au revoir paris

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Leaving Paris left me just a little bit heartbroken. Yes, I was leaving my boyfriend in the beautiful city of light and croissants while I embarked on a grueling 20-hour journey back to the West Coast of the US. But it was more than just that. After spending July in Paris a year and a half before, I was infatuated, but satiated. Paris was a beautiful adventure I could put in a box and take out to admire when I was tired of the monotonous routine of my life in California. This time, though, it was entirely different. I felt like I was leaving my home, the place where I wanted to be most in the world. I was in love. It felt wrong to leave, and all throughout my body I felt an inertia that may have played a small part in my nearly-missed flight at Charles de Gaulle. As I was convincing the airport workers to let me on the flight, one of them said, "What, you don't want to stay in Paris?" and for a moment I considered just lugging my bags back to the RER and letting it twist and tunnel me back to the tiny suburb outside the city I had called home for the past few months. But of course, thoughts of finances and immigration officers popped into my head and instead I was whisked through checkpoints and deposited safely on the huge aircraft that would escort me across the Atlantic ocean, without one suitcase of course. So I made it back to America, piece by piece, and emerged into a bone-dry January that feels like it doesn't belong to a season. It doesn't have the swelling, lazy heat of summer, and it's certainly not the starkly cool and wet winters I'm used to here. It has neither the fresh, bursting, blooming feeling of spring or the pivotal, ripe smell of fall. It's just a seasonless haze that stifles the usually breathtaking beauty of the Bay Area. I miss Paris in the winter, Paris in the rain, Paris in the gloom. I miss the dark, naked trees that jut out against a white sky, stiff and cold as the statues that litter the city. I miss how everything is made of stone, and how buildings are aesthetic as well as functional. The quaint alleyways, the bookcases of buildings with their prim windows sheltered by delicate balconies, the arches and fountains and monuments that exist just because. I miss the cold, wet cobblestones, the winding alleyways, the street signs plastered to the wall as though they want you to come closer and see, come and find out where you're going. I miss the smell of fresh pastries on every corner, the sprawling cafés inviting you to sit down and stay a while. Paris in the winter feels like it has a wonderfully juicy secret and the only way to discover it is to venture out into the cold and wander the streets. I miss the feel and the personality of the entire city. It's so accessible, so right there, so easy to be in. There's so much to do. The sprawling hill of Montmartre, the cemeteries dotting the city like secret silent gardens, the busy churning Seine around Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis, the proud glamour of Saint Germain, the crooked streets spilling with falafel and cheese shops and clothing stores with headless mannequins in Le Marais. I miss how grand it all is, how incredibly, impressively, unapologetically grand Paris is. The things I missed about California - Mexican food, my favorite sushi place, the hills, the trees, the Golden Gate Bridge - are paling in comparison to what I love about Paris. Paris has given me one thing I know with absolute certainty I will do in my lifetime: return. Next time I'll do things the right way. Instead of drifting off into the horizon like a starry-eyed adventurer, I will plan and apply for a visa and perfect my French and find a source of income. I'll be back, Paris. I don't know when, but I know I will.