Let Your Senses Guide You

Today has been a long day filled with exploration, and what a wonderful surprise to come home, flip open my computer, and find an e-mail from the WordPress editors informing me that my blog was featured on Freshly Pressed! I am so excited that this little travel journal/guide has been getting out (and that my procrastination from real schoolwork has been justified), and I would like to thank everyone that has been reading. I started this blog purely for fulfillment, and I am so happy to know that I have an audience who is enjoying this journey as much as I am. Thank you for your wonderful comments, I read every single one and each one put a smile on my face!

Hotel de Ville from across the river. What a sight.

Today was a day filled with spontaneity, and ended in some much-needed alone time. After class (Guns, Blues, and Cotton: American Culture in the Deep South), Shaun and I set out to discover le Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature – the Hunting Museum – in le Marais. We met up at the Cluny-le Sorbonne metro stop, under a bright and shining sun that immediately made me forget about academia, and stopped at Shaun’s favorite crepe/panini stand to grab a snack. While I discovered my new favorite sugary indulgence – a crepe filled with coconut and honey (simple, just sweet enough, and delicious) – Shaun stuck to his daily ham and cheese crepe. We ventured off to the Marais, one of Paris’ most crowded arrondissements and a hub of culture and art, and after a bit of getting lost amid crowds of tourists and Parisians, we finally found the museum. Much to our dismay, the museum wasn’t open – I forgot that Mondays in Paris are comparable to Sundays: many places of business aren’t open, and it’s a gamble whether some tourist attractions are. Well, at least we found it, I’m sure we’ll be heading back soon.

Instead, we strolled the streets of Paris and reminded ourselves how absolutely horrible our lives are. Hanging out in the shadow of Notre Dame? Lame. So lame. We poked into a genuine parfumerie, Nicolai, a French perfume maker whose delicious-smelling creations are made and sold only in France (and one shop in London). I tried several but didn’t find one that I was truly in love with (I think I am just a tried-and-true Coco Mademoiselle fan), despite the fact that I was in love with the idea of wearing an authentic, truly French perfume that no one else would have. Shaun found an incredible cologne that was the most incredible blend of citrus smells I have ever found: I half wanted to buy it for myself (I sometimes wear men’s cologne for its bold scent, and I’ve found that it’s not much different from women’s perfume, and it smells quite good. Lacoste is a favorite), and half wished I had a boyfriend to buy it for. The perfumes were reasonably priced, and the service was incredible. The lovely woman working came right over – something that doesn’t happen often to us foreign students here in Paris – and spent about 15 minutes sniffing different scents with us, and asking us what kind of smells we liked so that she could pick the right one. She was knowledgeable, friendly, and was one of the few shopkeepers I’ve encountered who didn’t discriminate based on wallet size. Even better, I’ve discovered my ideal souvenir: a bottle of hand-concocted perfume, done during a two-hour perfume-making workshop during which you create, formulate, and bottle your own personalized perfume. Brilliant! At 130 Euro, it’s a bit pricey, but completely worth it.

Shaun and I then ventured into a cafe across from the Palais de Justice and laughed at all the people waiting in a 2-hour line to get in, sipping coffee and waiting for the brief rainstorm to pass. How much more Parisian does it get?

Our new favorite musical artist, who we may end up nominating for a Grammy.

Once the sun came out again, we headed in the direction of Shakespeare & Company, but were quickly diverted by the sound of accordian music from across the bridge leading to Ile-de-la-Cite, and followed it across the Seine. It was then that I realized how truly lucky I am: I was standing there on the Seine, with an amazing friend, listening to an incredible accordian player delight my ears with the most Parisian-sounding music I have ever heard, and looked out across to Hotel de Ville, Notre Dame, and the most vibrant and culturally alive city I have ever visited. Shaun and I couldn’t help but joke at how awful our lives are…sarcastically, of course.

Just one of the million reasons that Paris is incredible.

Shaun and I walked around the back of Notre Dame, and we parted ways in front of the bookstore, where I was heading for some alone time in the upstairs reading room that overlooks Notre Dame and the river. As self conscious as I was taking photos – I wanted to look like a true Parisian – I snapped a few before settling down with W.M. Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, in a cozy light-blue chair that I sunk into like a pillow as I watched the sun set. Before I knew it, 7 o’clock had come, and a reading was about to take place in the shop. I am so happy I stayed – what a unique experience, listening to a book reading at Shakespeare & Company. I had never attended a reading before, and I am proud to say that I truly enjoyed it. I have always been and will always remain a literary geek, and it was nice to experience literature in a different way. On my way out, I asked one of the men working there if I could have one of the flyers for my scrapbook. He looked at me like I had asked for something far more bizarre, but obliged. I can’t wait to hang it in my room back in the States, and let it remind me of my lovely afternoon in Paris.

If you look closely in this little shop, you'll find some quirkly little characteristics that make it so special.
Imagine the smell of old books permeating the air and you'll feel like you're there.

Being in Shakespeare & Company reminded me that I need to read more. As motivation, I’ll be posting my favorite books – a geek-out for anyone who enjoys literature as much as I do. I have been so busy exploring and doing homework that I haven’t been able to just settle down with a good novel and get lost in it, which is sometimes the best way to enjoy solitude. Today was such a lovely day of getting lost, both with friends and alone – it reminded me that the best discoveries are made when no plans have been formulated, when you let your senses guide you, and enjoy the random pleasures that a place has to offer.

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