Every once and a while, a day goes by when I don’t get lost.
This occasion is rare though. In Fredericksburg, I hate getting lost because I’m always in a rush and figuring out the right direction takes time, especially when I’m downtown stringing through one-way streets. But I love getting lost in Paris.
The first few weeks of my stay here has been full of wandering—to shops, neighborhoods and restaurants. However, as with everything else in life, we always find the best places when we aren’t looking for them.
Last week, the metro station near my school was roped off with police guarding the entrances. I’m not sure about everyone else, but when I see police telling me not to take the metro I’d much rather walk home.
At first, I followed the crowds of little old ladies in fur coats and angry businessmen who were also deferred from their usual stop. Then I realized where I was. Ever seen “Inception” or “Last Tango in Paris”? I was on the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, looking up at the Eiffel Tower at night, and it was a complete accident. Not bad.
After pulling out my camera, I kept walking on the bridge, watching the boats drift on the Seine. It was very surreal for me; as a child I tried to watch every movie set in Paris, and there I was staring it right in the face.
I was so caught up in the lights of the boats and the Eiffel Tower that I forgot where I was supposed to be going. So I pulled a “Forrest Gump” and just kept walking.
At this point, any smart person would have just unfolded a map of Paris to see where the closest metro stop was. I had three different maps with me in my bag, so that wasn’t the problem. Rather, it was a mixture of anti-tourism and captivation that prevented me from doing so, especially since I was near the Eiffel Tower, it was dark and I was not trying to look lost or American.
The best part about this, though, was that Paris felt like it was all mine. I didn’t need to be with anyone else to appreciate it. It was the Paris I imagined 15 years ago when I read “Madeline.” I wasn’t in a hurry to leave.
Even though it’s still a problem that people speak English to me the second they hear an accent, the city can’t talk back. Now, whenever I go somewhere, I always leave with extra time so I have time to get lost. So far, I’ve accidentally found the Moulin Rouge, Notre Dame and the Louvre.
Navigation may not be my forte, but exploration definitely is.