Wander 7: City of Love
Updated: Apr 16, 2020
Today I made macarons. Or rather I attempted to make macarons. What I ended up with was a very pink and very misshaped version of the dainty French cookies found in almost every Parisian bakery shop window. It was an almost two hour ordeal in which I read every direction at least three different times, carefully weighed and re-weighed every ingredient, and followed (almost) every step.
I ended up with something not quite right but also not quite wrong. They looked dreadful but tasted wonderful (which seems to be a common theme to most things I make). With great pride I can say that at the present moment 13 chocolate and raspberry macarons sit resting in my fridge, a sign of resilience in the face of almost complete failure.
And naturally, making these macarons reminded me of the city I have fallen in love with.
This past fall I spent a week in my dreamy Paris completely on my own. And with every turn of that trip that now feels as if it was an impossibility itself, I was reminded that sometimes plans, like 'fool proof' recipes, don't turn out the way you anticipate. And it's okay. For once you abandon the plan, you give way for the discovery of something new. It's thrilling- discovering.
Here's part of my journal entries from Paris, as I committed to finding myself by getting totally lost in the city of light, the city of love...
It's taken me a day to master my French. And by French I mean I’ve mastered the phrases essential to my survival: Bonjour. Pardon, Englais? Palour vois Englais? Englais Sil Vous Plait. Merci beacoup.
At the present moment of writing this I’m sitting in a dimly lit cafe, absolutely soaking wet from the endless, chilling downpour drinking an espresso so strong its only manageable by sugar cubes in excess. Did I anticipate that it was lovely, pastel Paris that would simultaneously be colder than Copenhagen and wetter than London? Absolutely not. But nonetheless, here we are. And it's snowing.
For being a city of love, Paris hates plans. You can start out the day with a map, neatly laying out your simple, perfectly organized plan. Then you set out. The museum chooses today, a Tuesday, to be closed for a reason unknown to you alone. Cafes disappear in a city covered in cafes as soon as you want a coffee. And though you circled the block three times, the Picasso exhibit just isn’t there.
But it isn’t such a bad thing.
When you finally concede to being lost you cross a bridge and look up. There it is: the Eiffel tower standing as if it was waiting for you alone. You're left speechless in wonderment at the simple fact that it’s there. And it’s not a stolen daydream anymore. You are there. And that is enough.
You lose your way in the streets of Montmartre until you climb up the steps of Sacré-Cœur. You sit alone on a step and watch the people coming and going. You feel the sun on your face and you are caught feeling that now, in this moment, everything makes sense. You are there. And that is enough.
You walk up to the painted green storefront of a bookshop you've only read about before. As you enter the door, you feel the magic that drifts through every bookstore as well as the people that have drifted in and out and in again. Can you feel it? The pull. It's no longer being described on the written page, for now it's seen by your eyes and felt by your finger tips. You are there. And that is enough.
You're sitting in your room with a window that becomes your own. You feel the pen in your hand. You feel the pen hitting the paper, not running out of things to say. You write quick, clear, and with honesty. This is becoming a part of your story. This is becoming. You are there. And that is enough.
You fade into the night as you cross the Seine river, holding your umbrella, your last defense above your head. You stop right in the middle of the bridge. You stop because it feels as if you are the only person in this moment. Presence. Blindly, all powerful presence. This is living, you think to yourself. This is what it must be to feel alive, to be caught feeling that mysterious deepness, feeling the significance of insignificance. You are there. And that is enough.
Plans suppress surprises.
And I think I’d much rather be surprised in life than prepared.
It’s the unexpected that makes you fall in love with living.
So maybe it’s in the City of Love that I fall in love. Not with anything or anyone. But a presence. A feeling that this is life. That I am no longer a spectator. That I am here, living.
You sit in a cafe, drinking strong coffee to match strong living. You look into the street: a world of mystery and unexplained beauty, a world waiting to be discovered by you and you alone. Pen to paper in that familiar way, words dripping out. You are there. And that is enough...