Paris: So Beautiful that I Cried

Oct 1, 2014 by

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          This evening, for the second time, I met Paris by night. Yes, I walked the city alone. Yes, in the dark. Yes, even though I’m a female. I will not lock myself in my apartment after the sun goes down just because I’m a girl, nor would I encourage other solo female travellers to do so. Having said that, do not walk alone at night because I do. If you plan to walk a city in the dark by yourself, regardless of your gender, only do so if you feel comfortable doing so and be safe about it. Because I often walk downtown Toronto alone at night, I’m very comfortable walking solo in the dark, as long as the area is well lit, busy, and familiar. In Paris, I’m located in Le Marais, a central area filled with restaurants and bars. There are lights everywhere and significantly more people walking around here on weeknights than there are on the busiest streets of Toronto during weekends. So, despite being alone, I don’t feel alone. Plus, I have friends from home equipped with my address in Paris, who are checking in by iMessage and watching my social media accounts to ensure that I’m posting daily. That way, if something happens to me, they’ll be quick to notice and send for help. Furthermore, though I’ve only resided in Le Marais for two days thus far, I already know my way home without the aid of a map (which would immediately peg me as a tourist), as long as I don’t venture too far, which I do not at night. I’m fortunately walking distance to beautiful and busy places anyway. Moreover, I’m conscious of my surroundings. Whether abroad or at home, I never walk with earphones in my ears, because I need to hear what is going on from behind, where I can’t see. Finally, I walk purposefully with my head up and a smile on my face. To avoid standing out as a target, it’s important to present oneself confidently. Now, I’ve given my lecture on safety, so let’s get back to my night.

          I didn’t come to Paris with a list of must-sees or an itinerary. That’s not how I travel. I prefer to leisurely stumble upon things. Tonight, I walked 20 minutes from my apartment, across the Seine to the left bank, and leisurely stumbled upon the most beautiful building I have ever seen in my life. It was staggering. Evidently gothic in architectural style, its flying buttresses caused it to protrude upward in overwhelming magnificence. Not only were its pointed arches astounding, its façade gleamed brighter than crystal. I was in absolute awe without knowing the significance of what I was seeing. Because I had come from behind, I couldn’t yet see the crowd of people in its front square that would have hinted at its identity, nor had I ever before seen it in pictures. I did not know that I was at the foot of Notre Dame until, after taking many photos and staring up at it in pure wonder, I happened to see a sign that told me so. Its grandeur was equally impressive with or without its famous title.

          No doubt, Notre Dame makes Paris the most visually stunning city I have been to up to this point in my life. (Sorry, Rome.) Yesterday, I commented to friends that Paris is so beautiful I could cry. Upon seeing Notre Dame, I did. You know those moments when you’re so goddamn proud of yourself that you tear in public? Those moments that make you astonishingly aware of how far you’ve taken yourself? Those moments that remind you that your life is better than you could have dreamed it? All of that defines the moment I saw Notre Dame – and not simply because it’s Notre Dame. I didn’t come to Paris looking for this monument. I cried because I’ve never been so taken aback, so breathless, so absolutely floored by something before me or by the realization of who I am. I cried because I couldn’t have imagined a cathedral of such extraordinary stature had I not seen it for myself, and I wouldn’t have seen it for myself had I not gotten myself here.

          Almost everyone I know asked why I would want to travel Europe autonomously. Notre Dame is the best answer I can give. It is for nights like tonight, which was easily one of the most incredible nights of my life: nights that show me what I can do for myself, nights that prove yet again that I generate my own happiness, nights that provide further support that all I need is me to make my life everything I want it to be, nights that I can turn from Notre Dame to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance for the fist time, nights that I show myself the world. I enjoy my independence for its empowerment. I’ve heard many people say they want to take a big trip like mine, but I know very few that have actually done it. Most convince themselves that they can’t without someone to do it with. Make no mistake; you are responsible for what you choose to show yourself. No one owes you the world. No one owes you happiness. You do not need anyone else to experience something for yourself – not family, not friends, not a boyfriend or girlfriend. A boy once told me he’d go to Paris with me if I went to Greece with him. I laughed in response, flirting with him the way he was playing with me. He didn’t mean it, and I knew it from the moment the words spilled from his mouth, but it didn’t matter. It was all said in good humour. Plus, I knew I wouldn’t need anyone to go to Paris with me. I would get here myself. (As for Greece, I had already been.)

Happiness Tip: Show yourself the world.

 
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