Let me start by saying that I am writing this blog post from a corner brasserie in Paris where I just ordered a very, very french wine (recommended to me by a taxi driver. Random, but he was so right. I should have tipped him more) and a Parisienne salad. Life is tough.
I would very matter-of-fact say that Paris: Day 3 was one of the best days of my life. Easily. It makes me wonder if every day would be the best day of my life if I lived in Paris. I’m sure that people who live here are very used to it, but if you’re like me- a feeler and romantic at heart, then Paris is definitely the place that you need to be.
It started by us waking up early to go to Monet’s Garden. Can you imagine a better way to start your day? Me either. Thinking about it brings tears to my eyes right here in this corner cafe in central Paris. I can’t imagine anything better than being alive in this moment, right here. Am I feeling emotional? I don’t know, maybe. (Yes.)
My Aunt Paulette and I woke up early to go to Monet’s Garden, or in French, Les Jardins de Claude Monet. My god, everything sounds so much better in French. The other day I saw a sign for a ham sandwich and I swear to god they were advertising gold-encrusted champagne or something. Anyway, I knew that I was heading to the gardens and I was feeling nervous. Claude Monet is my favorite painter, and I’ve followed his work for awhile. The fact that I was going to get to go to his home and see the places where he painted made me feel like I needed to be sedated.
We woke up and somehow managed to get ready, get a taxi AND catch a train in about 4o minutes. I don’t know how this happened. I don’t move quickly in the morning. Was it magic? Angels? Whatever it was, it worked and we got to the gardens right when they opened.
When I say that Monet’s Garden is the most splendid sight of my life, it’s not an exaggeration. I saw flowers in that garden that I have never seen, ever. Like…I didn’t know that these flowers existed. I sometimes just stood there- a go-pro on my head to record the experience for my mother and Aunt Linda who was at Versailles (poor soul. Can you imagine suffering at Versaille? What a tough life!), a professional camera on my neck, and my phone in hand, just crying. As if I didn’t look so incredibly ridiculous with a go-pro on my head in possibly one of the most renowned gardens in the world, I was also weeping. I mean, Monet’s Garden, guys. Does it get any better than that?
I wanted to lay in the flowers. Security and seasonal allergies wouldn’t allow this, but it’s what I wanted to do. They were absolutely amazing. I can’t imagine the garden feeling any more inspired than it felt. If it did, I might have just exploded from sheer creative juices flowing out of me. If I had exploded in that moment, everyone would have been a painter. Everyone would have been a writer. Everyone would have been inspired to move to Giverny. Because that’s exactly how I was feeling. It couldn’t be described. Only felt. (Yes, I realize how emotional I am sounding right now.)
As if his garden wasn’t enough, we got to wander through and soak in the sights of his house and the lily pond. Yes, the lily pond that he painted on numerous occasions. Can you imagine? Me either…and I was there!
The house was really what you would expect from any true artists homes. A little bit of clutter. Intrusive. bold colors. Tons of inspiration. Patterns that make you think. Layouts that are keen to the senses. The placement of art was enough to make you want to paint. The setup of the rooms made you want to lay in the grass for hours and daydream about life and what was next.
I don’t know…I think that’s what France has taught me to do again: daydream. It’s been awhile since I’ve daydreamed. I would say that it’s been awhile since any of us have. We get busy, and we work hard. And we work too many hours and fill our lives with programs and responsibilities and requirements that make us “adults.” And none of these things are bad per say. But really, how enriching are these things? Monet’s home really made me take a tough look at the things that I fill my free time with. Are they making me a better person? Are they pushing me to be to be truly me, or am I filling the empty space out of obligation to impress?
Before I start quoting Descartes, let’s talk more about the garden. After making my way through the house, I made my way to the water lily pond. Do you ever see a painting and wonder where they got the inspiration for that? This wasn’t easy to figure out. It was from this exact pond, in the exact spot that I was standing, that Monet painted his masterpiece collection of Water Lillies. Do you know how humbling that is? To know that a masterpiece painter stood in the same spot you did, not that long ago, and was so inspired that he created art out of nothing. It makes me feel like I can do anything. It makes me want to do everything. It makes me want to do something.
After the gardens, we had some time in Vernon before our train departed. Vernon is this small French town that might never be visited if it weren’t for the fact that it is the train stop for Monet’s Gardens. Vernon looks like we stopped right out of WWII. It looks like the sleepy, French town where Beauty and Beast grabbed its inspiration from. I was waiting for Gaston to bust through the pub doors and make me want to barf from his extreme macho ridiculousness. It was charming and intriguing all at once- something that’s hard to pull off.
We grabbed a burger and a coke in Vernon and got on the train…except we got on the WRONG TRAIN. We only realized it was the wrong train when a frantic American was banging on the window of the train, telling us that we needed to get off. We realized our mistake, got off, and that train departed literally 1 minute later. Had we waited, I might have been in Belguim somewhere at this point. But, I mean, getting lost in Europe wouldn’t really be the WORST thing. In hindsight, maybe we should have stayed on.
After getting into Paris, I experienced what I can only describe as the best moment of my life thus far.
We went to a local grocery store and picked up some baguettes, brie, meat, and fruit. We grabbed a bottle of wine from our room. And we made our way down to the banks of the Seine. This was our last night in Paris. And we had a picnic. We had no plates, no silverware, no cups. We passed around the bottle of wine and tore the bread with our hands. We made small sandwiches and split a pack of macaroons, each taking a bite and distinguishing the flavor, with a new person picking the next cookie each time. We talked about our favorite moments in Paris and the best food we had eaten. We sat around in silence at some points, just thinking about the moment and where we were.
We were in Paris, France. We were a group of four women, all from the same family, all content and at peace in our lives. We were daughters and wives and sisters. We were sitting in unison, experiencing life together, laughing together, crying together, loving together.
It was really that moment that it hit me how good my life is. A few months back, somebody told me that I was living the good life, and I thought it was funny that they said that. I am 32 years old, living with my parents, working a job that I’ve had for quite a long time. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like the good life. But on my last night in Paris, it hit me.
I am living the exact life that I want to live. We all are, really. We make choices and choose to be the way that we are. Yes, or past shapes us and our families mold us, but really, ultimately, it’s up to us. A long time ago I made the decision to be happy, and Paris was just a part of that. I could see that now. I could see that Paris was an after effect of making a decision to live the best life that I could possibly live. I could see now that me, being in Paris, sitting with the people that I love and laughing till our sides hurt, was the effect of all of us saying, “Life is what I make it. And I’m going to make it beautiful.”
So now, I am sitting at a cafe, writing this for all of you to read, and wondering when I will be back. Moving here is a thought in my head, and I am dreaming of what it would be like to be a resident. But even more than that, I am realizing that my life is very, very, very good. I am realizing that I have chosen happiness, and the fruit of that choice has been absolutely outstanding. I am realizing that I will never go back to a mundane life, because truly, the mundane life is a choice.
I choose to live extravagantly. Not expensively or ridiculously, but extravagantly. I choose to live as if each moment counted in a major way. As if each moment were one that would shape my life forever. Because each moment really does have the opportunity to be that, if you let it
Goodbye, Paris. You have forever changed me.