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Getting Lost and Other Fortunate Happenings

Epiphany On A Hill

FRANCE | Wednesday, 14 May 2014 | Views [97] | Scholarship Entry

I’ll never forget the September morning I sat on the steps of Sacré-Cœur in Paris. It was hours before my plane's departure, so I let my travel companion sleep while I trekked out. I let the winding streets of Montmartre lead the way. All I knew was that at the top of the hill was Sacré-Cœur, so uphill I went. Several sloped streets, two pâtisserie stops, and a daunting staircase later, my aching legs reached the romantic Montmartre of the film Amélie.

For many film geeks like myself, Montmartre IS the film. After paying the required visit to Amélie’s workplace Café des 2 Moulins, I finished my walkthrough at the steps of Sacré-Cœur, where my favorite scene of the film takes place. I sat in the centermost step, next to a harp player as he expertly plucked Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose, to the delight of the crowd. As cliché as La Vie en Rose is to Paris, this moment is engraved in my memory. Like Amélie, I looked out into the city and let my mind wander introspectively. It might have been the melancholy tone of the music, my disbelief that I was actually in Paris, being alone amidst strangers, or probably a mix of all these; but at this moment a feeling overcame me. As I sat there, in awe of the enormity of the city, realizing how far I was from home. It dawned on me that I could make it on my own. Having lived a sheltered life and then finding myself alone and anonymous was frightening and liberating all at once.

At this point I was riding a newfound wave of confidence. So I got up, walked away from the safety of the crowded Sacré-Cœur and descended into a Montmartre that was new to me. I had eerily quiet, empty, cobblestoned streets all to myself, and I loved it. It felt like a genuine unfabricated experience, free of souvenir shops. Because this was a spontaneous detour, I inevitably got lost. Amélie didn’t prepare me for this.

In my basic French I asked a passerby for directions, which he gladly gave me, but not before taking an interest into where I was from. The young college student tried to guess my nationality. He spotted the Spanish traces in my spoken French but was thrown off by my fluent English. The random spark of a memorable conversation. As he walked me in the right direction on that now familiar hill, I explained my Mexican heritage, to which he professed his love for Mexico, and I for all things French. To this day I travel for encounters like these: mutually illuminating, sometimes lost in translation, but ultimately unparalleled.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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