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Monday, December 26, 2005

i woke up, and there was Paris

We took a train to Paris after midnight.

The station in Toulouse was freezing. Groups of people stood around with their luggage, bundled up in winter jackets, scarves and hats, rocking back and forth to keep warm. I covered my blonde head with a black hood and jumped up and down to keep my toes from going numb. Everyone seemed impatient to get somewhere with their bags full of gifts, while others arrived and fell into the arms of their awaiting families. I watched one young woman, who came up the escalator, saw her mother, and started crying. That’s when it started to feel like Christmas.

Eventually our train came and rescued our cold bodies. My family and I climbed on, found our couchettes-a room of small bunk beds for night trains-and fell asleep as the train rocked back and forth.

We woke up after very little sleep in the morning light of Paris, Christmas Eve day.

Paris is much warmer than the South. Here we walk around without shaking, comfortable in our winter jackets. It was a relief to step off the train and feel the warmth of the air, and to enter a heated train station.

After a petit dejeuner of buns, croissants and cafes, we climbed into a taxi (a gift for my metro worn legs) and sent the driver to my apartment.

It took five days away for me to appreciate the beauty of this city. Driving through the dim morning light, we followed the Seine as our eyes followed the sights. Le Grand Palais and Notre Dame struck me like a tourist, and somewhere within me I felt the romance that Paris offers to unfamiliar eyes. Sometimes I hate how accustomed I've become to its beauty.

Back at the apartment we sandwiched ourselves into my small room before we could take over my French family’s apartment. My apartment isn't meant for more than two people, and it was quite a sight to see my brother and I crawled up in bed while my parents filled the small floor space, seated with their laptops and suitcases.

Eventually we got to settle ourselves in the comfort of the family's apartment. It is modern, spacious, and most importantly: warm. The South of France was beautiful and still, but we were never comfortable. We were always cold, trying to keep the fires going and fighting to get enough hot water for a warm shower. I would pace the room as I ate my breakfast in the morning to keep warm.

Settled, we all took off our separate ways and joined back for dinner. I made a Greek feast for Christmas Eve. We began with grilled pita, vegetables and a Tzaiki made from scratch. For the main course we had roast chicken in herbs and garlic, slices of potato fried in spices, and a feta laden greek salad. It was good. To mark the holiday we finished with a box of Patisserie desserts and a Christmas movie.

In the morning my parents made another trip to the Patisserie, and returned with our Christmas breakfast. I sat with a giant grin on my face as we indulged in a tray full of pastries: pain au raisins, croissants, pain au chocolat, and a chocolate almond croissant. "It feels like Christmas now," I smiled. We exchanged small simple gifts and lay around until afternoon.

We then took off into Sunday's quiet streets, ate lunch by Luxembourg gardens, and wandered through afterwards. We walked around the fountain where a boy controlled his motorized sailboat with a controller. We walked under the leafless trees, cold wind blowing through my tights, while tourists posed for pictures around us.

We were lucky and found reservations for dinner at Le Procope, an old French restaurant with great ambiance and even better food.

Our Christmas feast was perfect. We all raved about the taste of our meals, the memories certain bites brought back, and happily dug our forks into each others plates. I savored my duo of pike with delight: two small pieces of fish baked in a heavy cream sauce. It tasted like gourmet fish sticks, something like childhood, only more elegant. We ordered jugs of house wine, and toasted consequently, to my missing brother, to happiness, and to our wishes for the New Year.

My wishes: to make the best of my job, to be healthy and happy, to write as much as possible and to continue pushing my boundaries.

We clinked our glasses, drank more, and carried on conversation.

When we left the restaurant we were stopped in our tracks by a street musician, viciously playing the piano in a contagious jazzy beat. My mother and I locked arms, wiggled back and forth, and she dropped a few coins in his hat.

We took the metro home, getting off a stop early to walk across the bridge where the Eiffel tower sits glowing in the distance.

"We're in Paris!" My mother keeps chanting. I laugh and tell her that the novelty of that phrase is wearing off on me. “I live in Paris!”

My head is floating with wishes for the New Year, with changes I'd like to make, with dreams I'd like to pursue, and with everything I’m thankful for.

Another year is coming. I plan on making the most of it.

peeking into the castle
brendan walks the grounds
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the scenery
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DSCN0673
mother and daughter
luxembourg gardens

2 Comments:

Blogger Josh said...

merry christmas... sounds like it was. I think the photos are definitely the best part of your blog. They wrap up each entry nicely

4:18 PM  
Blogger baylor said...

Your attention to detail and your way of putting them into words is exquisite!

Happy holidays, friend! I'm so glad you got to spend some time with your family!

xoxo

1:20 PM  

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