As we drove toward the city, the dream, the destination of our journey, the excitement builds. The countryside, while beautiful, is simply the background. Out the window of the air conditioned bus, I see signs, Paris 354 km, Paris 213 km, Paris “sortie”. We take an exit off the main highway.
We see the destination in our minds as we get closer. Those who have been before begin to point out some landmarks indicating we are getting closer.
I try to hold my anticipation and excitement in check. I try to sit with the breath. I stare out the window, feel the tears welling up in my eyes. Then that sensation passes. Another sensation arises. I sit calmly and while feeling my breath, listening to the words of others, seeing signage …. I allow myself to arrive.
Several people see a quick glimpse of the Eiffel tower – the landmark internationally of Paris. I see the river and bridges … for me this is the excitement. We have arrived.
Buildings huge and old fill my sight. Cold grey color with greenery intermixed. Statues and sculpture on each building as we drive with purpose toward the hotel in the Opera district of Paris. We have last minute instructions from the tour director – we will have an hour at the Scribe Hotel to get cleaned up and be ready for pick up for a tour of the city.
Meanwhile outside the bus, the city is before us, around us, beckoning and calling to me. It’s vastness is a surprise to me. Block after block of large old and unique buildings. Bridges and the almost insignificant river runs through the city. At one point in the distant past this river was the life bringer to this area. It was a significant part of the city and fundamental to its growth and importance. Now?? a major transportation of tourists to the area. A reason for the bridges. A carrier of time through this hub of excitement. This place of people and history, stories told and buried within its walls and streets.
History holds the souls of those before us but tells us only of the deeds of the very few – those who made the “news” of the day. What of the millions of others? Whose souls, just as important and significant. Whose stories never told. What of them? Are the stories on the bridges? Are they in the river? Stored in the buildings? The windows? The sculptures? In any language, the stories stay within the city and in the lives of those who come after. Perhaps they are stored the breath, in the air.
The air in Paris is rich with story! Every step I take moves me through the stories. I can feel the energy of folks before me – all around. I can sense history.
I was not a fan of learning history in school – this is different. This is richness. This is the living history of a people.
We arrive …. the hotel is huge and old. The Scribe Hotel. Rack rate starts at 500 Euros a night … some 800 to 1000 dollars!! The lobby, ready for our arrival. No waiting. The staff take our bags, we are given keys …. we (the “sistas” – 4 new girl friends, previously strangers) make a decision – grab keys, go to room, use facilities and prepare to leave right away to explore. We have 45 minutes until we will be picked up for our night in Paris.
I fall relaxed upon the most comfortable bed I have ever laid upon. The feather bed with white comforter comes up to envelop me in softness, cool comfort from the bedding. The room is similar to the Nuremberg hotel room. Marble bathroom. Old light fixtures, high ceilings, large heavy curtains pulled to the side, covering large high windows to the most amazing city in the world. A silent courtyard below, I can see into the glass ceiling in a lobby, coffee area down below – still part of the Scribe hotel from what I can tell. A courtyard of lovely windows facing in … red flowers brighten up the white and grey of the building walls and bars on windows, called “romeo and juliet balcony”. No way to stand out on the balcony, simply bars to hold people back into the large windows … in the rooms where they remain safe. Air conditioning feels great … the temptation to stay in this room – to enjoy the high living for a few more minutes.
Suitcases fly open, the sistas (Doreen and Heather) come and knock on the door …. “ready”? Elwyn and I anxious to see the city, drop what we are doing and run after them …. we meet at the elevator … down to the lobby. I mentioned to the front desk and concierge that I am unable to enjoy the sweets they left in the room due to allergy for foods …. they promise to replace with fresh fruit.
We step out onto the street – the 4 of us. Two new to Paris, 2 have been before on another journey many years prior. We are all excited. Can’t decide which way to go. The other 2 will only have this one night. This one evening to see it all and enjoy the sites. They are anxious to buy some quick souvenirs ….. doors and window displays beckon to all 4 of us. “Come see what I have that you want / need”. Come see the inside of these buildings. Come sense the stories of those people who came before you. Come ………… come ………. come……
We make it around the block, in and out of a few stores, eyes wide, mouths open as if to drink in the city air. As if to experience all through each of the sensations given to human beings. How much can I get into my body, my mind, my ears, my mouth, my skin …. of this city of wonder?? How much can I take in and how long can I hold it?? Will it stay with me for the rest of my days?? Will this be enough? Can the evening meet all the expectations of wonder and delight?? Remember to breathe, in and out, hold it all. Savour the thick warm and moist air. Feel the sunshine hot on the buildings, the sidewalk, the road, my skin …. the air. Listen to the sounds of this city – people talking to each other, cars, scooters, honking horns, laughing, doors, windows. Not much of a breeze … the air stays still so we can enjoy it as it is right at this moment. Savour the sweet Paris air. “La vie en rose”.
Oh dear, where are we again?? I am disoriented but with 3 other women who know where we are at any time and how to find our way back. It is time to rush back to the hotel, to freshen up and change, to prepare for a night in the most special city known to people. This city of mystery and wonder, of time and history … as old as people.
Back to the delightful white and sensuous hotel room. Large bowl of fresh fruits await me in the room. No time for shower, grab change of clothes, carefully planned outfit – hat and scarf …. there will be pictures. This will be remembered for a lifetime ….. the time for planning the outfit has passed. Now, just grab it, dress, be ready to leave. A huge meal to come … a feast called Paris awaits me.
We rush again – back to an air conditioned bus with local tour guide, she speaks with a strong french accent which further accentuates the experience. A moment to take it all in before I get on the bus. A split second to stop … to breathe, to take it all in. We are in Paris. I AM IN PARIS! How did it happen?? when did my life take this turn?? My thoughts race and my mind tries to sit still – I try to breathe (light bulb comes on again <smile>). I breathe in the Paris air, I breathe out the Paris air with a piece of my soul to join with the souls of many many millions of people to pass before me. I am now part of history …. for those who come after me. For those people who come to Paris and breathe in the air …. a piece of me is now in the air too!!! Paris and I are one. WOW!! Take a step, on the bus. Off we go. That moment has passed … but not without being noticed by every breath I take. Thanks!!
I have a group of women friends who had decided that we should all wear some pink color for our night in Paris. I have pinkish shoes (bought in Nuremberg for a great price …. I guess I must have known I needed something pink for the “vie en rose”). I also had purchased a lovely linen scarf with faint pink flowers. It all goes with the outfit, lu lu linen pants, a light cotton grey sweater, the subtle and pink accents. I am ready. I am ready. We are all ready. Let’s go!!
On the bus, front seat. Behind the driver, nice rush of air conditioned air, sweet sound of strong french accent as the woman speaks into microphone. It is about 4:30 pm local french time, we don’t eat at the Eiffel Tower until 9 pm ………….. we are off to tour this amazing city. We are going to see all that we can in a few short and very precious hours. So grateful am I for this gift.
We have a tour guide who knows all the highlights, tells stories of King’s and their wives, their children, Napoleon, more and more people. Stories woven like a tapestry of each building we see – it keeps growing. The tapestry has sculptures pictured in it. Lovely balconies high on buildings, red flowers, window dressings revealing the residents and how they care for their small homes. Little windy streets, cars and scooters parked on sidewalks as the narrow streets have little room for parking. In fact the bus has to squeeze in between on some roads, we all suck in as if to make the bus smaller. Skinnier, somehow.
Cars driving crazy, scooters and bikes weave in and out of cars on the busy busy streets. Streets that have no lines, seems like no rhyme or reason tn the flow of traffic. I am breathing in it seems repeatedly …. as if I am alerting the dangers to our driver, sending out vibes of safety to other drivers. The scenery around me takes my breath away. I loose focus on the traffic and am attracted by the high buildings and amazing history told in the walls …. the voice of the tour guide weaves in and out of my consciousness. Her stories, while interesting, can’t hold my attention from the vision before me. The sights out the window have held me captive. Lost in all my other senses – I am one with the city. (light bulb back on). I have arrived to this city that holds some magic for me.
We arrive at Notre Dame and she asks “do you want to go out of the bus and take a look?” Are you kidding? Yes, yes. We all answer together. YES!! We have said YES to Paris. We pull over (illegally) and just stop in the street … we jump out and follow the tour guide. She takes us to a special spot on the street – walkway just outside the main doors to Notre Dame Cathedral. What a huge building! I am lost again to the sights …. lost ….. mind wandering … and then called back by her words that this one special spot is a place where people stand to experience luck. I find my feet walking, in pink shoes, to the very spot. I stand, I take in a deep breath. I want this moment to be remembered. I breathe in and breathe out – noticing how it goes in and how it is released. For a moment, time stops and I am one with this spot … this metallic star in the cobblestone. On this very small spot on a large walk way in front of one of the most famous places in all of time. I am here. I am one with this place. Breathing this air. Feeling all that I can.
The moment is over, people standing close by waiting for their turn to feel the magic of this place. I must move, one foot in front of the other …….. I must keep moving. Take another breath. On to the entrance of this magical cathedral. Awestruck of its massive size, I stop and touch the tall columns of strength and stability that hold it —- for all time. She tells us of the different styles over the ages and how the building has changed, been added to, been rebuilt, the stories in the windows, the ceiling design …. the benches, the alters. Amazing.. This space is amazing. I wish I could think of another word to describe that moment. That time in this magic place. Amazing. I am amazed at the grandeur, the size, the complicated history, the lives of those who have come before me to this place, walked on this floor, touched this column. AWESOME – I realize my mouth is open and I am “gawking”. Again as if I could breathe in the air and history of this place. As if I could capture this moment for all time … I am present and overwhelmed. Amazing!!
Out the back door, a nice park. A WC (toilettes) and a moment to take for my personal body to prepare for yet more historical journey. The group has moved to the touristy shops and search for precious momentos to hopefully remind them in the future of this time in their lives. So when they touch or see these items, they will be transported back in time and space to this day, this moment and this Paris. I touch and gather and put back. I do not buy anything this time. I am not in a rush to purchase. I am still feeling very present and awestruck …. I let the shopping frenzy pass me by.