It was one of the last days of summer in late August when I first went for a walk in Paris. I don’t recall how I ended up on rue Rivoli, next to Palais Royal, but the skies were blue with puffy cotton clouds, and the leaves of the maple trees were pea green – some beginning to burst into a jaunty yellow. I had just had a meal at an Italian restaurant, probably a tourist trap, but what did I know? I remember I thought it was the best meal I had ever had, and it really had been then.
I walked along the façade of the Louvre, not knowing I was passing the place where my favorite paintings hung. I wound up at the Seine, where I saw couples sitting along the banks of the river, in love. Then, after catching sight of the Eiffel Tower and the Musee d’Orsay, I finally set eyes on the entrance to the Louvre. It was in that serendipitous moment that I realized what it was, and I entered the museum like an ecstatic child, with my heart-pounding, my smile widening, feeling the gates of Culture open before my eyes (if you’re from Miami, you’ll understand). From there I saw the pyramids, the modern marvels that stood out against centuries of history and yet somehow seemed to coexist perfectly. And then I saw the green lawns of the Jardin de Tuileries, my eyes wandering from the fuzzy patches of grass that almost glistened in the sun’s rays, to the flowers that were planted all around them, and, much to my surprise, to a goat! My eyes watered, my heart was full, Paris was glorious, and I was grateful and proud – I had finally made it here, knowing no one, leaving everything behind, Paris was everything I imagined it would be and it was mine.
I was probably a pre-teen when I discovered Alexandre Dumas's novels. I was an avid, indiscriminate reader, and I devoured them all, buying some, borrowing others, until there weren't any left.
When I first moved to Paris, I had a problem with the beauty of the city. I was both amazed and frustrated by it.