Four months after the fact and I am finally reminiscing on the glorious weekend Ross and I spent in Paris for my birthday. We ambled around the city using only a 1999 guidebook as a map, an idea borne out of doing the same thing with my sister the year before. Unlike my older sister, Ross did not dramatically throw the book to the ground and take a nap when times, and directions, got tough.
Instead, we poured over the book at breakfast, trying to figure out our next path. We left phones on silent, away from scrolling fingers and itchy attention-seeking social media needs. We drank many bottles of red wine, stopped frequently for pastries and spent a lot of time slightly awestruck at our fortune and Ross’ sunburn.
We wake up early. I make us late. Obviously. My travel partner’s patience is not at it’s most robust at 4am, quite understandably too. Luckily my flat is only a quick march away from St Pancras and the high-speed train set to whisk us away to Paris. I pack us some sleep masks. Why not be incredibly extra on a two hour train? Why not indeed.
We arrive in Paris as it wakes up, shop fronts quietly opening, metal grates clunking their way apart. A cheese shop, already open at 7 am, is our first stop, backpacks and sleepy eyes in tow. We ogle the cheese selection and I quietly murmur each name, not unlike a psychopath. I just love cheese, you know?
Onwards now, to our air bnb. Our host’s delegate greets us with a huge smile. We become firm friends. He doesn’t completely understand me and I use the time to say thank you and nod a lot. Like I said, firm friends.
After the cursory snoop round, we set off for day one of exploring and finding the nearest and best croissant and croque-monsieur Paris has to offer. We find it in Bo&MIE, a jumble of a logo but very tasty treats inside. This is the moment I decide I will vlog our entire trip, influencer style. Ross nods - he is supportive, if a little dubious. I had just forgotten to take any videos, pictures or otherwise evidence of our journey, arrival or breakfast. No mind. The trip must go on.
Day one brings us glorious sunshine, attempts to take self-timed photos at the Louvre and tagging along with a Spanish tour group. By tagging along, I of course mean, sitting close enough to eavesdrop, have Ross translate and then nod sagely at the free knowledge we were receiving.
For lunch we decide to get drunk. We’ve done a lot of walking you see. And it’s a bank holiday and we are young and irresponsible in the city of love.
One bottle of wine and a splash of sunstroke later we wind up in the Jardin du Luxembourg and all my Mary-Kate and Ashley fantasies are realised at once. Passport to Paris reference. Please watch if uninformed.
Ross is insistent on napping at this point, I am eager to listen to other people’s conversations racing over my head in rapid French. Perfect.
One hour and many macarons down, we rise from gluttonous sunshine napping to continue our explorations. There is much city to be had and only so much time to do so in.
We walk over bridges, take photos of padlocks that probably mean nothing but maybe mean someone was so in love they felt the urge to secure a piece of heavy metal to a bridge. I find it all terribly romantic.
Ross has planned supper, a little spot to celebrate my turning 23.
The sun wanes as we make our way there, dappled sunlight hitting the limestone I so love this city for.
Au Passage is tucked away down a quiet street and yet heaving inside. Merry tables clink glasses, laugh uproariously and break the most delicious crusty bread. Heaven.
Ross orders wine and I feel as if the overwhelming happiness could burst out of me at any moment. Perhaps in a spontaneous song. Perhaps in the form of crying at an incredible pasta dish. I choose the latter. The lambs liver ragout is the best thing I have ever eaten. And probably will ever eat again. Rich and languorous I will recommend this dish (and place) until the day I die.
The last day of 22 and I feel the happy weight of overwhelming blessings. A new orbit feels full of promise but this last one feels magical. I go to sleep excited. So wonderfully excited.
Birthdays are interesting days for me. They have always been a point of great celebration in our home. Parents would abandon precious hours of sleep to decorate our kitchen in streamers, balloons, glitter, cake, pancakes, bacon and joy.
I miss my dad a lot on my birthday. I miss his voice singing happy birthday or the drawn out hug he would repeatedly give to whisper how proud he was.
This birthday, in Paris, was the most perfect alternative going.
Ross and I wake up to sunshine, find the largest and fluffiest stack of pancakes Paris has and plan a day of no-pressure ambling.
We eschew a birthday cake for delicate, artisan pastries. We run around a carrefour and find one solitary candle. We really lean into joy and it really finds us.
Our final night is spent with one of my oldest and most luminous friends from school. We are repeatedly told off for being too loud (le rosbif is a real insult that will be levelled if you have an obnoxiously loud laugh) and drunkenly muse on how lucky we are in the uber home.
We head back to London.
Life is exceptionally good.
Au Passage - 1bis Passage Saint-Sébastien, 75011 Paris, France
Season - 1 Rue Charles-François Dupuis, 75003 Paris, France
Le Temps des Cerises - 31 Rue de la Cerisaie, 75004 Paris, France
BO&MIE - 18 Rue de Turbigo, 75002 Paris, France
KB Café - 53 Avenue Trudaine, 75009 Paris, France
Farine&O - 10 Rue des Martyrs, 75009 Paris, France