30 Jan 2019

Dreams in a Parisian Sky

I came to Paris because I had one of those dreams. A three year old infatuated with the haunting musical scores and the romance of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. Memorising the lyrics before I could read. Hours spent lying on the soft, cream carpet in the living room by my parents’ record player. Admiring pictures of the Opera Garnier. With such wishing, I could vividly picture myself there. Sending letters to the tormented Phantom out my bedroom window; letters embarrassingly my father found as he cleaned the dry, wrinkled leaves from the spouting when I had assumed the Phantom had taken them.

At the age of eleven, I walked the streets of Paris with my father. We had to go see the city that I had admired for such a significant portion of my short life. I sat in the auditorium of the Paris Opera House looking up at the chandelier, the critical piece for Gaston Leroux’s story of the Phantom. The ceiling painted by Marc Chagall diverging with the opulence of the Baroque exterior. I remember wanting to run off and try to find the labyrinth below the opera house where the Phantom resided.

I grew into a young woman with this sense of curiosity and adoration for a foreign land that always seemed so far away and just out of reach. When I was old enough to go alone, I bought a plane ticket.

A beautiful view from my apartment on Rue de Lourmel; my small balcony offering a view of la Tour Eiffel. The sun dimming over the skyline. A brilliant orange hue setting over the little ceramic red chimneys of the most romantic city in the world. The city of lights. Just uttering the word Parisconjures up unrealised dreams and endless possibilities.
Cobblestone streets. The hustle and bustle of la vie quotidienneLes petits motos zooming past and the sound of ambulances wailing. Dogs are immaculately groomed, obediently sitting at their master’s feet whilst they sip on a cup of coffee in the café on the corner. The robust odour as I pass my local fromagerie is enough to knock me over. Every Parisian knows, the smellier the cheese the better. 

An afternoon walk in the warm sunshine conjured up images of Audrey Hepburn dancing down the banks of the Seine or Jean Seberg selling newspapers down the Champs-Elysees, Belmondo by her side. I could imagine Edith Piaf singing in the worn-out streets of Menilmontant in the north east of the city. I loved visiting Shakespeare and Co, where penniless writers would sell their stories of despair to the owner to have a place to rest their head at night. 
Countless writers and artists have used Paris as a backdrop to some of the greatest work the world has ever seen. How many people have fallen in love in this place?

I recall that late Autumn day. It was cold and grey. The rain pitter pattering to the ground. I saw him as I gazed up from underneath my umbrella standing in front of la Fontaine Saint Michel. Our eyes met. The first thing that I noticed were his big blue eyes; an intense blue like a summer day’s perfect sky. They could take you to faraway places.

We sat at Le Petit Pontopposite the Notre Dame. No awkward moments, our conversation like two old friends, flowing like wine. Several hours passed. 

It transitioned to midnight walks along the Seine, listening to the water rippling in the dark and watching the twinkling lights of the stars reflected in the river. Under incandescent moonlight, we passed monuments that have inspired awe in people for centuries hand in hand and laughing. Passing the Eiffel Tower. There was no one and nothing but silence. These moments made us feel as though we are the only ones in the entire city. Paris was à nous. We spent hours walking. Discovering each other at the same time as discovering the city.
Kisses in doorways; it was a game as we walked the cobblestone streets and through the grounds of the Louvre. There is a doorway; another; another. He always walked me to my apartment and bid me bonne nuitas he cycled off back to his home on the other side of the city taking the ve’lib. Always walking hand in hand feeling so lucky to have met and being thankful for each day together. Neither had been looking to have a romance. 

But we had to eventually separate. 

I returned home to Australia; to the house that I had grown up in. I took many walks to Ricketts Point beach, where I stood watching the sun slowly fall asleep beyond the horizon. The sand warm and soft beneath my toes. Such a contrast to the city I now considered to be my second home. The distance was lessened with love letters received in the letterbox from Paris. The most beautiful words that I have had the opportunity to read. He joined me in Australia three months later.
After a couple more years together, we parted. I remain happy for the time we shared as not many are lucky enough to experience anything like it. What we had was real. With him, I grew up and learnt so much. I am who I am today because of that period together and I had the opportunity to learn to love someone else as much as I did. 
Many people dream about finding romance in a foreign land. But there is so much more to it. Being torn between different sides of the world and cultures. At least one needs to leave their family and friends.
We will always look back fondly of our days in Paris together. Beautiful memories that are precious and no one else can ever understand or experience. Times that were so perfect but you cannot get back. It is a special place to both of us. We simply joined centuries’ worth of people who already held significance and love for Paris.
As I have learned, reality can in fact be better than the dreams you have. And when you realise this, you can live life to the fullest. Paris stays with you. The roots delve into the deepest depths of the soul. Paris is something that the locals have always said wherever in the world I have met them. Paris is in hereDans le coeur. In your heart. No matter what you do or where you go, it is part of you. 

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