I finally come to terms with my self-inflicted solitude over a tartlette citron (which I’m pretty sure that I’m supposed to eat with a fork, but there’s none to be had, and I’m a dirty American tourist so who really cares) and five fresh manuscript pages. Both of them are so good that I say, “Fuck you” out loud. No one is around to be embarrassed. Something about that is freeing. And when I inevitably get lost without my GPS and wind up stomping up and down an avenue I can’t pronounce with no one to witness both my failure and my triumph? There’s something freeing about that, too.
But, that sort of sentimentality aside, the only thing that really matters today is pastries. It seems like, with the right motivation, my French improves. After finding my way into a macaron shop sans GPS, I asked the attendant to pick my pack for me, which I’m sure she found charming. With my precious cargo in tow, I find the Parc Monceau, which is perfect. People run with their dogs, couples kiss under trees, children hold hands on their way back to school from a field trip, senior citizens are practicing some kind of martial art that involves swords. Movement is inevitable. I find the best shady spot and dig the macarons out of their box, holding each one in my hand with a sort of reverence. Of the four, my favorite has to be the turmeric vanilla dusted with a whisper of cocoa powder. I feel fancy, though an espresso would have taken it to the next level. Well, that and Gideon, a cigarette, and some Kafka.
But I don’t have any of those things, so I finish off the macarons and go do something that I know will make me happy: touring an 19th-century mansion full of 18th-century charm. The house is an amazing blend with surprising amenities (lights, modern bathrooms that can be cleaned easily, an elevator), but the real star here is the collection of art and furniture from the mid-1700s. I mean, you can really tell that each piece was selected both care and obsession. Some of the rooms were dedicated for the sole purpose of bringing some collections back together for the first time since the Revolution. The depressing history of the owner and his family, the whole thing is delightfully eccentric! I take a lot of notes and pictures, most of which I realize later no one else will find interesting. I guess that’s okay.
When I have to process a lot of information, I walk. Mile upon mile, I think about the nature of obsession and creation. My feet hurt and I’m hungry, but something is keeping me going. I don’t want to stop. The Seine is my guide from the west side of the city back to the east. There are many beautiful things to catch my eye. I don’t stop really. I plan to go up the Eiffel Tower, then change my mind. I walk to the Musée d’Orsay because it is my favorite museum in Paris, but decide that it isn’t worth the hassle when I get there. Maybe I’m just burnt out on travel. That seems reasonable after so many days of nonstop exploration and alone time, but I’m glad that I’m not beating myself up about it. I see what I want to see, and then I make my way down the street. If something doesn’t strike me as interesting, I bounce. If you haven’t done this at least once in your life, I’m encouraging you do it as soon as possible.
On the final night of any trip, I splurge on an excellent dinner. So, for tonight, I feast for $50 and three courses of some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life. The restaurant is unassuming on the outside. Its insides are cozy and remind me of a snowy ski lodge at the height of winter. The staff is cheerful and patient with my stilted French, laughing when I ask in a firm tone that they not baby me. I am seated in the larger dining room with the only other table who have foolishly come out to eat this early. From what I gather throughout the evening, they’re a Swedish mother and father come to visit their daughter and her husband. They’re having a good time. Every time the father takes a bite, he says, “Yum.” I can’t help but laugh. The family sees me laughing, and that makes them laugh. Then the staff starts to laugh. Our rapport lasts throughout the two hours it takes for me to eat dinner. My soul is warm.
This trip was brought to you by Bailey Merlin doing her best.