My Impulsive 26th Birthday: Paris
Impulsive: acting or done without forethought. A force acting briefly on a body and producing a finite change of momentum. A pulse of electrical energy.
From latin: Impuls- driven onward.
I decided on my birthday trip to Paris that, within reason, I would say “yes” to almost anything I encountered. I wanted to be driven onward. I wanted a pulse of electrical energy for my 26th year. I didn’t want to wonder “What if…?” about the city I've been obsessed with since I was ten when I watched the film Moulin Rouge. This ended with me only sleeping about 8 hours total in 4 days in Paris. Go figure.
Something about crepes
The waiter just poured dry cider into a small, blue, ceramic bowl for me to drink out of. It bubbles up, glittering and murky like an enchanted potion. The air smells of butter and I’m sharing my table with a French gentleman wrapped in a bright red scarf. I like how Europe considers any empty seat an available seat and how you often end up sharing tables with total strangers. We both read our kindles.
How lucky I am in this life. How happy I am to be here.
One day after thanksgiving.
One day before 26.
It’s warm in the restaurant and the old man and I exchange silent expressions of delight as the waiter places my traditional open buckwheat crepe on the table.
I crack the over-easy egg in the middle and the yolk languorously rolls through the bed of roasted tomatoes. The buckwheat crunches in my mouth and flavor spills all over my tongue. I can die now. I’m already in heaven. I try to savor every bite.
Something about sight and color and weather
It’s not as cold in Paris as I expected. I was here for New Years and nearly froze… what a difference a month makes! Or maybe it's global warming... Golden leaves dance on the trees outside, adding a shimmering glitter atop the city’s already blue-and-yellow color scheme that I obsess over every time I visit.
The cream-colored buildings tucked under the mansard roofs of the city reflect the blue winter-light of November, with people's warm little lives glowing yellow within the windows. I love wondering about windows. Each one is a little frame holding an entire life of love and broken hearts and allergies and socks and and dreams and tasty dinners.
Scooters whirr by and it makes me miss mine in New Orleans. One day, I will live in Europe for real, and I'll have a drivers license here and a visa and a cat and a scooter of my own again.
Thoughts from a Museum
I promised myself when I was here last year that I would come back at least once more to take advantage of this sweet deal where so long as you have a student visa (I do for some reason) and are under 26, you can go to any museum in Paris for free. I had one last day to do this, and Musee D’Orsay was calling my name. They skeptically let me in, aware of the fact that I only had 8 hours left before turning 26. I love free things! A glass-ceilinged renovated train station is possibly the most beautiful venue I’ve ever walked through to experience art. I still remember coming here when I was 12. Look how blue and yellow it also is...
I meet Lautrec. I meet Van Gogh. I meet Picasso. I meet Monet and Manet and paintings I had hanging on my wall in high school. And then I meet Q! My darling Chatannooga friend that’s also doing this program who came here to spend my birthday with me. Two southern babes abroad.
I learn that Paris has such a unified aesthetic thanks to the genius of one single architect who re-envisioned the city in the mid 1800’s. I wish I could personally thank you, Monsieur Haussmann for dreaming up such a heart-breakingly beautiful place. Last time I was here, tears were rolling down my face as I walked around alone because it was all too overwhelmingly beautiful to handle.
This is the view out the clock-window of Musee D'Orsay, looking out to Sacre Coeur atop the hill of Montmartre at sundown. Swoon!
an adventure under and above the eiffel tower
Sometimes I like being touristy, especially if it means seeing the “City of lights” from above when all the lights are on. We plan ahead and snag some midnight picnic supplies of brie, baguettes, and a bottle of wine then turn a corner to see the majestic monument standing before us at last. How can something that is just metal bars be so overwhelmingly spectacular?
But serious security guards tell us the tower is “Ferme” for vague reasons, and we hear sirens coming closer. No one is allowed to go up. We open the wine and the baguette and brie and blissfully drink straight from the bottle next to the tower. Several gentlemen peddling other bottles of wine try to coax us into buying more, but we tell them “Non, merci” about 40 times. "Maybe later," we say..."maybe later." "petetre plus tarde?"
We nearly give up from the cold, then see they've miraculously opened the gates once more! Q quickly hides some champagne she just bought in a bush, as we can’t take it up with us, and away we go!
Riding the elevator up through the center of the tower is positively electrifying. It is completely surreal to be in the glowing belly of the oh-so-familiar beast, as we climb up and up and up and up. The view from the top is high enough that it almost looks as if we are looking down at a map of the city. Paris. What a charming lady you are. A cold, windy, thrilling, charming lady. She glows yellow, we glow too.
Poor Q’s champagne is stolen by the time we come back down, so we head to a café to warm up and re-group. Another round of wine leaves us feeling roasty toasty again and I leave my number with the cute bartender before heading on our merry, tipsy way.
“It’s my birthday. Here’s my number.” Wink. Run away.
We’re skipping hand in hand back towards our hostel, when who do we run into but the CHAMPAGNE PEDDLERS!! They try to get us to buy a bottle once more and we decline, though I do inform them it’s my birthday. They decide that’s reason enough to open up three bottles for us for free, and I decide that’s the universe paying us back for Q’s lost champagne, and that's reason enough to drink with them, so we find a cozy bench and let the bubbles flow.
Say yes to everything within reason.
They compare India, where they’re from, to Paris, and we compare Paris to Spain to America. They give us eiffel tower key chains and tell us one of their favorite parts about Paris is French kissing, at which point we tell them we’ve got to skedaddle.
We run off into the night with all three bottles in hand, laughing hysterically. Both our phones are dead and we don’t know where our hostel is. I’m too cheap to ever use taxis, and things get a little blurry here but at some point we befriend three Scottish or Irish guys in a bar and wake up alive and not-too-hungvoer the next morning.
~*~ BIRTHDAY ~*~
something else about food...
brunch at La Recyclerie
First order of Business: Brunch
It’s raining. Arm in arm under my parapluie (favorite french word,) we make our way to a charming place called la Recyclerie, which is also in an old train station like Musee D’Orsay. It has an artist market and an urban farm and an amazing café all built into one place. Mulled wine. Veggie brunch. Great recommendation from my friend Marta! Thank you!
Something about a magical maze of ancient artifacts
We’re close to the Paris Flea Market, nestled hidden in a random part of the city that you’ve got to walk through a shitty touristy knock-off market to find. Fake Nike. Fake Louis Vuitton. Keychains and Aprons. These markets make me extremely uncomfortable, but then we find what we’re looking for, and are immediately enamored with this place, y’all... An art department wonderland.
A maze of marvels from human skulls to Antoinette-era paintings to carousel horses to buckets of doll heads and ancient carnival costumes from days gone by. My dream! Though everything is wildly expensive, I walk away with a few post cards and an ancient absinthe spoon. Oh, how my imagination runs wild thinking of who melted sugar cubes off that spoon in years-past! Probably Oscar Wilde, right? I went through a momentary obsession with absinthe when I was about 17 so this is a perfect little birthday present for me.
Something about Montmartre
We eventually pull ourselves away from the market and head towards Montmartre just in time to catch the sun setting over the city. The smell of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts fills the air and we are warm despite the cold. We shop around the artist market and I go crazy taking pictures. Blue and yellow. Magic Magic.
something I mostly remember
We meet up with my Parisian wife, Marie, and her boyfriend Alex.
We go for champagne and cheese before dinner at a lovely restaurant called La Jacobin, where Marie argues her way to a better table, per usual. We walk past Notre Dame on the way to the Burlesque bar where we meet up with my other friend Jude. It's the first time I've seen it at night. It's extraordinary.
Once we get to the burlesque joint, they tell us you need a reservation at least four days in advance. I did extensive research and I never read this anywhere, but we regroup and quickly find a bar nearby that sells absinthe.
There’s a line outside. It’s very fancy. Marie pulls some strings as always and gets us to the front of the line. “Bon Aniversaire” they say.
“Ohhh, Gracias. I mean, Merci!” I say.
It’s packed and luxurious. They have a lamp made of hanging Top hats. Q and I go to the bar to see if we can work our magic and get free drinks like we always do.
All the men act surprised when we order absinthe...
“Straight absinthe?” Says the bartender
“Well I don’t know, what are our options?"
“I can make a cocktail or I can give you a shot.”
“A cocktail to start, I guess.” I say. He makes us one.
“I assumed you were taking it straight. That’s what surprised me. I can’t remember the last time I drank absinthe.” Says a man standing nearby.
“Oh, well we’ll take it straight if you take it straight.” I say.
“Bartender,” he says “A round of shots of absinthe. Three.”
He looks to me.
“My name is Amro, where are you from?”
“The US... but I don’t live there anymore. It’s my birthday! Where are you from?”
“Lebanon. Happy Birthday!”
This is the first of many rounds of absinthe we have with Amro. Say yes to everything within reason.
Marie scores us a table so we all sit around taking way too many selfies. The bartender from the night before texts me, which I find hilarious and delightful. In general I am feeling so lucky and happy to have not one but THREE close friends with me in this moment. Marie ends up heading out and eventually I'm tipsy enough to confront the bartender.
“At a fancy place like this I can’t believe you don’t have an absinthe fountain.”
“Oh we have one, it’s just downstairs.”
“Excuse me. Maybe you didn’t know this, but it’s my birthday. Can we please have one absinthe fountain please, immediately?”
Reluctantly, he leaves to fetch it around the same time they started closing down the upstairs, so by the time they bring it we have the entire floor to ourselves.
We melt the ice cubes and cheers to birthdays and to Paris and take our drinks downstairs to enjoy the DJ who is playing everything from Justin Timberlake to Notorious B.I.G.. Then. Then! Then we hear the beginning of Lady Marmalade and I lose my god damn mind. Q orders a bottle of champagne and to my delight, she also knows every single word of this song. The song from the movie that made me fall in love with Paris when I was ten. We’re screaming all the lyrics and dancing around all over the place with absinthe in one hand and champagne in the other and I’m the happiest 26 year old in the entire world.
Something about figure drawing
It’s hard to explain how excited I am to participate in a figure drawing session in the historically bohemian neighborhood of such an artistic city, sleep deprived though I am. I used to model for figure drawing classes and it’s such a gift to have your subject right in front of you. It's been an extremely long time, and I'm out of practice drawing people, but I'm so hungry for the experience. I only nod off one time, as the room is very roasty toasty to keep the model warm, and drop my brush on the ground, causing the model to jump, like a total asshole! But otherwise I hold my own with the Parisian artists.
After a night of quality catch up time with marie and an early night to "bed," I wake up at 3am to begin my massive commute to the airport to head back to Lugo.
I think I could spend years in Paris and never get enough of it.
And I left feeling like I'd had a finite change in momentum. A brief pulse of energy, which left me depleted and content. A belly full of adventure and magic and friendship and new experiences. I leapt out. I was floating back down.
Other Paintings I did of Paris