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A momentary overload

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 14 May 2014 | Views [85] | Scholarship Entry

It’s a gloomy Monday afternoon in Paris, and I am lost.
It hadn’t been my intention to leave the hotel and get lost within five minutes, but that was all it took, one wrong turn and I was unexpectedly exploring.
Rather than panic, I embraced it. My eighth day in Paris, and finally my first taste of freedom – I breathed it in. It tasted like second hand smoke and urine, mixed with espresso shots and pain de chocolat. I had never had a more exciting taste on my tongue, and as I found myself getting closer to the Seine, I couldn’t help but notice the way it intoxicated me.
It had been a long eight days; I’d arrived in Paris less than 48 hours after the funeral of my best friend. That was the first lesson Paris taught me – there are always reasons to smile despite tragedy, and that gloomy Monday, I learned the lesson of adventure.
I found a tobacco shop, and with the ten euros I’d found in my coat pocket, bought a cheap packet of cigarettes. I’ve never been a smoker, but as I said my ‘merci, au revoir’ and left, I decided Paris was all about risks, about finding yourself.
I smiled at strangers as I crossed the Seine, at the way the locks shone in the sun, noticing the way the Notre Dam stood so imposing, and yet so inviting. I held my coat closer, and found myself in a quiet brasserie.
I sat at an outside table and lit a cigarette, letting the speed of Parisian life flash before my eyes. ‘I am a part of this,’ I told myself.
“Bonjour Madam” the waiter greeted,
“Bonjour,” I replied, “un café, s’il vous plait”.
As he walked away I smiled to myself, my French might have been stuck at an awkward level, but it was enough to get me coffee.
As I waited, I took in the sights. The busy colours of a hundred different nationalities walked past, different accents filling my ears. Backpackers hitching their too-big bags higher on their backs, mothers holding their babies closer, children chasing each other, the bells of the church ringing.
The coffee arrived and I poured in two sugars.
That was the first time I had truly seen Paris, colours meshing together in a rainbow of excitement. Eight days and I was lost in a city I didn’t know. But smoking and sipping coffee, I had found myself. It had been a long eight days, it had been a long two weeks, but here I was, in a brasserie outside Notre Dam. I was alive, I was falling in love with myself in the cite de l’amour, and I never, ever wanted to forget the way it felt to experience life in sensory overload.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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