Thursday, July 24, 2008

Je suis à Paris!

Only 4 hours by train, but Paris feels worlds away from Amsterdam. For one thing, it's warmer. I'm actually hot! Though I hear it's warmer in Amsterdam now too (seems both cities experienced a bit of a cold spell), somehow I don't think it's as warm as it is here. I have to resist the tendency to respond in Dutch: my language gears are slowly turning, but it's taken a while, which is strange considering I speak better French than Dutch :-)

I had 4 people speak to me yesterday. Travelling solo has its perks and its challenges: more people are apt to approach you which can make for some entertaining conversation and insights into lives very different from your own, but it can also attract the gaze of men with an interest in you that extends beyond polite conversation. So far, it's been harmless and probably quite sincere: I've had 2 offers of "Prendre un café avec moi?" and that was just my first day! I was reading a book that Sam gave me on my last day in Amsterdam (Persepolis, thank you!) in the Jardin des Tuilieries, just resting my legs from walking around all day, and an older gentlemen approached me. We proceeded to have a friendly conversation in French (the more I talk, the easier it becomes :-) and, after finding out I'm from Canada, he told me his daughter lives in Montréal and he just came back from travelling in Québec for one month. After he left (and after refusing his offer to have a coffee, harmless I'm sure), a younger woman came by and asked me in English if she could sit on the bench where I was sitting. I agreed, of course, and we spent quite some time just sitting there, me reading, she writing and as I was getting ready to leave, I picked up my map to review my route and she told me "Oh, I thought you were French" :-) We had a lovely chat about how I'm from Canada and she's from Brazil, travelling various European cities before returning to Rio. It was her first time in Paris (I asked) and she said she loves it. I wished her safe and happy travels and we went along our merry way.

It is turning out to be that pulling out a map automatically marks you as a tourist (in case you didn't realize). This, however, turned out to be not so bad early in the day when I was stopped by a young woman yielding a camera who asked me (in French, naturellement!) if she could take my picture. I inquired about her intentions and it turns out she is doing a photo project about the people and places she encounters along the Péripherique (this is the long ring road that circles the city of Paris). Here I am, wearing sunglasses and my Yukon cap with a map on my hands, I probably couldn't look like less of a tourist if I tried! And so it was, that I happened to be in exactly the place where she was looking to photograph and so I agreed and then told her that I've done some photography myself and I would be interested in seeing her work (and she said she would be interested in seeing my work) so she gave me her card and her website address then asked me for my email address so she could send me the photo she just took of me! I thought that was sweet and sincere—what a totally random experience on my first day out in Paris :-)

I don't believe in coincidences: I think many "random" things in our life happen for a reason, it just takes a little focus to find out why something is happening right here, right now, in your life. With these little encounters in Paris thus far, it is no coincidence that Sam sent me a "random" SMS with the following message: "Today is a day of miracles, look around, they are in everything and in its timing." No kidding, eh?

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