On September 4th, I walked to Lake City Way to grab the 522 Express into town. I gave myself 4 hours to get to the airport. I was clumsy on my feet and the 80 lbs of gear caused me to break a sweat after just a few hundred yards of walking. Once downtown I stumbled toward the waterfront on Union avenue. I took one last look toward Puget Sound, inhaled deeply, and descended into the LightRail station where I paid for my ticket with an assortment of change. After another fifty minutes the train pulled into SeaTac. I hiked to the far side of the terminal where the International ticket counters are located, only to be redirected back across the entire airport. By this point the check-in for my discount airline was absurdly long. My itinerary was to take me through Frankfurt then onto Paris. After an hour long delay at security I arrived at the gate as they were boarding the flight. I took my assigned middle seat and promptly begin day dreaming; always a helpful exercise to cope with the confusion of my life.
18 hours later I stepped off my connection at Charles De Gaulle. With my passport stamped and luggage collected I made my way to the RER B, direction Gare Du Nord. Walking through the crowded platforms some familiar smells begin to fill my head. Subway systems all share a dank, human, and mossy odor. I switch to a metro and change again at Republic. Two more stops and I pop out on Avenue Voltaire in the III eme arrondissement. Brasseries and cafes adorn the corners of the intersection and the smell of freshly brewed coffee replaces the lingering stench of the underground. I walk two blocks and meet up with Claire, who shows me to my apartment. It’s absolutely perfect. There’s a miniature kitchen, a convertible couch, small writing desk, and tiny bedroom. I drop my things on the ground and immediately walk back out onto the street. Within a block of my apartment is a boulangerie, un boucher, several bars and cafes.
It’s been seven years since I’ve was in Paris and without fail I always begin by eating a pain au chocolat. This is the king of all pastries. It’s flakey, decadent, and immediately brings a smile to my face as I devour it. I love this city. It’s romantic, artistic, historical and intellectual. After a quick jaunt around the neighborhood I slip into a small grocery store and buy some eggs, butter, cheese, tomatoes, jambon, salad, yogurt, and bread. On my way back home I cross over a street that is being flushed to clean the gutters. I step into a tiny Brasserie and order a Kroenberg pression. It’s pretty warm this evening and I’m thirsty.
I navigate up the narrow creaky wooden staircase and spend thirty minutes unpacking and re-arranging my possessions. I put them out on my bed and take an inventory of everything. I pack, then re-pack everything to try and find the optimal space saving solution.
By now it’s nearly 18:00 so it’s time to think about what I’m going to do for dinner. I decide to try one of the gastropubs near the metro station so I can be assured some good people watching on my first night. I order a gin and tonic which get’s served with a lemon rind. It’s cold, crisp, and fresh. Young couples begin to snatch up the tables around me. The familiar sound of thumbs running over lighters and the flicker of smoldering cigarettes dance around the terrace. Bankers, teachers, and students are enjoying a quick refreshment before heading home. I eves drop on several conversations. To my right a young couple is having a tiff and in front of me two women discussing a recent party they went to. The waiter comes back around and I order a pression. He also brings a food menu. I’m instantly suffering from analysis paralysis. I think about steak frites, but there are two house specials and a menu pre-fixe that are seducing me too. I choose a filet of fish pan seared served with a light pesto sauce and steamed fresh spinach. I order a carafe of cold white wine to go with the fish. The meal is excellent, the wine is terrific but now the past three weeks of non-stop travel are starting to catch up with me and I’m exhausted. I pay my bill and saunter back to the apartment.
I sleep almost 12 hours; which hasn’t happened since I was in high school. When I finally arise I fry up some prociutto, two eggs, and a tomato. I also make a light salad with an olive oil lemon vinaigrette. Finally, I brew some very black coffee to jump start my engine. After breakfast I spend thirty minutes stretching and decide to go on a run. My Garmin won’t pick up the satellites and it starts to rain a little so I decide to just get going. I run up l’avenue Voltaire then head toward Bastille. About 15 minutes into my jog the sky opens up and a deluge of rain interrupts a busy morning commute. A man on a motorcycle and I take refuge below the awning of a flower shop and wait for the weather to pass. After ten minutes it lightens up and I decide to continue. The motorcycle driver stays back, his eyes dubiously scanning the sky. I pass around Bastille and run down Aveune Henri IV. The streets are clean and the air is fresh and cool. I cross the Pont de Sully onto the Île Saint-Louis. I run along the right side carefully high-stepping along the cobblestone sidewalk. I cross onto Ile de la Cité and run alongside Notre Dame. Once I cross over to the Place St. Michelle I look back across the river as the sun explodes above Paris’ most iconic church.
I decide to take a detour through the Latin Quarter to try and find some old watering holes but the ones I used to know seem to have been replaced by fancier new restaurants. I turn up the road and run past La Sorbonne. I cross over into the Jardin Luxembourg and make my way down to the large fountain where I used to push sail boats along with a stick. When I was a child I was always trying to send mine into the water feature to sink it. I spend a few moments clinging onto old memories before continuing on. I stop by a water spout and down a few mouthfuls. I’ve been running for almost an hour so I decide it’s probably time to start heading back. I return along the quais, back through Bastille, weaving through tiny streets until I get to my neighborhood. I stop for a quick espresso before heading upstairs to rise off.
I’m not sure why I’m so drawn to Paris but something about it just makes sense to me. I spend the next few days jogging early in the morning, eating pâté sanwhiches, and pondering what it will be like to live alone for a while.