Yesterday was the best day of my life. Perhaps a hyperbole, but my last day in Paris flirted closely with pure bliss. I reached a state of enjoyment and relaxation that is rare for me with my hyperactive thoughts and overbooked schedule, and even rarer when I’m in Paris. Normally, I stress myself out by scheduling visit after visit, running from one place to the next and constantly planning my next step without letting myself relax and enjoy the present. But today I felt at ease in the city for the first time, and the sequence of events played out perfectly – better than I ever could have planned it.
To begin, the weather was on my side. I woke up to a gloriously sunny day, thick with the anticipation of a full-blossomed spring, yet still subject to the pristine chill of winter. While walking through the streets of Paris, I fell under the influence of this soothing balance, obeyed to my senses and loosely followed the trajectory I set for myself the night before.
I took off in the morning all alone, hopped the metro and got off in front to the Opera Garnier, where I allowed myself to stop and look into over-priced, high-end shop windows. I eventually ended up at the Orangerie museum, where I took the time to sit and look at Monet’s Waterlilies while listening to Biedrich Smetana’s Moldau on my iPod.
I then traced along the Seine river, allowing myself to think out loud and sing lightly in the streets without shame, and came to the Musée du quai Branly, where I met with my coworker Laura to see an anthropological exhibit on the meaning of hair and hairstyles in different cultures and at different times. After she had left, I stayed to see the permanent collection, but did not force myself to stay a long time.
I was already in the area of the Eiffel Tower, so I walked past it and avoided the congestion of the long lines to reach the top. I hopped another metro and went up to Montmartre, where I stopped to look at the Moulin Rouge and giggled at all of the sex shops. I went to the Eroticism Museum, which I decided not to be ashamed of and fully enjoyed on my own – in fact, it was very eye-opening on the importance of sex in cultures other than the prude West. Then up to Sacré Coeur, from which I was able to gaze at the sun-kissed city from above.
On my way down, I bought myself a pair of cheap sunglasses, not worrying about money as I usually do, and right afterwards, the most amazing thing happened to me. A man stopped me on the street in a non-threatening way. “Excusez-moi Mademoiselle, mais c’est la deuxième fois que je vous croise aujourd’hui et je vous trouve très charmante.” Excuse me Miss, but it’s the second time I’ve passed by you on the street today and I find you very charming. It’s not every day that someone just stops you to tell you you intrigue them. Because I was in such a good mood and because he approached me in such a genuine, simple way, I decided to chat with him for a few minutes – we shared a bit about our backgrounds and then simply moved on with our day. It was probably one of the most pleasant encounters I’ve ever had.
On a happiness high, I continued my plan for the day and went to a museum called Maison Rouge, where there was an exhibit on the influence of psychedelic drugs on artists…such a fascinating and complex topic!
And then I walked around the Quartier Latin, people-watched in the Jardin de Luxembourg, stopped to look through a book stand, bought myself a small souvenir, hiked back up to the hotel and topped the day off at an Italian restaurant, where I ate a delicious risotto ai porcini and sorbetto al limoncello and had lively conversations with Sarah, one of the students on the Dickinson program, who has Italian roots like me. The perfect day.
In retrospect, I ask myself why it was so perfect. Throughout the day, I almost felt drugged. A smile always brightened my face, I felt confident in myself, almost ecstatic about every small pleasure in life. Imagine taking a huge gulp of Felix Felicis and knowing that nothing can go wrong in your day, that you will be successful in each of your endeavors and that any choice you make will lead you down the correct path.
How can I come to this state of bliss again? I didn’t force myself to do anything. I just did what I wanted. J’ai suivi mes envies. Of course the weather and crazy, random happenstance were on my side. Maybe it was the fact that I was alone for most of the day and did not have to answer to anyone but myself. But how to get closer to this ideal state more often, without destroying the well-constructed world I’ve built? I can’t remember the last time it happened – and actually I don’t know if it ever has to this extent. Searching for that balance.