With two weeks until I start university in New Brunswick, learning how to live in a new city is something I’m thinking about constantly. Luckily, I got in some practice during the last two weeks- in Paris.
My parents surprised me with a graduation trip to Paris, France. My mother and I went together, staying in a little hotel near Place de la Bastille.
I was a little nervous. I’ve never really left North America before and even though I’m fluent in French, I was nervous about going somewhere where the culture and language are different than what’s at home.
Getting onto the plane at YVR, I realized something important. If I could manage to make my way in Paris, a place that couldn’t possibly be more different from Maple Ridge, then I could manage in Fredericton no problem.
Arriving in Paris after an entire day of travel, my mother and I started off our trip by hopping on a train. I adore traveling by train. It made me feel like I was in an old film, and France rushing past the window only added to the illusion.
The RER train took us to Gare du Nord, where we transferred to the Métro, a vast winding, largely underground train system. Public transit in France puts us to shame. It’s efficient, it’s fast, and it’s very well staffed– all of which served as great confidence boosters.
In our first few days, we covered a lot of ground: the Roman crypts near Notre Dame de Paris; the Louvre, the famous Bouquinistes Seine-side market, the Château Versailles, and the Opéra Garnier, fabled home of the Phantom of the Opera (I’ll take Loge No. 5, s’il vous plait).
The Louvre was especially amazing. Being in the same room as famous works of art and being close enough to touch them was unbelievable. One could easily spend weeks just wandering the Louvre’s vast collections. Having just read Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy, I was admittedly drawn to and transfixed by Michelangelo’s two sculptures, The Dying Slave and the Rebellious Slave.
Another highlight was our day trip to Vimy Ridge. Vimy was profoundly sobering and deeply moving. I think that given the chance, every Canadian should go to this monument. It’s an important part of our nation’s history. Walking through tortured fields still laced with trenches and undetonated explosives, there is an eerie calm and quiet and stillness that dominates over this place.
I’ve never been more proud to be Canadian.
Even though Vimy is nearly an hour away from Paris, it wasn’t difficult to find. We took the Métro from our hotel to a nearby train station, and took the RER train to the town of Arras. I won’t have a car while I’m in Fredericton, so I’m pretty confident that if I can navigate the Métro and the RER, I can manage Fredericton’s public transit.
There were a few times throughout our trip where Métro lines where closed because of construction, and just when we thought we were on the brink of being lost, a helpful Parisian stepped in to take us to the nearest Métro official to help us re-plan our journey.
Parisians have a wholly undeserved reputation for being brusque and intolerant toward tourists. They were nothing but helpful toward us and ever so restrained in the face of rudeness. I watched a tourist at the Versailles boutique actually yelling at the cashier who remained serenely collected.
On our second to last day, we said goodbye to the lovely ladies at the Boulangerie we frequented each morning and gave them a little Canadian flag pin (we gave these out to many of the wonderful people who went out of their way to make our visit wonderful). We were nearly a block away, when we discovered one of the ladies who worked in the shop running after us, beckoning us back to the bakery so they could give us free éclairs and cookies as a parting gift.
I think Paris reminded me that no matter where I go, there are people who are kind and the Parisians were remarkably so.
I’m taking that thought with me as I move across the country. From the Moulin Rouge to the Archives Nationales, from the top of the Tour Eiffel to the bottom of the crypts, Paris was a wonderful experience that I’m fortunate to have shared with my mother.
It was my last great hurrah before moving to Fredericton, and the lessons and memories I gathered there will serve me well out east.
I’ve got this.
Marlowe Evans is a Thomas Haney
secondary graduate who writes about youth issues.