In the middle of Thanksgiving week, my best friend from college came to visit Paris. I’d been looking forward to his visit for months; he found out he’d be coming during summer, and I knew that by November I’d be dying for visitors from home. By chance, last week was my week when I have Tuesday (and Wednesday) free, so after school on Monday I took the train to meet him in Paree.
It was a bit of a shock — in a good way — to be among Americans again, and to be in a family! John’s aunt and uncle and cousins were so welcoming, and I’m so lucky that they invited me to stay with them.
Paris still has a special place in my heart, and it was great to be a tourist there. We went up the Eiffel Tower (which I’d never done before) and splurged on a glass of champagne.
We also went on a boat cruise on the Seine, hit up the Musée de l’Orangerie, walked a LOT and ate many, many pastries.
I had never been in Paris during the holiday season, because I arrived in January last year. It’s just as charming as you might imagine; every street is decorated with its own light display (this one says: “the businesses wish you happy holidays”). We ate dinner on Rue Cler:
We even saw the president’s motorcade leave the Invalides the next day as we were trying to get across a bridge.
Every time I go back to Paris, it’s with a different person and is a whole new experience. I think part of its magic IS that everyone experiences it in a different way. But now, when I go back, my favorite thing to do is just to wander. No plans means no expectations, which means no disappointment if things don’t go as planned (which they often don’t).
John and I also had a conversation about “France Anne” versus “American Anne.” When I originally came back from study abroad, the splitting of the Annes was how I dealt with the shock of moving between places and feeling different in each one. But I am forced to rethink that conceptualization of myself as I spend more time here, in a very different capacity. There is just one whole Anne; she is both French and American influenced, because she has “lived” in both places. But this time, I have no idea when I’m going back or what I will be going back to, so “France Anne” is not temporary — I’m being changed by my experiences in a more permanent way, because I’m learning how to live in the world as a non-student, as are many of my recent-graduate peers in the States. I’m growing up separately from old friends now, and that’s incredibly hard to come to terms with when it’s not something you’re used to.
But there was this moment — we were walking along the Seine talking utter nonsense to one another and overcome with laughter — when I thought, with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and luckiness, that my best friends will always be my best friends.