It’s hard for me to admit but I do believe in signs, messages from the universe that I am in the right path. In Western secular culture a binary divides people into believers (be it in religion, a creator, or superstitions) and the so-called logical persons who don’t. But even the non-believers see logic in Murphy’s law. Ever since I bought my ticket to Colombia, I’ve been thinking a lot of about these signs. After I left the hairdresser in Istanbul, with a confirmed ticket sitting in my inbox, everything seemed to be going eerily smooth.
The day before arriving in Paris, a family that I had only met over three days in Spain last year invited me to stay with them, relieving me from a last-minute hostel search in Paris. I was picked up from the bus station in Étoile and quickly ushered into a lovely Shabbat dinner with shrimps as appetizers and delicious cheese as dessert. My first night in Paris was capped with draft beer and entertainment from a group of French boys who were dancing half-naked at Le Ballon bar on Rue Mazegran. The rowdy group of guys was apparently work colleagues who frequently go out together although I am not sure if they take their shirts off as frequently as they dance in bars.
Especially when I have limited time in a city, I prefer to spend my time just walking around getting lost and that’s exactly what I did in Paris. Of course there were a few points of interest that I had noted but every time I looked at a map (or asked a local) to find out how to get to the Notredam, Montmarte or the Pompidou, it would turn out that I happen to be standing a block away. As I said, eerily smooth.
On my first day in Paris I strolled on the streets of Paris, walking along Avenue des Champs-Élysées, passing through Grand Palais where there was a Velazquez exhibition. While I almost went in to the museum, I decided against joining the long line considering the little time I had in Paris and walked onwards to Place de Concord. In the middle of the square, which was the main scene of the French Revolution, stands the Luxor Obelisk. Before the Egyptian obelisk was erected there it was the spot of the infamous guillotine so I imagine the place wasn’t as stately as it currently looks. My host later picked me up from in front of the National Assembly building and we drove to the Latin Quarter, where I shopped for hiking shoes for the South American hills at Au Vieux Campeur. After deliberating buying bright orange, blue, and green hipster-looking shoes I concluded that I don’t know how to shop for hiking shoes and left the store with pants instead.
Dinner was delicious cheese and baguette at a typical tiny Parisian apartment in Montmartre my friend Nathalie calls her shoebox. The highlight of the day was strolling around Montmartre in the evening. A crowd of tourists occupied the steps in front of the church, listening to various artists singing in English, Arabic, and Portuguese. There I had the pleasure of (not)speaking with what seemed to be very drugged lady. I was sitting next to her on the steps among the audience, enjoying the view of Paris with a Heineken sold to me by an Indian man when she approached me. At first I thought she might be mute since instead of speaking she would just make hand gestures and growling noises. In her mime-like movements she criticized my choice of tights and sneakers and gestured to her bosom, instructing me to sit with my chest facing the sky. Then she howled. It was entertaining for a good ten minutes. I just wish I could have explained to her that my choice of outerwear was not because my sense fashion is unfit for the streets of Paris but rather that I am traveling with a bag the size of a big bucket!
On Sunday, I walked along the Seine with the view of the Eiffel Tower before me. I passed through Passy, which reminded me of my email-friend and author Şavkar Altıner’s latest book Hotel Glasgow and the movie “Last Tango in Paris,” which Altınel relives through his own stroll in Paris. I stopped at the Passy Metro stop and thought about Jeanne and Paul meeting on its platform.
Lunch was with distant relatives at Place Victor Hugo. Stéphane, who traveled through Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru managed to calm me down as I had barely slept the night before, battling with nightmares of being kidnapped and sexually assaulted in Colombia. I left lunch with recommendations on hiking shoes and much more self-confidence regarding the journey I was about to begin the following morning (or so I thought!) Meanwhile I still had another wonderful day in Paris ahead of me (again, or so I thought…).
Ever since purchasing my ticket to Colombia, which was an adventure in and of itself, all was falling into place like magic. The universe was just leading me in the right direction without me being aware of it. I continued my Parisian hike in Marais defying the rain and the chilly winds. There was one building I had yet to stumble upon in Paris and that was the Centre Pompidou, which the lonely planet guidebook describes as an inside out building. Then Nathalie texted me to see if I was up to meeting her at the Pompidou for the Jeff Koons exhibition. Just when I was wondering where to find the museum, I lifted my head and saw a sign pointing me towards it. I was apparently just 300 meters from the place! How perfect.
My supposedly last night in Paris continued at the Sans Gêne Restaurant for a birthday party with my hosts. I couldn’t have had a more local experience if I tried, I thought as I sipped my champagne, chatting with real Parisians. But as content as I was, anxiety for next morning’s flight to Colombia was still boiling inside me. Thankfully I had Nathalie there to remind me the reason for my decision: to open closed doors to see what lays behind them. Tipsy with champagne, I finally felt ready.
Then I missed my flight to Colombia. There I was, standing in front of Gate L44, breathless from running from the far-away Gate F44, where for some reason I spent an hour doing nothing, watching the Air France representative tell me that the door was closed. The plane that was supposed to take me to Bogota was there, behind those glass doors. I could see it. Then it slowly moved away from the gate, as I stood behind the counter thinking, “is this a sign?”
As I write these words, I am sitting at Tartas y Tortas, a cute pastry shop overlooking the main plaza of Villa de Leyva, a small colonial town 4 hours north of Bogota. Missing my flight was a sign. A sign that I needed to spend another two wonderful days in Paris, a sign that I needed to go back to the camping store and buy those much needed hiking shoes, a sign that I needed to be more careful and remember that Gate L44 is not Gate F44, a sign that sometimes things seem to be going wrong, but are not necessarily so.
And here are some photos from the last day in Paris, which I consider a gift from Air France:
Stroll through Park Luxemburg…
And here is my current view in Villa de Leyva!!
P.S. One HUGE thank you to my Parisian hosts, who not only gave me delicious cheese, the most comfortable bed in Paris, but lots of love:)