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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

A Vagabond's Guide to the City of Lights - Page 3

Written by Sara Whitford
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While I was eating a flower-shaped ice cream in the Saint Paul Quarter, my mom watched Paris burning in flames on Fox News. I could see the first signs of spring, but no signs of civil unrest. In reality, 14 year olds were getting tear-gassed only a few neighborhoods away in the Republique, but for me Paris felt very peaceful.

And so it went until it was my last day at the bookstore. In less than 12 hours, I would be meeting my sister and taking a shower, so the fact that I got yelled at for popping the bubble wrap when I was supposed to be moving the biographies to the film section was insignificant. I was counting down the hours to the moment when I would be submerged in water. I said my goodbyes and exchanged e-mails and was on my way to meet my sister.

Heidi was an hour late because her friend had gotten them stuck in a roundabout and then got into a minor accident, which garnered many putain merde’s from Laurent, a smelly but very chivalrous Frenchman. Laurent was the kind of person who would buy two €20 bottles of champagne even though he’s unemployed (it was my graduation celebration), or lend you his really smelly jacket if you were cold. He was bitter of the fact that Paris had gotten so sterile. Most of the old dives had been cleaned up, but we managed to find him a slightly dirty Irish pub off Montparnasse, one of the few dirty bars left in that neighborhood.

The trip was winding down. We were leaving for home the next day. I only had €4 left, just enough for one last round of coffees at the bar. It had been a good trip—spectacular even. The city warmly accepted me into its arms and I was happy to be there, grateful for the excellent bakeries, the delicious, but overpriced daily café crèmes, and for not seeing any strip malls or fake bricks, only beautiful, old buildings with intricate art nouveau balconies. I had eaten a raw steak and been over-charged in a taxi (tourist tax). I witnessed from a safe distance a historical youth protest, something I may sadly never see in America in my lifetime. I met some sparkling gems I still stay in touch with. It was my pilgrimage to a city that reserves the right to the most obvious of clichés. Rich or poor, the city will welcome you with open arms, if you let it.

©Sara Whitford

(Page 3 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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