Paris: A Rememberence

The first time I visited Paris was my first real trip abroad unchaperoned and fully in control of my own destiny. That journey helped start me on the path to who I am today. I have a lot of great memories of that trip. Now I’m back for a few days and I’ll try to find out what’s changed – both here and within myself – and rediscover my younger self in the process. This is part of a series of my reminiscences of Paris.

It’s December 31st, 1999 and a 22-year-old me stands in the Paris night watching the millennium count down on the Eiffel Tower. The crowd, standing together tightly enough that most are sweating despite the chill, bubbles in anticipation like champagne when shaken.  It hits 0…the year 2000 has dawned. The cork holding the crowd is released and a hundred thousand bodies jump, dance, scream, throw up their hands and complete the metaphor. A new year…century…millennium has dawned; a thousand years has ticked off the clock in a second.

A friend and I had arrived in Paris earlier that day. No reservation, no plan, just an idea that Paris would be a pretty great place to spend the iconic new year. I’d met a girl on the flight over who gave me a lead on a place to stay. We had the address and a map, that was all you needed back in those days. So we drove over to a nearby street, parked our car and headed out. Of course the hotel was completely booked that night.

We tried a couple other hotels but they were all booked. Not a big surprise there. I mean it’s Paris on the New Millennium’s Eve and we’re right in the heart of the city, on the Left Bank just next to Notre Dame Cathedral. Well hey worst case we had a car to sleep in – a little bitty hatchback with 3 weeks of luggage in it. I’m sure that’ll be comfortable, right?

It was too late to worry about such things. It was getting on towards time to start celebrating. So we headed for the Irish bar nearby. As you’d expect, the place was packed. We squeezed in, ordered a beer and chatted with ourselves and the other patrons, many of whom had already been there a while it seemed. We ended up meeting the owner and a couple of his friends. He was an artist and they were all in town for the celebration.

At around 11:30 we decided if we wanted to see the festivities we’d better head out to the streets. We tried catching the Metro down to the action, but it was so packed we couldn’t get into the station. So we headed off in the general direction at a quick pace, after the crowds. We didn’t make it as close as we wanted, but we managed to get close enough to see the clock on the Eiffel Tower counting down, barely.

After the initial excitement from the o-second – the hugging, the kissing, the shaking hands – the crowd started to dissipate. My friend and I disagreed with what to do next. We parted ways and each went off to see the city as we wanted. I went to the Champs Elysees and walked up and down to and from the L’Arc de Triomphe. All the while wishing all the strangers a happy New Year and being greeted in kind.

When that died down I headed back to the car…where was the car? Without a map I had to try to navigate back to a random side street just by sight and landmarks. Surprisingly I made it back fairly quickly. I fared better than my friend who’d spent the better part of the night trying to find it. Fortunately he’d made it back before me, since he had the keys. A short, uncomfortable nap later we woke up, went back to the hotel which had a vacancy for the first night of the new millennium and napped again.

We stayed another few nights before heading back to the US. From that trip the things that most stuck in my mind were the hotel, the little Irish bar and the 3 fromages panini from just down the street. We had several of those because they were cheap, delicious and convenient. I still remembered the taste 12 years on when I was preparing to go back…but that’s a story for a different time.

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Posted on September 4, 2012, in Europe, Paris: A Reminiscence and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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