The majority of memories I have of my year abroad in Paris are painful ones which I avoid reflecting on, however, I was going through my photos on my laptop when I came across this ;
This is one of my favourite places in Paris. Similar to most big cities, Paris is busy and overwhelming, so when I discovered this little gem on my walk one Sunday, I was so happy. It’s probably a bit of an odd place to want to be since it’s in a cemetery (Cimitière du Père Lachaise) and could be considered morbid and sad, but I found it to be one of the few places I could breathe. I felt like I was on top of the world here (can you see the Eiffel Tower in the distance ?), and that all of the noise and oppression of the city laid far below me. The only noises I could hear were a few birds tweeting and the sound the wind makes when it rustles through the trees in Autumn. The ringing in my eyes subsided and my heart beat finally slowed to a normal pace. I could breathe again. Finally.
Finding this spot was a big deal for me. I’d been in Paris for a couple of months by this point, and my usual process of shutting myself off from the world around me had long been underway. Leaving my flat only occurred when I absolutely had to (lessons, for example), and despite living the dream of many people who long to visit Paris, let alone live there, I stayed inside my little
apartment cupboard. There was nothing I wanted more than to open my front door, go down the four flights of stairs :|, and explore. To just flâner, with no particular destination in mind, breezing from once beautiful place to another, care-free. But I couldn’t. That Sunday, I finally built up the courage to visit this cemetery, which was only about a 15 minute walk from my apartment. It took me a long time to actually get myself out of my front door, and another 20 minutes to open the huge door to my building. I felt so exposed and vulnerable. Although spending days cut off from the world in my bedroom was sad and very lonely, it was safe.
I purposely left relatively early, while Paris was still in sleepy Sunday mode, so as to avoid the huge crowds. I encountered a few Parisians buying their morning baguettes (god do they love a baguette.. can’t say I blame them… they smell incredible N.B. Don’t visit Paris if you’re gluten free), kept my head down and made it to the cemetery. I always find it strange to see such a beautifully manicured and peaceful place in the middle of a built up city. It feels almost incongruous that these people are laid to rest surrounded by sky scrapers and council flats. It started to rain, but I didn’t care. As soon as I walked through the enormous stone gates, I hung a left (no-one else seemed to be going that way and I followed my instinct of avoiding people) and started my journey through the cemetery. A brick wall separated the solemn graveyard from the 100mph speed of life on the other side, but It might as well have been a million miles away. I felt safe inside the surrounding walls, like no-one could hurt me here. After an hour or so of walking around, I reached the point in my picture. The rain subsided and the clouds opened, as if just for me. I stood on top of the hill, the whole of Paris sprawled below me, and I felt in control.
I’m not sure how long I stayed here – a long time. It probably sounds so trivial, but I felt proud of myself. I was outside, outside of my safe place, yet I was ok. It didn’t bother me that I didn’t know my way around, that I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t know where the little lanes lead to, or how far away I was from the exit. But it didn’t matter. I didn’t feel the need to constantly look at the ground or to be on my phone like i usually do when I leave my house. I was comfortable in my own company – I was enough…
That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.