I know nothing of Paris.
In the middle of my French tour for Wilderness I had half-a-day and night to spend in the City of Lights but we were bone-tired so the evening was spent at a noodle-stand somewhere near our hotel and the night was spent in our hotel room trying to get out from under our jet lag. I don’t think we even opened the curtains and we slept twelve hours.
So then we only had a morning left.
We wandered away from the Odeon Hotel in the 6th arrondissement and into the Luxembourg Gardens then down the Boulevard Saint-Michel to the Seine. The street trees were leafed-out and you could smell things cooking and you could smell tobacco smoke and it was raining that morning and the rain made sharp, pocking sounds on the umbrellas all around us. We went to Notre-Dame and then inside; I paid for a machine to flatten a disk of copper with the cathedral logo then promptly lost it. I remember being struck by the statue of Charlemagne and, especially, the magnificent mustache of the warrior holding his horse’s reins.
Then, with the morning running out, we wandered back. We vaguely looked for the Eiffel Tower but the skyline was socked-in. Kat took pictures of the many wonderful doors we happened across and I tried on a variety of Interesting Hats because all my writer-friends seemed to wear Interesting Hats and I’ve always been, alas, hatless. I bought two scarves and we had tiny coffees at tiny tables out on the sidewalk in the rain under the dripping, leafed-out trees. We laughed over the French title for The Hangover 3: Very Bad Trip 3, got lost twice, helped another American tourist get unlost, pined over the noodle-stand (which was closed now), got lost once more, then finally found our hotel again in time to throw our bags in a taxi and head for the train station.
Our return trip from my reading tour of Southern France only took us briefly back into Paris and it was in the middle of the night. It was still rainy, still cloudy, so the City of Lights was far more sedate than its reputation and, the next morning, we were on a plane home.
So I know nothing of Paris.
But I know this: for half-a-day and night, regardless of what I saw or did not see, regardless of rain and jet lag or lost souvenir tchotchkes, everything we saw that was old was new and everything was welcoming and bright and lovely. Being in Paris, even for so short a time, made me feel like a citizen of the world and left me forever improved as a man and human being and, for that, I will always be profoundly grateful.
And I still dream about that noodle-stand.