Friday, October 7, 2011

The joy of traveling alone

30 December, 2010

My plan for Thursday involved me visiting three major spots. I would take the metro and begin my day at Notre Dame, then walk to the d'Orsay and then over to the Rodin museum.

My day started out according to schedule.

I decided to skip going inside the cathedral, because I was really just too busy enjoying the beautiful day and was more fascinated with the details of the building than filled with a burning desire to wait in any lines. I circled and circled Notre Dame, taking pictures of it from a distance, then coming back in and taking photos of small details. Like I had discovered up at Sacre-Coeur, I didn't have the ability to capture any of it in my sketchbook... so I left that in my bag and stuck to the photography.

As I left the masses and crowds around the Notre Dame I decided to walk along the Seine on my way to my next destination... and I couldn't help but remember the lyrics to ABBA's "Our Last Summer" and softly sang it to myself as I walked.

The summer air was soft and warm
The feeling right, the Paris night
Did its best to please us
And strolling down the Elysee
We had a drink in each cafe
And you
You talked of politics, philosophy and I
Smiled like Mona Lisa
We had our chance
It was a fine and true romance

I can still recall our last summer
I still see it all
Walks along the Seine, laughing in the rain
Our last summer
Memories that remain

We made our way along the river
And we sat down in the grass
By the Eiffel tower
I was so happy we had met
It was the age of no regret
Oh yes
Those crazy years, that was the time
Of the flower-power
But underneath we had a fear of flying
Of getting old, a fear of slowly dying
We took the chance
Like we were dancing our last dance

I can still recall our last summer
I still see it all
In the tourist jam, round the Notre Dame
Our last summer
Walking hand in hand

Paris restaurants
Our last summer
Morning croissants
Living for the day, worries far away
Our last summer
We would laugh and play

And now you're working in a bank
The family man, a football fan
And your name is Harry
How dull it seems
Yet you're the hero of my dreams?

I can still recall our last summer
I still see it all
Walks along the Seine, laughing in the rain
Our last summer
Memories that remain
I can still recall our last summer
I still see it all
In the tourist jam, round the Notre Dame
Our last summer
Walking hand in hand
Paris restaurants
Our last summer
Morning croissants
We were living for the day, worries far away




















In addition to stopping by to say hello to the statue of Saint Michel, I took pictures of everything that caught my eye. A pretty window, light glancing off the cobblestones in the sidewalk, balconies, a neat bit of architecture...

I looked at my map and realized that if I crossed the Seine at Pont Neuf, I could cross back at Pont des Arts, then from there the d'Orsay. A slight detour, but a lovely one. I easily could have stopped and gone to Louvre instead, as I was so close. But I had a plan and I was going to stick to it!

But when I finally reached the museum, I stopped. I looked at the lines. I looked back to where I had just been, and remembered how lovely the view was from Pont des Arts. I knew I would have enjoyed the museum. I knew that if I went in, I would find the experience worthwhile and I would have come out with a new appreciation for whatever it is people appreciate in museums.

But it was a really beautiful day. It was warm enough that I had to take off my heavier coat, and made me wish I had on shoes other than my winter boots. The sun glinted off the river, and the sky was blue. I didn't want to be inside. And I didn't have to be. So I walked back to Pont des Arts. I found a bench, and I pulled out my sketchbook to draw Pont Neuf and Paris behind it.

The rest of my day involved yet more wandering fairly aimlessly. I had no plans, and I wasn't even sure anymore what I would do the next day. Every day of my trip had brought me something unexpected, and I was perfectly okay with that. I no longer felt even a little bit lonely seeing people together in pairs or groups. Traveling by myself, eating by myself, talking to myself... all of that was fine by me.

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