There is but one Paris. The French air clears up the brain and does good… a world of good.” -Vincent van Gogh
World Business Class amazed me. Flying overseas for less than $300 on a traveler pass with my airline-worker best friend proved pretty cool in and of itself; but to get upgraded? The flight attendant offered us champagne before we even pushed back from the gate; provided a duvet and pillow to accompany our fully reclinable seat-beds, and to top off our four course dinner ordered from a menu, we ate from a make-your-own-sundae bar for dessert. The trip took on a magical aura well before I set foot on French soil for the first time. Then…Christmas in Paris.
The Champs de Elysees lit up with its iconic lights; viewable just outside our hotel room on the famous street; A massive Christmas tree in front of the already massive Notre Dame; the chance to see/hear Handel’s Messiah performed in a church that rivaled the size of Notre Dame, and Christmas markets offering mulled wine and crepes as we strolled through the charming streets. Upon returning home, only one phrase seemed to accurately describe the three days I’d spent in “The City of Light”: “once-in-a-lifetime.”
Until I went again.
The idea didn’t pop up until midway through planning another “once-in-a-lifetime” trip: a month in Italy with my mom. As a reward for five challenging years, my company provided me with the opportunity to spend four weeks in a country I’d never been, which was why my initial itinerary consisted of just that — cities I’d never been to. But it occurred to me that Milan, one of our planned stops, was only a short plane ride to Paris, and since my mom had never been there…. Suddenly I found myself as excited to take my mom to Paris as I was to explore new cities like Venice and Rome. And just as expected, our time there proved as unique and exciting as seeing those new cities. My mom and I even added a neighborhood I’d never been to, Montmartre, home of the famous Sacre Coeur, creating a new experience amidst a familiar backdrop. I also took her to see the Eiffel Tower of course, and coming around the Trocadero (its famous viewing platform) with the magnificent structure lit up ahead of us produced just as many goosebumps for me the second time around as it had the first time.
Like my previous trip to Paris, I went for a run the last day — a final jaunt down my favorite 8-mile route past all of my favorite views, particularly the Champs with the Arc de Triomphe majestically poised at the end. But unlike the previous trip, a comforting, rather than depressing thought crossed my mind as I thought about having to leave a few hours later.
I’ll be back.
With two trips under my belt, Paris solidified it’s position atop the list of my favorite destinations, and I was sad to say good-bye yet again… but those sentiments empowered me this time, making me realize I could — and quite frankly needed to — return.
I know it’s not necessarily cheap to cross the ocean. Yet everyone has priorities in life — if owning a home is a priority, you put your money there; if traveling is a priority, you may not need a big house (hence why many people in Europe especially live in apartment complexes). On that second trip to Paris, I realized as long as I made Paris a priority, it would always be within reach. That’s why I went back when I turned 30, eating my birthday dinner at the city’s #1 ranked restaurant. That’s why I returned less than 9 months later so my stepmom could get a taste amidst our Eastern Europe tour. And that’s why it may not be long before I’m writing this blog during a 2-3 month stay there — it’s my next big goal, to experience “living” there.
Paris, more than anything, has taught me that I have complete control over my life. If I can accept something I did as “once-in-a-lifetime,” then great. But if I love it so much that I want to go somewhere or do something more than once, that’s okay too. Every time I’m back among the Arc, the Eiffel, the Sacre Coeur, and the pyramids of the Louvre, I’m reminded it’s all up to me to seize every moment I can.
This most recent trip to Paris brought a number of new experiences. I took my stepmom to Montmarte, and this time not only did I buy a big piece of art straight from the artist (one of my favorite things about Paris), I also let another artist draw a self-portrait of me — an incredible experience with a talented woman who’d clearly been performing her trade for decades. A good friend and her daughter met up with us our second day to take a nighttime cruise down the River Seine, another new and phenomenal experience. And on our last morning, the four of us visited the Luxembourg Gardens for the first time, walking through another fall-color paradise of endless paths, fountains, statues, palaces.
But the overwhelming highlight of the trip took place that Friday night. I’d seen One Republic, my favorite band, in concert in Phoenix earlier this year. The concert easily was the best I’d seen, giving it that same “never-could-be-better” feel. But on a whim I checked into other concert locations for their tour, and they happened to be coming to Paris our first night there. Could I really be that lucky? I purchased the tickets within minutes.
In a famous concert venue in my favorite city, my favorite band belted out my favorite songs, interjecting often about how and why Paris was their favorite city. Looking back it seems yet again a difficult experience to top… but I’ll be going back to Paris someday, and since One Republic said they’ll be back too…
You never know.