It’s my birthday and I sit in a room with all of my family receiving presents. I’m simultaneously enjoying being the centre of attention but also trying to gauge whether my response to each present is appropriate.
My older sister Emma hands me a beautiful box. It says “Take me to Paris” on the top and has lots of French designs around the side. I smile at the writing and wonder whether Emma knows that those words are the lyrics to a Lana song. It is beautiful. I’ve had an obsession with pretty boxes since I was younger and I’ve always had an appreciation for Paris.
I lift the lid and look through the number of items inside. There’s a wine glass, a little statue with my birthstone, a Paris guidebook, a printout from a holiday website talking about a hotel in Montmartre and a ticket to Paris.
I am speechless. I knew that Emma was planning to get me a great present for my eighteenth but I cannot believe what I am seeing. Everyone is looking at my reaction and all I can express is shock. I throw my arms around her but nothing I can do will show her how delighted I am. It’s only in the taxi home that I remember what I bought the day before. It was a Paris journal with a picture of the Eiffel tower on the front of it. I smile to myself as I decide to start the journal when I get there.
The months fly by and before I know it, Christmas has arrived. Emma and I chat to our relations telling them about our trip. It’s only when Emma says that we’re staying in Montmartre that I realise the significance of this trip. She has booked a hotel in the location of my favourite movie: Amélie.
If I was excited before, I am now feeling ecstatic. Emma and I leave the party and head back to my apartment. We go to bed early after discussing in detail how excited we are. When my alarm finally goes off, I step over Emma. I’ve been waking up every hour wondering whether it was time or not. I shower, dress and pack while Lana sings to me. I can’t help but smile as I stare at my reflection in the mirror. I’m going to Paris!
I’ve been to Paris once before with my aunt and uncle. I had a ball but I probably didn’t appreciate the beauty as much as I should have. This time I’m determined to soak it all in.
When we get to the airport I treat myself to a new pair of brown designer sunglasses with my Christmas money. I sit looking out of the window at the airplanes thinking about how much time I hope to be spending in airports in my future.
I have a lot to think about on this trip, that I’m sure of. As we board I look at Emma, hoping that I’ll be good company. The truth is it’s been a hard Winter for me. I’ve been nursing wounds for a long time and I am so relieved to get out and go to one of my favourite places. However, I do feel rather pensive and when I’m feeling pensive I often struggle to converse with others. But I know that Emma isn’t a person who gets very in your face and I’m sure that she won’t get frustrated with me.
We step off the plane and I feel amazing. The familiar airport is so welcoming and my stomach flips with excitement when I feel the rumble of a métro underground. I picked up a book in Dublin airport that I’m enjoying an awful lot. It’s “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler and I have no idea that this is the book that’s going to motivate me to take my life back in hand.
Emma’s purse gets stolen on our first métro trip. It’s annoying but we don’t let it get us down. When you see the poverty that the area that it was stolen in suffers from, it’s forgivable. Emma and I are good at letting bygones be bygones when there’s nothing you can do to change it. And the thief didn’t get his hands on anything too important.
The hotel and area that we’re staying in are gorgeous and I even recognise one or two streets from Amélie. That first night we go to a local café where I try the nicest pizza I have ever had (I’ve had lots) and drink delicious French coffee. I spend the evening chatting to Emma while painting my nails with Chanel nail polish, reading my book and sitting down to write in my French journal.
In the mornings I put on some of my favourite outfits, fluff up my freshly dyed hair, spray on Chanel no. 5 and put lipstick on. I’m determined to look and feel glamorous on the streets of Paris. Not for anyone else, but for myself.
We awake early for breakfast before getting the métro into the city centre. We walk along the river until we spot the tower. It takes my breath away. We walk along the streets taking it all in. We buy expensive but beautiful hot chocolate. It truly warms my entire body with every sip. As we walk across the bridge of the river Seine I’m thinking about love and other stereotypical things. I’m not feeling my best mentally, but the beauty is definitely helping.
After eating yet more delicious food, we head home. We stop to buy a box of macaroons in a wonderful little chocolate café.
That night, after the most glorious hot shower, I slip into my pyjamas and sit down with a black coffee and the box of macaroons. I write more in my journal. I’m keeping the most intense journal while I’m here and I’m loving every second of it. I also write the following postcard to my friend Sophie Clarke;
Being in Paris is like being in a Lana Del Rey song. Beautiful, wistful, sad and romantic. I genuinely do wish that you were here. You would so appreciate both the beauty and the language. We must make a promise to visit here in the coming years. This city is fast and being here helps you to slow down and think. I’ve been thinking a lot. I’ve also been writing a lot. My soul loves it here. It fits in perfectly. It’s easy to forget who you love and who loves you but Paris reminds you of it all. This is a remarkable thing. I can truly relate to this city. It is so beautiful but it’s also struck by such pain and poverty. A man stole Emma’s purse on the first métro we stepped on. I hope the money brings him joy and satisfaction. I hope it brings colour to his life and I only wish him the best. I look forward to seeing you upon my return. I love and miss you an awful lot.
Like I said, intense.
Read part two of my trip to Paris here.
Listen to my interview with Emma about racism below: