France: Part One
People talk a lot about about Paris. I’ve come to believe that in general, when people ooh and ahh over something, chances are they’re lost a little in hyperbole and it’s not as good as they say. That’s true about Paris. It’s not as good as people say.
The first time we went to Paris was in the Winter. We’d been traveling for a couple of weeks and because we both thought it might be a big disappointment (see above comment), we only allowed two days. The logic was that we’d see it, check out the Eiffel Tower, say we’d been there, and move on to the rest of our trip to the Alps! We started our first moments in Paris at the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile. Mere minutes into our time there, we knew. We were going to wish we’d booked more time.
That’s part of traveling. Some times you make an itinerary mistake and you adapt. Or you don’t, and you plan to come back again.
Given our limited time, we knew we wanted to soak in as much as we could. We also didn’t want to spend a lot of it underground, so we set out to walk as much of the city as we could. After the Arc de Triomphe, we explored the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
It was cold and wonderful, and also a surprise to see a lot of soldiers with machine guns and red berets walking the streets. We don’t have a military presence like that in America and I forget sometimes that many other countries do.
We walked for about two hours, taking in so many sites and sounds. I was filming stuff here and there and was about ten feet behind Jolene. It’s at this point that I want to explain where we were in our European trip. Two weeks before this moment, we were in Portugal, working the International Gourmet Food Festival. I wrote about it here. It was almost two weeks in a row, no breaks, working twelve to fourteen hour days on our feet and running all over the Algarve filming. The day after the festival, we ended up getting terribly sick. You can read all about that hilarious experience here. Suffice it to say, Jolene has never looked at cous cous the same again.
The reason I tell you this, is that we had been working such a crazy schedule that there wasn’t really any time for vacation-style relaxation or intimacy. It was basically a lot of go, go, go, go, go. Then we got sick and that took a few days to recover from. By the time we got to Paris, even though we were both finally starting to feel better, we were also still moving at a decent pace because we wanted to see as much of the city as possible. We were both trying to soak in as much as possible, and taking note of what we wanted to see when we came back someday. We were also trying to get to the Louvre so we could at least spend an hour or two there.
While crossing by another gorgeous Parisian building, Jolene suddenly stopped. She looked up, and so I stopped as well, following her gaze. I wondered what had caught her attention. She turned to me, smiling ear-to-ear, and then I saw it.
“IT’S SNOWING IN PARIS!” she said excitedly. Then she smiled at me and all-at-once we both realized we hadn’t really had a moment to connect for some time. Then she suddenly ran up to me, grabbed me, and kissed me passionately, the snow falling all around and on us. It was a w e s o m e .
We smooched like teenagers for a while, and eventually carried on with our mission, arriving at the Louvre. I was VERY excited because I LOVE museums and this was at the top of my museum bucket list. I was so glad that as we approached the famous pyramid, there were only a few people there. I figured the very cold weather was keeping people away. Another awesome thing I was going to add to my Parisian list of gloriousness.
FYI, the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. It was Tuesday.
We laughed really hard about it. We’d literally just walked half way across Paris and the place was closed. This moment was the birth of Moonbird’s Travel Lesson #6: “If you are picking the sightseeing location, make sure you’ve double-checked the details.” We quickly adapted, as we do. We took an hour to walk all around the area and check out the incredible architecture. We took lots of photos and videos, and then turned to head back the way we’d come to find a nice café for a coffee/tea and a snack.
That’s when we met the bird man.
I don’t know his name. Maybe someone who reads this post does and can let me know. Jolene spotted him. A very kind-looking man, standing there on the path outside the Louvre, feeding the birds. Jolene loves animals, and is knowledgeable about them like David Attenborough. She approached him and they chatted (she speaks basic French). He insisted on giving her some bird seed and bread so she could join in feeding them as well. She was going to drop some on the ground, but he showed her a much more interesting way. I got the whole thing on camera because that was when this happened:
When I say it’s the unexpected beautiful moments you won’t forget, it’s things like that. You really don’t know how much it will change you when a lovely stranger shares his bird food with you so you can feel the sensation of more than ten birds resting on your hand. It’s things like me not speaking a word of French, but looking at him and having a conversation with our eyes and smiles. It really is the human connection in its infinite and marvelous ways.
And sometimes, it’s kissing in Paris when it’s snowing.