This is a photo of me at a cafe in Montmartre, just last year. I’m 41 years old.
When I was 30 years old, I purchased this huge black and white poster of the park (Champ de Mars) that sits at the base of the Eiffel Tower. The poster was framed in a simple black frame and it always had a place of prominence in any room I hung it in, even if I had purchased it in the dormitory section of Meijer. It was priceless to me. I think the photo must have been taken in the early morning, as the scene evokes somewhat of a pastoral feel. I would not know it until several years later when I actually walked through that park, that the photo does not radiate the energy that lives in the park at the base of the tower, let alone the energy of the city of lights.
I had taken 6 years of French class growing up and my teacher Madame Lowe brought Paris to life for me as much as she could. We didn’t just learn the language, we learned about french culture, and I even had a French name in class (Anne – I felt so sophisticated). We tried french foods and listened to vintage French albums on her record player on special days like right before the holidays. I knew as a kid back then that I wanted to eat real pain du chocolat, in Paris. I wanted to spend time at the tower, and I wanted to walk the same streets Hemingway walked when he lived there, and later wrote about in his love story to Paris, A Moveable Feast. I wanted to eat at Amelie’s cafe, and I wanted to sing Champs-Elysees just as we had in French class, but while strolling down the tree-lined sidewalks of the actual Champs Elysees.
At 30 years old it seemed like making it to Paris would never happen, but buying and hanging that poster was my quiet way of not giving up. I had resolve. I didn’t have the first idea of how to plan a trip to Paris and my partner at the time had no interest in going whatsoever, it was my dream, not his. I certainly had no idea how to pay for a trip like that. And then, it happened! I will dedicate an entire post or more to Paris, as I’ve now visited Paris 3 times since my 30th birthday. But I wanted to note that I first caught wanderlust in French class, like a fever, and wanting to see Paris was the unrelenting virus I could not brush off for more than 15 years. I’m so glad that I was not able to brush it off because ultimately it led to my romance with travel. I would have never known that the beautiful poster of the Champ de Mars was not truly representative of the park, had I never traveled there to experience it for myself.