All Roads Lead to Notre Dame de Paris

Whenever I find out that people are heading to Paris on a vacation, I always tell them to let themselves get lost in it. I encourage them to walk, walk, walk because eventually, you’ll find your way back home. My landmark when I was living in Paris: the spire and bell towers of the Notre Dame de Paris.

It was only ten minutes from my apartment and so it made sense that this beautiful, awe-inspiring structure would be the thing I’d need to spot along the beautiful blue rooftops that would lead me to where I wanted to be. And they say that all roads lead to the Notre Dame de Paris as it sits right in the centre on the Ile de la Cite: it is truly the heart of the city.

There are two things I would do every time I visited Paris: my first stop would be running to the rooftop of Galleries Lafeyette to take in my favourite view of the city, while my second would be to get off at the St. Michel metro stop, nod “Hello,” to my homeboy Archangel Michael on my way up the metro stairs, and turn around that cafe corner to take in my lady, Notre Dame de Paris.

Her island and the 4th arrondissement in its entirety is one of my favourite parts of the city. While it’s a tourist hot-spot, it still holds the secrets and charms of the quieter parts of Paris. And don’t underestimate the area during the winter when fewer tourists are around, especially at night… while the rats do come out in endless swarms (it’s insane), she glows with serene beauty. She is perfect.

Her bricks have been laid in Paris for almost 900 years. Napoleon had his coronation in her walls. She has withstood wars, revolutions. And so to see her catch and burn in moments, pieces of her collapsing and being engulfed, all while I sat on the other side of a television screen when, had I still been in my apartment, I could have run down the street and wailed with my heartbroken Parisians, I was overcome with unbearable pain.

There are many Notre Dame churches in Paris, but this one is the Notre Dame DE PARIS. She belongs to this city. She is the most visited monument in all of Europe. She brings in believers and non-believers alike because her beauty unites all people with a sense of wonderment, awe, and hope. They say 13-14 million people visit her in a year. To watch this cultural centerpiece – this important symbol for the history of the nation, this spectacular masterpiece that has glass older than any living human being and far more history than a brain can comprehend – to see all that fall apart in hours was devastating. My heart was breaking. I was speechless and angry and sad all at the same time.

She was such a key component to my Paris. Not only did I sit in her gardens and read, listen to her organs play in solace within her, walk by and smile at people being wowed by her beauty, but she literally led me home. My home within the heart of Paris. My apartment in the place I always dreamed of living in. Her spire and towers were the mark on the most beautiful skyline in the world which reminded me, endlessly, how absolutely blessed I was to be living my dream.

But the odd thing is that despite being completely engulfed by flames, despite having her spire collapse through her roof, despite looking and sounding as if there was nothing left of her, she still stands. And she stands in an absolutely miraculous condition. Only the top roof is damaged while the bottom remained untouched. The only hole that has been pierced in the domes is where the spire once stood. Statues remain standing. Wood remains quite pristine. And the cross shines brightly on the altar.

It’s all rather eerie. It’s even a little bit hard to believe! But leave it to the heart of Paris to keep beating. That is what I love about this city: its resilience is unmatched. And while the Notre Dame de Paris was a symbol of hope prior to this incident, the downright magic of how she continues to stand despite watching her completely licked by flames just reinforces the feeling.

Notre Dame de Paris is even more so a symbol of hope for Parisian – and non-Parisian – people than ever before. And that is the absolute beauty of historical and cultural buildings like this. They continue to write their own impactful, powerful, and wonderful histories that continue to emphasize to the people of the city within which it stands how important their presence is.

Notre Dame de Paris was loved before, but I think she has reached a new level of adoration. I am sure this heart of Paris truly beats in unison with everyone, today.


Image is from the Notre Dame de Paris Twitter page.
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Thoughts on a Plane

-written on the plane-

Hemingway once said: “Write hard and clear about what hurts,” and the pain I am feeling surpasses the definition given by written words. So let me be quite clear: this sucks. This fucking sucks. To know this raw, authentic, best friend, soulmate love, only to have the universe throw thousands of miles between us is a cruel, cruel joke. And I am not laughing. I am mad. And you know what I do when I’m mad? I destroy. I bravely face and overcome the challenge with unrelenting strength. And I prove to the problem that they are nothing in comparison to me.

The world is a lot smaller than it seems and for me to have traversed the ocean just to find my perfect match, my puzzle piece, my soul-mate, and best friend is complete magic. And it’s not something I will risk losing. This is not a passing or fleeting feeling. This is true. And a truer passion I have yet to experience.

He drives me to be better. He drives me to succeed. He drives me to be compassionate without expectation. He makes me laugh, especially when I need to laugh the most. He holds me and the world disappears. Our conversations expand my mind. He makes me feel beautiful. He makes me feel desired. He makes me feel truly loved and does so many little things to express this to me. How lucky am I?

I’m having heart palpitations as I write this and I worry that it’s because my body is manifesting my internal pain in physical ways. I need to sleep for a bit. I want to cry. Again.

–[slept on plane]–

I woke up. I had two beers. I cried. I slept again. I woke up. I cried.

6284 km between us.

I know we need to figure shit out. I know we need to do that independently to succeed. I know we will come back together when the time is right for us to work out. We met at a time when both of us needed it without realizing we needed it. It will continue in the same way.

He came in like a storm wind and he shook me right up. He’s left me changed. He’s imprinted on my soul and I can no longer let him go. I have seen his soul and I can no longer look away – it shines too bright, pulls me in like a moth to the flame. Like his eyes: they have a fire that I will willingly let burn me alive. What a beautiful way to die.

I am sure we have spent other lifetimes together. How else could someone know me so thoroughly in so little time? How else would I be so innately aware of his likes, dislikes, pains, needs?

It’s so interesting because we are the same person, like two wild children, best friends with the same mindset and goals. And yet all our differences also bring a perfect balance to each other’s lives. We are truly a perfect match.

But above all, our compatibility soars with our wanderlust hearts. We both want to find “home” – we both have no attachment to a certain place, and we are willing to explore and discover what’s best for us (independently and then together). But one thing has changed for me now: home is a person. Jordan Alzraa is home. “I have been shot down by love: you’ve got my heart now.”

It’s truly frustrating that this stubborn and strong person (me) is now completely hopeless and helpless against her feelings for one man who came into her life by chance. “No reason in getting attached, no?” –  I said this before we met. LAUGHABLE statement! The morning after we met I was texting friends, “Well, I am doomed.”

And what a glorious doom, what a magical destruction this past month has been. It’s so insane for me to say, “One month,” out loud when I swear I’ve known him all my life. I am happier having my best friend, Jordan, in my life. I have a teammate now. I have a partner ready to take on the world with me. I can’t fucking wait for the battle. I can’t wait to storm the field with this man.

But right now, I just need to share a bed with him again. Tonight will be hard.

Now my only concern is that I am not living in a town/area that makes random meetups with friends very convenient and I worry I may isolate myself in my sadness.

F*ck — the tears come in waves. And I am drowning. It hurts, it hurts, it hurts.

I am putting on ‘Flight of the Conchords’ on my plane television in an attempt to laugh. J was always good at getting me to laugh when I was down…

xo
C

Day 101 – Departure

Hey there,

I leave in three days.

This is such a bizarre sentence to write because it honestly feels – with no exaggeration – that just yesterday I was writing about my third day here. Where did 104 days go? It seems as though I blinked and they vanished. It’s truly hard to believe all that I did in the time I was here and it’s truly hard to comprehend how I will have to let go of Paris.

I am only human – I said I was ready and I said I was prepared for moving onwards to my next adventure (and I truly am! I am always eager to see where life takes me) but it’s only now as I wind down the days that I look around me completely taken aback by the fact that I will not be walking these streets anymore and I will not be riding this metro anymore and I will not be strolling over cobblestones, hand in hand with my partner anymore. There is magic in this city. There is inspiration everywhere you look. There is a great big sigh that seems to resonate through every street. And I fear going back home and not feeling that same sense of wonderment and happiness that I felt while I was here.

But I need to be reasonable: if I want to stay in this city, I need to find work that doesn’t just pay my food bills but allows me to live. And, yes, success in this city is difficult. But that depends on how you measure success, of course. Blah, I’m rambling. I’m just lamenting the loss that I will be faced with in three days. THREE DAYS. Where did time go? Did I say that already? Three days! I am so conflicted with what I am feeling in my heart. I am ready to move on. I am not ready to move on. I am excited to see my family and my animals. I am sad to leave my lover. I have loved Paris. But have I truly loved her the way I had hoped? Bring on the next adventure! But am I ready for it? And what will it entail? Where will I call home?

And the problem is that I’ve fallen in love (not really a problem, but you understand the conflict it presents). If you know me, you know I don’t revolve my life around other people. I’m pretty selfish like that. I don’t let relationships stop me from moving forward with where I need to be or what dreams I will follow. But, alas, this one is different. He is not stopping me but he is presenting me with a new perspective: what it means to make decisions in your life with another person in mind. Compromise; is that the word?

This is my honest to goodness soulmate. The only time I have been so sure about something was in my persistence that I needed to move to Paris and live here in order to be happy (I was right). I am just as sure about this as I am sure that Paris was meant to be a part of my life (and perhaps her role in my life is not fully actualized, I’m not sure – it doesn’t really feel as though it is).

It is weird to me to think about the fact that I will no longer be telling people, “I live in Paris,” but, “I lived in Paris.” It seems like such a minor adjustment on a sentence but you don’t understand the way it makes my heart ache. Just writing those sentences made me distort my face in discomfort. It’s not a pleasurable feeling by any means. But, listen: I found myself in France, without question. I discovered so much about myself in such a short amount of time. I actualized my dream of living in Paris, realized my purpose in life (to write) and I lived a life of true independence and adventure and I found my freaking soulmate. Who can say they’ve accomplished all that in their lifetime, let alone in 104 days? My thirtieth rotation around the sun was the most magical I’ve ever experienced.

I already miss Parisian breakfasts. I already miss French butter (seriously, there’s nothing like it). I already miss the blue rooftops. I already miss strolls by the Seine. I already miss the smelly (but convenient!) Parisian metro. I already miss the magical late night walks in this historic city. I already miss the drinks and dinners on the warm terraces, people watching and staring off at historic buildings. I already miss the silly French behaviours. I already miss the smell of Paris in the morning and the smell of Paris after a rain. I already miss my cube of an apartment. I already miss my partner’s more spacious, homey apartment with the view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. I already miss my fingers linked with his as we laugh down different Parisian streets. I already miss walking into old used bookshops and being greeted by old Parisians who take their bookselling jobs very seriously. I already miss the grocer greeting me when I got my nightly baguette. I already miss the smell of baguettes in the morning. I already miss the cheap cheese. I already miss the lights of the Latin Quarter and the smells of Mediterranian food that coasted down every street. I already miss the bells of Notre Dame. I already miss it all. I don’t know how I’m going to do it when all I miss about Canada are: my family (and closest friends), my animals, cheap prices, good pay.

I don’t know if Canada will be where I set my roots down, but I know it will always be home. And while it’s nice to go back home to somewhere familiar, where everyone speaks my maternal language, where I was raised and feel exceptionally comfortable, where I know exactly where to go to get what I need, and where family and friends are waiting for me, it’s still, as of right now, not where I picture myself in two years, five years, ten years… Where those roots may be set, I don’t know. But now I am no longer finding that out on my own, but with a partner. And that’s exciting to me.

Anyway, I figured I’d write a little something before my trip is up, and I imagine I’ll be in the mood to write when I return to Canada and I feel the absence of my partner or I am craving cobblestone streets and blue rooftops, but in the meantime, let me just take a moment to say that these were the best 104 days I could have asked for. And more adventure is around the corner. And I’m thrilled.

xo
C

Day 4 – Bureaucratic Things + Klimt

Hey there,

Not much happened today as I slept in, spent a good chunk of the morning/early afternoon at the bank trying to set up an account (I think it worked, this time… fingers crossed!) and my evening was spent in Parisian suburbs as I wandered, got familiar with the area, and then met one of the families I should begin working with, next week.

The ‘burbs was called Saint-Cloud and it was really lovely. Quiet, green, lots of medieval-looking mansions (my gosh), but mostly apartment buildings and the like. I checked rent out of curiosity as the train station there is convenient and the ride into Paris isn’t a long one, and it was outrageous. It was a lovely and safe neighbourhood and even though I didn’t have a chance to explore downtown (it’s a bit of a walk), a ‘burb is a ‘burb is a ‘burb. If you’ve seen one suburban European town, you’ve seen them all.

But prior to visiting with the family, I went to the Atelier de Lumieres theatre in Paris. When you enter the “museum/theatre” space, you are in a giant black room – and I mean GIANT. There are places to stand, sit, walk up steps, view from a balcony, you can lay down if you want, you can basically situate yourself anywhere. And then music begins and projections begin, immersing you into the art and giving you one hell of an experience! I just happened to be in Paris during a limited time exhibition of Gustav Klimt’s work being shown.

Now, if you know me, you know I adore Gustav Klimt. He is, without question, my favourite artist of all time. His work has moved me since the day I first discovered them. Watching these projections in larger-than-life format while the most beautiful classical music played was so absolutely breath-taking. It really felt like – “Here, Claudia, just to add to your dreams coming true… here’s a bit more magic for you.” I may have cried a little. It was dark. No one saw.

I tried to upload the videos to YouTube but the format is horrendous. I only took a few clips while the exhibition was happening because I wanted to experience it fully, but they’re posted on my Instagram – @darthclaudia

While the Klimt exhibit is only on until November, if you are ever in Paris, you must make time to go experience art in a way you’ve never imagined. Their projections are ever-changing and it’s just too powerful not to miss. Take 30 minutes out of your day to watch art in film.

Cool things about today:
– Klimt. Everything.
– I booked a weekend trip to Rocamadour, France!
– Exploring Parisian ‘burbs
– Finding a 0,75EURO half-bottle of grapefruit Rose wine! And it’s good, too!!

Not so cool things: 
– lots of walking – my feet hurt
– I should have went to Klimt when I didn’t have something scheduled afterwards so I could sit there for hours and re-watch the projections!

Enjoy the photos which are mostly of the Klimt experience. Don’t forget to check out my Instagram if you’d like to see the videos. As usual, thanks for reading!

xo
c

 

Paris on the Horizon

Hey there,

It’s happening.
It’s happening.
It’s happening.

In less than 24 hours, I’ll be already a few hours into my flight.
In less than 24 hours, I’ll be on my way to truly calling Paris home.

It’s happening!

And yet it still continues to feel surreal. Let’s recap how we got here:
2010 – Ian (boyfriend at the time, best friend of the present) convinced me to go to Paris after I complained about how I had no interest in seeing that city, didn’t care for the French, and never considered it as a travel option. Stepped into the city and immediately fell in love.
2011 – Returned to the city because I loved it so much. And here is where the French obsession really skyrocketed.
2012-2015 – Obsessively collected all items that were Paris themed, all books about Paris, all memoirs of people who did the move to Paris from another country, got a Paris tattoo, lamented about Paris not being my every day reality, wrote poems about Paris, cried over Paris, used Paris in my EMDR therapy sessions to cure me of my PTSD…
2016 – Returned to Paris after facing my sexual assailant in court. It was an amazing trip. Cried the day I had to come home.
2017 – Told anyone who would listen about my dreams of moving to Paris.
Beginning of 2018 – Had a dream about living in Paris that felt more real than ever before, just a week before my 30th birthday. Applied to jobs, immediately got an interview, was accepted, this was it
March 2018 – Went to Paris for the first time on my own, loved the feeling of it, loved knowing I’d be coming back to it and calling it home.
May 2018 – I found my very first Parisian apartment in the 3rd Arrondissement!
Summer 2018 – And I’m off —

Paris is on my horizon.
Get ready for a lot of photos, people!

xo
C