Oui, oui Paris! Dreamily portrayed in images and film, revisited in twinkle eyed reveries by those who have been before, and celebrated the world through for its culture and sights, how could my experience equal the hype? With long-docked expectations but belly butterflies of excited hope, we touched down for a visit that would leave even me charmed and cooing over the city of lights.
The French capital blindsided me, taking me by the hand and twirling me through the boulevards. My doubts were blitzed, and through clearing mist emerged a city of impossible elegance and ultimate refinement. Indulged with ‘bonjour madam’s, banana-Nutella crepes, autumn leaf layered parks, Haussmanian buildings, glove fingered days, and bridges aglow by night, Paris was a spoiling host.
Mum (she really should have been a detective) booked an apartment in a top location for us to join the resident population. We stayed in Passy, 16th arr., a chic neighborhood reclining on the banks of the Seine. With contemporary museums, wide roads, and excellent but relaxed eateries and shops, Passy is a homely urban village.
We cycled and took the red bus around Paris, marveling at the ordered grand plan, famous monuments, and inspiring symmetry of the great city. We loved pedaling around and picnicking in nearby Versailles (a city itself), with its organic markets, flowered meadows, and – of course – palatial gardens. The metro was both conquered and conqueror, for just as we began to master it, the turnstiles gave Maia a hematoma reminder of who’s boss. Mum made red lipped shop assistants laugh explaining her ‘jaune’ roots resulting from my at home salon ‘do gone wrong (do they even match the colour in the container with the one on the box? My experienceS would think not). And I scoffed vitamin c and soaked cafe napkins with nose fluids as my cold persisted, not one ounce as graceful as the city I strolled in, but glad as anything to be there.
After four nights in Paris, the Eurostar escorted us through the chunnel to London. Karlene awaited at our Notting Hill apartment, and she popped out the door in a tear-filled reunion. Away working on a mega yacht, it has been a long and much less sunny year without her home. We headed up the road for a classic pub lunch and good chat, then proceeded to get the hang of our Oyster cards.
We had a lovely little rhythm going. Each day we visited the Wellington origins of The Grocery Store before venturing to a new area of the city. Town favorites were the action outside Buckingham Palace with royal helicopter landing and in-residence flag up, the golden grandeur of Big Ben, and regal patience of the guard’s Black Beauty horses. We walked the colour pencil streets of nearby Portobello, recharged in the tranquility of Holland Park’s Kyoto garden, and shuffled through crowds of the Columbia flower market. After being amongst the packed footpaths and the dark, windy depths of the tube all day, it was always wonderful to retreat to the apartment’s lofty ceiling sanctuary, crunching the stones of the communal gardens out back or enjoying a hot tea on the enveloping couch.
And then came the Rugby World Cup semi final. Winning tickets in the ballot was the catalyst for our whole trip and for the day to finally arrived was a mega trip highlight (especially for Maia, who nearly slept in his jersey the night before). Game day was full on, as we journeyed to Richmond to meet up with the Garners, Sullivans, and one each of a Hunt and Mitchell pre-stadium for another heartwarming get together. The rain started to spit, but three rows back with the anthem sung proud and the haka so close, we didn’t give a second thought to our dampening clothes. We were in our element, in very good spirits, and thrilled to cheer on the ABs to narrow victory in the massive match up. It was a spectacular day turned night of celebrations.
Ever struggling with impermanence, the time came for see you laters. Tears are highly contagious, and my eyes were stinging until the bus stop after we hugged Mum and Karls goodbye. Our time in London was a reminder of the importance of family and taking time out to come together, no matter the distance. Of seizing the moment and doing things while you can. Mum, Karl and Dad encourage and inspire me in this way, and I always treasure shared times. Thanks so much to you guys and for deleting my excuses. Without you all I would never have left the airport.
Homesickness will be kept at bay, because today Maia and I go from our country retreat in the Cotswolds to Wales. We were sad to leave London without managing to get in our many planned rendezvous’ with friends, but look forward to spending longer next time and clinking glasses that have been silent too long. For now, we can’t wait to see the Corletts & co. in the valleys, where we’ll be living it up for the final then ferrying to Ireland.
Love, hugs, appreciation and apologies,