Saturday, June 22, 2013


Authentic is an adjective that tends to get overused in those Paris travel guides that recommend scuba diving in the catacombs.  What does it mean to travel authentically? The Merriam-Webster online dictionary definitions include:

"a : worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming  to or based on fact

b : conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features
c : made or done the same way as an original
true to one's own personality, spirit or character"  
I believe the best way to have an authentic experience in Paris is to stay true to your personality and embrace what connects to your spirit and your character.  I have learned the hard way, often dragging Chris down with me, that making decisions based on other people's definitions of authentic can make for miserable moments in Paris.  Traveling authentically is a fine line between going for coffee every morning at Starbucks and staying in a neighbourhood where you are frightened to go out after dark. You need to challenge yourself and be open to opportunities but in a context that is meaningful to you.  Travel is a personal and life changing experience.  For Chris and I, Paris has helped shape our relationship, our future and often it is a language that only the two us share.
Underneath Pont Alexandre III
I spent yesterday at Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen wandering through many of its 14 markets spread out over 753,000 square feet.  I have never seen so many strange, beautiful and useless things in one place: thousands of chandeliers, taxidermy collections that included a zebra, an ocelot, a one-eyed, one-winged barn owl (who is going to buy that?!) and a common seagull, furniture stalls that looked a set from Mad Men or a room in Versailles, stacks of doors in various states of rot and repair, rusted scythes and cracked harnesses, Persian rugs, diamonds and a six foot tall, faded orange wooden giraffe meant for a child to ride that came with its own mounting block.  There was a life size stone horse with glass eyes and real horse horse mane and tail.  It stood in a stallion like defiant pose and was one of the most haunting and arresting things I have ever seen.  I couldn't tear my eyes away.

I fell in love with Monsieur Zisul at Le Monde du Voyage and his vintage Louis Vuitton trunks.  Exuding kindness and patience, Monsieur Zisul explained the history of his family's business and invited me to browse through his overflowing stall.  It was thrilling to see the workmanship up close and imagine the glamorous lives that traveled within the trunks.
One of my favourites from the "Love Lock" bridge
 Guilty Paris pleasure...
Another not very summery day so I took myself to a movie on the Champs at 10:30 this morning.  I sat in a 560 seat theatre with three other people.  It smelled like an old motel that used to allow smoking.  The concession stand sold Haribo, miniature pints of Häagen-Dazs and had a self-serve espresso machine.  There was popcorn but no popcorn smell.  I wonder if they trucked the popcorn in from Paris Disneyland?   

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