I awoke this morning around 6:15 am and, comme d'habitude, checked the email on the iPhone while in bed. Among the emails was a Facebook message from a friend in Paris, sending me what he pronounced as a good article on Paris in the Sunday (today) edition of the New York Times. I read the whole article in bed. I liked it so much that I was inspired to get out of bed for the sole purpose of getting my own hard copy of the NY Times, which is delivered to me at home on Sunday mornings (tempting to kick this expensive habit, but mornings and articles like this keep me hanging on). I slipped on the organic cotton skirt that I purchased in a heat-induced delirium at Austin Psych Fest yesterday and headed outside to get the paper that was there, as hoped and expected, on my sidewalk.
I made coffee, sliced some Poilâne bread for toast, and settled in.
I already knew the story because I devoured it in bed at 6:30 am. I knew I already 150% agreed with the author about the unique pleasures of being in Paris alone. It is a luxurious, decadent experience.
"I went alone, to live in the present.
I sliced through an oyster with my cocktail fork, loosening it from its shell. A pulpy Utah Beach, it was brimming with lemon juice and its own slightly salty liquor. I lifted it with a thumb and forefinger, and tilted it to my lips."
I know I know. Say no more. It's utterly delicious having Paris all to yourself (when all is right with the world (the right shoes, enough money, good weather)).
A lot of places the author explores are the same places I have sought out or stumbled upon, including the Musée du Quai Branly, experienced not from the front entry, but from the more quiet entrance/exit from the rue de l'Université. I found it accidentally at night many years ago. There is, or was then, a garden in the back of the building, lighted up as if a swampy marshland on a cool night had met the Northern Lights.
You just cannot plan for the poetic moments of strolling about Paris on your own.
Now planning for options in Paris is ok. That's different. You can pick what feels right for the day rather than just trudging on with a planned itinerary. (E.g., Am I in a hipster Bobo mood, a Montmartre village-esque mood, or a Left Bank (i.e., rue de Sèvres/rue de Rennes/rue du Cherche-Midi) type of mood today? These are very different experiences of Paris.)
As the author noted, she felt like heading north, up to Sacré Coeur. But she appropriately avoided the crowded tour buses making the rounds and opted instead for streets leading up the hill, now filled with increasingly chic storefronts among the more traditional ones. Among the chic ones: Sébastian Gaudard. [We checked it out on the 2012 girlfriends trip to Paris. Put your cameras away. They will usher you away most likely. And you would not want to be banned: M. Gaudard (who is, sigh, so very easy on the eyes; see these images) does have the best baba au rhum ever.]
On a brisk run one morning in the summer of 2013, I found my old neighborhood from those students days in 1985-86, near the Parc Monceau (pictured here thanks to a lucky Hipstamatic moment).
A friend noted a while back that I needed a lot of "Liz time," and I'm finally getting around to admitting, years later, that he was right. It is especially true with Paris, but it also is a longstanding, entrenched compulsion. Since the age of 17.
After a first trip to Paris in my junior year of high school, I considered myself well-equipped to do Paris on my own. So by the time the next trip rolled around the next year -- a generous high school graduation trip from my parents -- I just left the group. We were moving as a herd (more than 2 or 3), and I just could not take it. I left to go do my own thing. No memory of what I did. I just remember the liberating moment of realizing I had métro tickets: I could go anywhere I wanted!
And for the girlfriend trip in April 2012, each of us very independent and set in our ways on travel, the girlfriends asked how I would handle traveling with them in Paris. It is a sign of good friends that they knew me well enough to ask. I did have ample Paris time to myself that trip, but I also had glorious days and meals with the girlfriends.
Traveling with friends means someone can watch your stuff when you go to Les Toilettes. And someone can call your phone when you think you've misplaced it (which is like every 5 minutes for me these days, ever since the iPhone was stolen last summer in Paris). And someone can be there to affirm and agree with you that yes, Verjus, at night, can create the most perfect dining experience of just right food, charming and engaging staff, wine pairings, a simple and exquisite cheese array, followed by an after-dinner, after-hours investigation into scotch down at the wine bar. But everyone should leave enough time to just explore and experience. And you should read that NY Times article in today's paper if you don't quite get that yet.