyrics of a Joni Mitchell song wafted back to me on the breeze: “Sitting in a park in Paris, France…” which described the moment perfectly, as I was actually sitting on a bench in said city while waiting to meet a friend. The reality of where I was hit me like never before and I took a moment to be thankful. I also began to contemplate the future (for the 100th time) that would arrive after graduating from college and I questioned what my life would consist of: Where would I end up? Would I return to Europe? Would I ever live in Paris again? Within this moment, I was not sure at all how things would fall into place later on, but somehow I knew that I would be coming back to France. Yet, in an almost fast-fowarded span of time, the day of departure arrived: June 29th. To reference John Denver this time, I was ‘leaving on a jet plane’ without knowing when I’d be back again and ‘oh babe’ I did hate to go. I was frustrated at having to leave a place for an indefinite amount of time that I had fallen so deeply in love with (before even arriving) and had quickly made my home.
However, upon returning home, Europe does not seem so distant because I realized that it is in fact only eight hours away. And, even if flying across the Atlantic Ocean is perhaps the most expensive way you’ll ever pass eight hours, Europe is readily available and I am more than willing to return, visit new countries, and revisit those that I know already. For, Paris is waiting; that breathtaking city that artfully blends the new, the old, and the in-between while somehow less successfully blending the poignant mixture of locals, tourists, and immigrants, where nights along the Seine are a crowded affair because its banks burst with people of all ages from April to August, where the people are in fact friendly if you give them a chance, and where somehow all romantic clichés associated with it being the City of Light never grow dim.
[Au Revoir Paris]