If I had a flair for the dramatic (or biblical) I would have titled this post “The Prodigal Daughter Returns,” but thankfully (at least I hope it’s a good thing) I don’t.
Of course my coming back to Paris was inevitable — I mean, I touched the magical, mystical metal dial on the floor of Notre Dame, so my return was written in the stars and laid out by the sisters of destiny and fate themselves! OK, maybe it had less to do with serendipity and more to do with meticulous planning and a 12 hour flight from Ho Chi Minh Airport to Charles de Gaulle.
Well, whether it was a result of predestination by Notre Dame or an itinerary I arranged months prior to my trip, the fact of the matter is, I returned to the wonderful city of escargot, foie gras and soupe a l’oignon.
However, that isn’t to say that my most recent trip was an exact clone of the three weeks I spent in the city the year before. On the contrary, there was something entirely different about it this time around.
I can always attribute these feelings of dissimilarity on the fact that last year I lived in a student dorm and had to more-or-less fend for myself when it came to deciphering the French culture and my latest excursion to the city involved staying with my mother and sister at the Park Hyatt. Obviously, the differences between both of my experiences in Paris are stark. Although, that isn’t to say that I enjoyed one more than the other — in fact, it’s just the opposite.
Both trips were incredible and exhilarating in their own right. Last year, Paris became a paradigm for my growing independence as a young woman and this year, the city acted as a retrospective model representing the person I was, am and want to be. And when looking back, my experience with one wouldn’t be able to exist without the other.
Although, I think the main source of the disparities between my two Parisian rendezvous has less to do with the city, and more to do with the changes within myself. Last year, Paris was unexplored territory. With my minimal knowledge of the language and culture, I dove head first into French-alien scenes like the Métro, Montmartre and dorming in the 12th arrondissement — and it was either sink or swim. So I swam. Granted, I had to dip my toes in the water before I found the courage to start a slow doggy-paddle, and eventually evolved into a steady free-style.
By the time I returned to Paris, my strokes had been perfected and I was bien dans sa peau — which literally translates into: “well in one’s own skin.” Of course I still had to carry around a Métro map, but the Paris I visited now was essentially the same Paris I lived in a year ago. The only difference was that a year ago, I had stepped out of my comfort zone and this year, I was well within its borders.
And after six weeks jetting around Asia, and with more unexplored cities to come, I didn’t mind one bit.