I barely slept, but that’s nothing new. I never sleep. I would be a tremendously successful vampire. In fact, I’ve often thought that I’d really enjoy being one of the Undead. You sleep all day, go out all night, get rid of loathsome people, wear a cape, maybe live in a castle, have beautiful skin, get loads of cash from your victims, and live forever. What’s not to like? I have no interest in dying. There’s just too damn much to do and see! A century will never be enough for me. Sadly, vampires aren’t real. So I just looked tired as I pulled my things together and impatiently waited for the AirBNB host to check me out.
He never showed, so I headed to the bus. I like AirBNB tremendously, and I’m always going to recommend them, but I wasn’t thrilled by this stay. The room was fine — I mean, it was literally the size of a closet and there were those weird bugs — but I was able to stay in Nice in a beautiful building across the street from the Mediterranean for a month for less than a thousand dollars, so I really have no complaints. My complaints are for the host. He was distant. I never did see him. That’s not unusual, but it was strange that I had to deal with several other people who acted like his representatives. Every other host I’ve dealt with has been exceptionally charming. It just felt a bit odd, so I wasn’t sad to be leaving that lovely apartment building on the Promenade des Anglais, but I was quite depressed to leave Nice. I had learned it like the back of my hand — whatever that means — and I had grown tremendously fond of my haunts in the city. I have no doubt that I will be back many times.
The Nice Ville station was stuffed to bursting with people waiting to board their trains. Some to Switzerland, others to Italy, but most were waiting for the same train as me, the high speed TGV to Paris. I was giddy at the thought of seeing Paris again. It’s my hometown in more ways than I can ever possibly explain. Nowhere else on the world is more comforting or more blissful than Paris. I could happily spend the rest of my life there. The world is in Paris. You needn’t ever leave it.
The boarding announcement came, and we moved forward as a human wave. My car was towards the front of the train. I was living my best life. This one was much nicer than the decrepit train that had hauled me down to Nice. I even had an outlet! The seats were quite comfortable and I was mesmerized by watching who I think might have been my own child a few rows ahead. I have no recollection of ever donating sperm, but why else would there be a child lecturing those around her on the differences between a Kir and a Kir Royale? That was strange enough, but then she started talking about macaron feet. I got real nervous, reader. Things like that don’t happen to normal people.
I watched the sea pass by, melancholy about leaving it. I’m a better person when I’m next to water. I think that’s something innately human, that desire for water. I love the desert tremendously, but it pales in comparison to staring off at waves. After Cannes, the train turns north, and the views aren’t quite so thrilling as the yacht of a Russian oligarch bobbing in the azure water. Uninspired to read or write, I went to the dining car, as you do, and bought some overpriced coffee and chocolate things to eat. It was well worth it.
When I returned, though, tragedy had struck — I had somebody sitting beside me. I sighed and sat down, made a bit of chitchat, then stuffed headphones in my ears and watched the fields fly by. I swear I saw a Roman aqueduct in the distance, but I can’t be sure. After we had left the penultimate stop, the train finally allows itself to go into high speed mode, which is delightful. You don’t know you’re going faster unless you look out the window or watch the speedometer on the monitor, but all of a sudden the countryside is whizzing past at 299 kilometers per hour — about 186 miles per hour. It’s delightful.
And then, what felt like minutes later, we were pulling into the Gare de Lyon. I WAS BACK IN PARIS. And thrilled though I was, I was struck by an odd question: what is with all these hippies going camping? Everywhere, young dirty people were carrying around kits that were twice the size of their bodies. Sleeping bags and mats were rolled up tightly and securely fastened to their bags. I worried that they were going to topple over and crush me. Why would you ever want to go camping? Sleeping on the lumpy ground, your bedroom is made of plastic, there are bugs, you might easily get murdered, the stars are lovely…but you can just go for a midnight drive. I have no interest in sleeping outside. My kind of camping is checking into a nice hotel. I’d go camping in a Hilton any day. We can roast marshmallows by the fireplace in the lobby, and instead of swimming in leech-infested rivers, we can sit in the jacuzzi. Makes much more sense to me.
I was in my element at once. My relaxed Mediterranean persona quickly dripped off, and I resumed my normal Parisian self. It’s who I am. I was weaving betwixt tourists, skipping lines, and had my Métro ticket in a matter of seconds. It didn’t take long to find the hotel, which was really quite nice. I haven’t stayed at a hotel in Paris in…eight years. I always rent an apartment, but I’ve never gone to Paris for such a short jaunt. This was a Best Western near Père-Lachaise, and not too far from the apartment I had been staying in the month before. It was very nice with a kitchenette and a garden in the courtyard. I even adored the view from my window:
I was charmed, but I had to go out and do things!
My first stop was a place I had never gone before, which was weird, since I lived just a short walk from it. But, in the Marais, there’s a lot of shopping I missed out on in the past. There’s also a gigantic underground mall, Les Halles, that is under renovation. I popped into H&M quick and bought a new bag to carry my possessions home in with class. At the moment, my purchases were strategically organized in that giant canvas bag from the Kooples, and that just wasn’t going to work. After leaving H&M, I pranced to FNAC and bought a ticket to the Musée d’Orsay. If you don’t know of it, this is a pro tip that is going to save your life: NEVER BUY TICKETS TO MUSEUMS OR GALLERIES ON LOCATION. You will wait in a line that lasts forever. Instead, go to FNAC and wait two seconds to get a ticket. Then you can walk straight into the museum or show whenever you’re ready. It’s genius.
Because it’s like a flame and I’m like a moth, I went directly to the Louvre. It’s my favorite place in Paris. I don’t know if I sincerely mean that since I say it about a lot of things. I love the Mosque and Iolanda and the Rue Saint-Antoine, too, but the Louvre is terribly special to me.
The food court is particularly beloved and dear to my heart. In front was a L’Éclair de Genie pop-up shop. I’ve long heard rave reviews of this place, so I picked up two éclairs — passion fruit and lemon.
They lived up to the review. DIVINE. I am not crazy about éclairs. They don’t send me, as elegant people used to say, and I still have nightmares about baking them at Le Cordon Bleu. Mine were impossible to fill, so I had to slice the tops open and fill them with chocolate pastry cream and decorate them in a way that made them not look like accidents. I do not think I did well that day. It wasn’t like my glorious evening of croissant baking where I DESTROYED everybody. Ah, memories…
I was ushered through the VIP security check, and I was leisurely wandering through the Oriental wings a few minutes later. There is nothing better for me.
I could peruse the ancient Egyptian galleries every day and find something new and delightful on every visit. I spent a lot of time looking at a recently acquired fragment of a statue of Akhenaten which added more fire to my burning desire to be a working Egyptologist. I can’t imagine what range of emotions I will have when I unearth my first artifact from the shifting Saharan sands. I’ll probably cry an embarrassing amount and then give my digging crew the day off.
I stared at the Seated Scribe, probably one of the more famous pieces in the collection. Blissfully, this late in the day, there weren’t a lot of people paying attention to anything, so I wasn’t shoved out of the way by a nine-year-old taking blurry pictures on a Nintendo DS. Something needs to be done about that.
It was growing late, so I made my way out. But before that, I stopped in a little exhibition about Winged Victory. It turns out that the Louvre has other parts of the statue that had fallen off. I never knew such things existed, and it was rather bizarre to stare at the broken remains of her hand.
There were other reconstructions of what scholars think she looked like in her pristine state. I enjoyed this tremendously. That is the only masterpiece in the museum that merits that name in my opinion. I’ll show you what I think about the most famous piece:
I will forever be completely unimpressed.
I am a creature of habit, so I caught the Métro to Iolanda. There was finally some variety on the train. Instead of the same accordionist playing the same Édith Piaf songs, there was a woman drunkenly slurring “La Bamba.” I was LIVING.Dinner was the same as ever, and I had a nice time, but I was sad. I want to live here again. I want to be able to go to Iolanda for dinner whenever the feeling strikes me. I want to take friends to the Mosque and sip mint tea for hours. I want to sit in the Louvre and study to my heart’s content. I want to take trains to little villages outside Paris or even out to Germany for day trips. I just want to stroll down the little roads and wander the cemeteries. I didn’t want to go home. Home isn’t home for me. I was home there in that overpriced tourist restaurant. It’s never going to change.
And so, after I paid my bill, I slowly took every side street I could on the way to the Eiffel Tower. I don’t even really like the thing, but I had to go. There were youths in the park singing and dancing along to “Lose Control,” which I took to be some kind of sign. I’ve loved that song for about a decade. When’s the last time you heard it?
As the hour drew to a close, I sat on a bench directly under the Eiffel Tower, and then as my watch struck ten, the lights flickered and flashed, and it’s just perfect. The people beside me gasped and said, “Oh my god. It’s so beautiful!” And it is. And I don’t think I’ve been quite so content since then. I know that I have an incredible privilege. Sitting under the Eiffel Tower for most people would be a “once in a lifetime experience.” I don’t believe in things like that, because in my life, I’ve never been forced to think that pleasures are finite.
Smiling like a buffoon, I took a long train ride back across town, nodded at a man who called me Diego, and went to bed knowing that I will never be over Paris, knowing that I will never find a place in the world that makes me feel so alive and myself.