On August 29th we were supposed to arrive in Paris and make our way to the Gare Montparnasse. Our hotel was right next to it, and we would be starting our year in Paris the next morning with breakfast in Reid Hall. That morning we all met in the lobby and walked as a group the few blocks to Reid Hall. That was the official start of my year in Paris. Yesterday we had our catered cocktail party in that same room, a room I don’t think I’ve entered since August.
At that party we screened this short film we made of ourselves. It has our little stories of Paris, and two of my friends spent the last week or so making it. Our director didn’t know about it until about a half an hour before we played it at the party. Watching it was so sweet, it was evident that we are a part of Paris and Paris is a part of us. By the time we got to the end, everyone was tearing up.
I’m full of bittersweetness right now. It’s not a word but it’s the only one that describes how I feel. I came to Paris because I could spend a year here and because I could spend a year away from Smith. I didn’t have a particular romantic attachment to this city or to this language, French was just the language that would get me away for a year, and Paris was just the place I would go. Over the past nine months I’ve developed romantic attachments to this place, and they’re stronger than I ever expected. Seeing pictures of Paris online gives me a rush, I recognize my city on the screen and it fills me with joy. I’ve never felt this way before, recognizing New York on TV and in the movies never flamed my pride, but walking by Amèlie’s café or seeing the quais Owen Wildon wandered in Midnight in Paris never stops delighting me.
I don’t want to leave Paris, I’m not ready. I’ve become so attached to this place, I want to keep some roots here, I don’t want this goodbye to be the last and I don’t want to lose the feeling of being a parisienne that I’ve gained over the last year. I will of course visit again, but the idea of coming to this city as a tourist is repulsive to me now. I keep thinking of visiting the Louvre many years from now and buying a ticket, and remembering my student membership that I enjoy now. I don’t want to ever be a stranger to this city again. A few months ago I wrote a blog post about how I realized that I would live in Paris again. Today I realized that I’ve grown ever fonder of this city since then. I’m going to live in Paris again. Somehow, someday, I’m not going to let go.
This morning we had our goodbye lunch, the last official event of the JYA. At noon we all gathered at Reid Hall and walked together to the Tour Montparnasse. This time all the streets were incredibly familiar, and we chatted easily amongst ourselves about summer plans in French. It was exactly the reverse of that first day, when we were making cautious introductions in English. Our reservation was for 12:30, at the top of the Tour Montparnasse, the highest restaurant in Paris. We had a private room looking directly across to the Eiffel Tower, and yes I could see my house from there. I could see a lot of landmarks actually and I could identify them easily, not like when I ascended the Eiffel Tower in High School and didn’t know the names of anything I was looking at. Now I instinctively know where the monuments I see so often should be.
Les Invalides, the Champs Élysées, l’Arc de Triomphe, my house!
The Eiffel Tower, the Champs de Mars, and Trocadèro!
I keep coming back to Ernest Hemingway, who said that Paris is a moveable feast that stays with you forever. He was so right, but I’ll be coming back for seconds. Thank you Smith for lunch at the fanciest place I have ever eaten, and thank you Smith for making me fall in love with Paris.