Au revoir, Paris!

The rain kept tapping on our window as we woke up for our final day in Paris. Soon it would be time to say Au revoir, Paris, but before that we were going to have the city to ourselves till the late afternoon! Nine hours in Paris on your own, isn’t that romantique? It is enough to fall in love, fall out of love and fall back in it, so we had plenty of time on our hands! “Paris sky, are you crying about us leaving today? No, you really don’t have to”. I was putting on my jeans because it didn’t look like the rain was going to stop any time soon. Then I started thinking “Yes, 9 hours can be quite a lot but it’s my final day in Paris, I’m not going to be here tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, next week, next month and most probably next year as well… So I’m wearing my long dress! It sounds impractical, I know but there might never be a better occasion to be wearing it than today…” Then came packing, our final breakfast of Parisian croissants and a cup of steaming coffee…As we were on our way to the Louvre where our coach was going to drop us off, I felt all absorbed by Paris (why do you always have to wait till your final day in a city to get absorbed, it’s like you know something is about to be gone and hold onto it) thinking about all the great people who had been walking these streets and that was when the significance of being here in this place at this time hit me… “It’s too early to say goodbye, Paris! At least I want une bise on the cheek by your sun before I leave…”. That was what I was saying to myself sitting on the coach looking out the window. Our tour guide said Paris could be weird when it came to weather because sometimes it’s raining and next minute the sun is shining! So choosing to wear a dress might turn out to be quite sensible after all! Paris might grant me my wish for this final day (une bise). Some people from our group were going to Disneyland and the rest were setting out for a day of adventure on their own just like us. So here we were, walking the streets of the early morning Paris and smelling it… Remember how insecure we felt on our first day? Now we were taking things slowly, enjoying everything as we were walking by. Beautifully coloured macarons (a traditional French dessert) in shop windows brought a rainbow into the city. But even the grey sky has so many dimensions and shades to it when you are in Paris… The rain had stopped and we were taking a leisurely stroll wondering what the next spell of weather would be.

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So a short walk took us straight into Jardin des Tuileries, a very beautiful public garden at the heart of Paris. As it was very early, we had it to ourselves! The grey sky and the perfectly green park covered with rainy dew… We walked around for a while soaking up the atmosphere. French like to party! The garbage cans, still not cleaned, were overflowing with bottles. There was not a single person in the park except us. There were a couple birds, though and… goats! We were surprised to see one and just a couple of meters away there was the second one as well! Back home I found out their job was actually to keep the grass down! So they were already up and at work so early! There were some beautiful sculptures in the park as well and I was wondering what it all looked like in the sunny weather.

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I was having fun walking on puddles in my long dress because I was in Paris! It was starting to clear up, we were on our way to the Seine to rest a little bit and enjoy a Parisian morning before we set out for Musée d’Orsay on the left bank. Just sitting and looking around me had never been so pleasurable and enjoyable. The quiet Seine with a few boats with early birds sailing by, occasional joggers (some were quite handsome), the sky turning blue and a bit of HER at a distance… My morning had never been better! A man walking his dog wished us a nice day as my sister told him how beautiful it was! Of course it was going to be a nice day and one we would never forget and “beautiful” was also the word to describe it…

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We crossed the bank to find ourselves just outside Musée d’Orsay. Let me explain why we chose to visit this particular museum during our free time in Paris. As a child, I remember browsing this shabby book my parents had about Renoir. Of course it was just a random book and my parents weren’t fans of his art but just randomly got hold of this book, which along a few others kept me entertained as a small kid. There were some nudity pieces there but I strangely found them funny. I loved the paper they were printed on, glossy like magazines these days. These were the first art apart from Russian paintings I remember ever being exposed to. As a result, Renoir and his style (which as I found out was impressionism) came to represent France to me. France also used to be my favourite country before I grew passionately keen on England. So the moment I knew I would be travelling to Paris, I was sure I would see some of Renoir’s paintings in Paris and revisit my childhood memories. The building that now houses Musée d’Orsay used to be a railway station, this is why its layout looked very unusual with a massive clock at the main entrance. This is a feast for impressionism fans. As recommended by our tour guide, we started our tour from the fifth floor. “Look, a Renoir!”, I whispered joyously! There seemed to be just a tiny moment between a five or six-year old me studying Renoir’s paintings in the living room of my parents’ flat to a 24-year old me in Paris standing there looking at those paintings… Impressionism was what it was all about for me – it was making an impression and so was the power of a dream. One more Renoir, another Renoir… I was grabbing each single particle of my dream as it was coming alive in the beautifully and differently coloured rooms of Musée d’Orsay. Enjoying a bit of art in the city of romance is romantique! Art is the most lasting legacy that is here for us to learn to comprehend and savor. Manet, Monet, Cézanne, Sisley… This museum is a genuine treasure. We went down to see some sculptures as well. There was something else we wanted to see on our final day in Paris so we left just about two hours later. A childhood dream had just come true! Feeling happy, I went outside for a passionate and hot une bise by the Paris sun! Ah, je t’aime, Paris!

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Just walking along the Seine and beautiful bridges in the hot Paris sunshine breathing the air of Paris like this was amazing. We stopped at Pont des Arts, a bridge famous for its numerous love locks and featured in lots of movies. So many love stories are clattered together here… A section of this bridge actually collapsed this year under the weight of the love locks… Yes, sometimes there is just too much love…

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It was time to rest our feet again and that was when we reached Place de Concorde, Paris’s largest square with an Egyptian obelisk at the centre. I was feeling like a child joining my sister and friend in splashing my feet in the splendid Fountain of River Commerce and Navigation… La Madeleine Church tucked away between other astounding buildings, Jardin des Tuileries on the right, the Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs-Élysées and a part of HER on the far left… That was a really epic moment in Paris and I wished it had lasted forever!

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Time came for our final mission for the day. A stroll down Champs-Élysées … I thought a visit to Paris would not be complete without it. This is another part of Paris that I found essential to my idea of it. An aristocratic promenade when you can put on truly chic Parisian airs and feel like a particle of Paris’s beauty show. Paris has another, outrageously fashionable face. Fashion is what adds a chic edge to our otherwise dull lives, captivates and lures. For some fashion is life… That was going to be a long afternoon walk all the way up to the Arc de Triomphe. I felt like singing:

Aux Champs-Elysées, aux Champs-Elysées

Au soleil, sous la pluie, à midi ou à minuit

Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Elysées.

We didn’t feel too aristocratic as we were getting a bit tired and that end of the boulevard didn’t offer too much people-watching. We decided to relax in the park just next to President’s residence, the Élysée Palace where we saw an elegant French lady walking her two cute dogs and a couple kissing (so Parisian).

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We walked on further into the boulevard lined with fashionable shops, restaurants, cinema theaters. What I saw didn’t live up to my expectations, though as I imagined Champs-Elysées to be more extraordinary in a way, not just a long boulevard. Maybe you need a huge bank account to make it an extraordinary experience…We crossed to the other side because that one we were walking on was crowded with some street performers. We were passing by a newspaper stand and I decided to stop to see what newspapers were on sale to nurture this passion of mine for journalism. The image of the joyous Kate and William dominated the front covers. Je ne parle pas français so I wasn’t going to buy a French newspaper (now I think I should have) so I attempted to ask if they had any British newspapers on sale (I love the British press and that was how I familiarized myself with newspaper English). It turned out, they had the Daily Mail! I was ecstatic and virtually jumping with joy! That was the first British newspaper I had bought and I got it there, at Champs-Elysées!!! That was a real treasure and I’d realized that London wasn’t so far away. From the other side of the street I saw my favourite actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, looking at me from a billboard of a fancy shop. That was all a very beautiful Champs-Elysées experience! I felt like singing again…

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We were approaching the Arc de Triomphe and the traffic around it looked insane as lots and lots of cars were circling the Arc de Triomphe in both directions. No insurance company covers accidents which are said to happen here every seven minutes. We needed to cross a little section of this crazy road to get to a wonderful spot to take photos of this monument honoring everyone who fought for France. It felt a bit risky standing there posing amidst all this traffic but it was a perfect Parisian adventure! I wish we had known about an underground passage so that we could cross straight to the Arc de Triomphe to examine its numerous inscriptions…

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It was time to head back to Jardin des Tuileries which was just about a two-kilometer walk! On our way back we popped into a very stuffy Monoprix shop to get some water. We wouldn’t splurge on a fancy meal at one of the cafes at Champs-Elysées of course so we dropped into a huge McDonalds which was just packed so we left. We did some more people-watching as we kept taking a break to sit down on one of the benches. There were people from around the world all around… We made it to where our tour of the boulevard began. It’s a shame it wasn’t Bastille Day when major celebrations take place here.

We were back in Jardin des Tuileries that was full of people lounging here. I saw those green chairs you can take and choose whatever spot you like here. I took one and it was quite heavy! The adventurous part of me wanted to take a ride on the famous merry-go-round here but the girls didn’t feel like joining me and there wasn’t much time before we were due to leave.

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We got a couple of souvenirs in Rue di Rivoli which was a bit challenging as French can be not too keen on speaking English and you can only rely on some words which English and French share to understand what shop assistants are saying. We had another overnight trip ahead of us so we needed a meal. We decided to check out a café near the Louvre which didn’t look too fancy. We were greeted by a most charming and friendly waiters who seemed to go out of their way to make us welcome. It seemed that all of them took turns in coming to check on us asking if we needed anything, while they didn’t seem to attend so much to people at the other tables. One came up to me and standing waving something at my face as a kind of a fan asking if I was feeling hot even though I really wasn’t. It was all extremely funny! When my sister mentioned she was having an overnight trip tonight, they kindly offered her to sleep in there! That was the only meal out we had while in Paris because you can imagine the city is rather expensive and it was the one to remember! Merci beaucoup!

9 hours had gone in a flash and it was now time to say Au revoir, Paris… Our coach picked us up and we headed for Disneyland where the rest of the group were during the day. Spending that final day here on our own made me even more curious as to what other experiences the city had to offer and there sure is plenty! As we got our final views of the Louvre to the song “From Sarah with Love” playing, I was getting really sad. That was it for me in the city of romance. It wasn’t love at first sight and I didn’t instantly get blown away by the Parisian romance as deep down inside I might have been expecting to. But it was very engaging to observe the way my feelings were evolving while I was staying here. In fact, you probably shouldn’t expect to feel all romantic just the moment you arrive but I think it’s your imagination and previous knowledge of the city that makes your perception of it truly romantic. I don’t know if what I experienced was caused by my imagination and was just what it painted over the real Paris. What this visit certainly did was change my perspective on romance and ways we can feel it and made me contemplate what romance really is… Because I believe it’s what you feel inside which is affected by the sum of all of your experiences. Being in Paris living out some script I had had in my head must have been romantic in itself. Was that the script that made me compelled to feel the way I did? Honestly, I don’t even care to know. Would I want to go back? I definitely would because I want to see where me and Paris would go… So yes, I want to take this next step and I hope I will one day and that will be a different journey… Don’t you believe in Paris?

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Author: Olga

An English teacher and translator, a keen traveller

4 thoughts on “Au revoir, Paris!”

    1. I was really surprised to see one but they are there for a reason, they keep the grass clean! That was something we didn’t expect at all!
      Impressionism does make an impression and I loved it how I eventually found my way to Renoir!

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