Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Travel Tuesday-Peace, Love and Paris

"Jim. Jim. Jim. We need to go see Jim now!!" It was becoming a chant, and the rest of us were starting to get a little annoyed. Jess would not give it a rest.

Six of us. Me, Jess, Laura, Lisa, Rob and Asmir. We were leaning against the cool stonework at the bottom of the Arc de Triomphe. It was a boiling hot day in Paris, and the 284 steps to the top of the Arc didn't help with the sweatiness of the situation. Not that the view wasn't worth it; it was.

"Can we go see Jim now?? We've been wandering around Paris all day, seeing nothing but dumb tourist stuff!!” Jess was verging on whiny.

"Okay, okay, we'll go!" I said. Anything to get her to stop talking. I kind of agreed, because as great as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre was, sometimes you just want to get down deep into a city and away from the masses. Okay, that's a lie; I thought the Louvre was boring. We ran through the museum like we were in the Da Vinci Code, and we were still in there too long. And the Mona Lisa? It's cool and all, but it’s not worth getting elbowed repeatedly in the ribs for as crowds of tourists jostle for the perfect photo. You know what? It looks exactly like it does in pictures, and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the real and a copy. But hey, but I'm not an art connoisseur by any means, so take from that what you will.

"Asmir, you going to come with?" Lisa inquired. We all turned to look at the new friend we had made in front of Notre Dame that very morning.

"Oh. Of course!” He had wandered up to us as we all gathered in front of the giant church to stare, and he had stuck to us like glue ever since.

"Okay, we'll go. But first, I need to fix my pants somehow, they are driving me crazy." Laura gestured down to one leg of her khaki pants which now had a long flap of fabric dragging on the ground. "I have no idea how this even happened".

"Don't worry, I fix", Asmir crouched down and grabbed the hanging fabric in his hand. "Ready? One, two, riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip, oops!" Laura's pants now had a huge tear going from her ankle to just past her knee. We all started cracking up, as Asmir hurried to remedy the situation by tying a haphazard knot so the tear didn't get any bigger.

"Okay then. Thanks!” Laura chirped. Laura was the nicest person on the planet. Always eternally optimistic about anything and everything. "One, two, ooooops" would soon make our way into every conversation we had.

Rob whipped out his guide to the Metro, and we planned our route to our destination: Pere LaChaise in the East end of Paris. Jess was practically jumping up and down by the time we emerged from the Metro station across the street from the cemetery.

We entered from the main gate and didn't bother getting a map. At this point, I think we all thought Jess would be divinely led to Jim's grave. No. The moment you walk into the cemetery, Paris changes. Row upon row of flower covered graves, with row upon row of trees lining the paths, make it a beautiful albeit confusing place to find your way around in. The trees created a shady canopy, blocking us from the summertime heat. It was silent, it was still and it was eerie. We slowed down; heck, even Jess slowed down. We stopped and looked at all the different graves, venturing inside some of the large dark tombs. None of us really knew anything about the cemetery, beyond the fact that it held the body of Jim Morrison, Jess's idol. The cemetery is one of the most popular places to visit in Paris, but as we walked in and out and around the worn paths, we barely saw anyone. It was an environment that forced you to stop and reflect on where you were. We couldn't rush in any direction, because no matter what, we were going to get lost. Better to just wander.

We stumbled upon Jim's grave mostly by accident; we rounded a corner and saw a small group of people in the distance.

Jess let out a happy squeal, yelled, "that's Jim!!!", and took off running, her sandals slapping the ground as she went. The rest of us took our time wandering up to the group, none of us being overly concerned with seeing Jim's resting place. That was Jess's thing. We chatted about what we were going to do afterwards: I was planning on doing some window shopping and people watching, Laura and Asmir were heading to an art museum, and Lisa and Rob were going back to the hotel to rest. We caught up to Jess, who was standing just outside the black iron fence that encased Jim's grave. One group of people were singing, and another group of people were passing around a joint.

"I can't believe we are finally here!" Jess was beyond excited. How great does it feel to be with somebody when they cross something off their life goal list? Pretty damn great.

We all got to chatting with two hippie esque Australian boys. One had long dreads, and the other a long pony tail. They were lounging on the ground by the grave, passing a bottle of red wine back and forth.

"Drink?” one of them nodded at me. I grabbed the bottle and took a swig, passing it to Jess, who also took a big drink. The cheap red wine made its way around the circle, ending with Lisa who gave it back to the dreadlocked Australian. We all turned to stare in silence at the grave of the rocker. Jess slipped off a ring she had been wearing for the entire trip, and threw it over the fence. It landed on Jim's grave with a clink.

"I've been waiting to do that for so long!".

We were all silent for a couple moments longer, linked by wine, pot smoke, peace, love and rock and roll.

Soon after, we said our goodbyes to our Australian friends and made our way back through the winding lanes of the cemetery.

"Okay," Rob said as we walked, "that was cool!"

"I told you!” Jess replied, grinning. "This was way better than any dumb church or museum!!"

And she was right, it totally was.

We found the exit, and stepped out onto the sun scorched pavement, horns blaring, people jostling. With one glance back into the cemetery, we exchanged “byes” and “see ya laters”, then all went our separate ways.

This is one of my favourite days of travelling ever. I almost can't describe how it makes me feel without getting ridiculously sappy, but in that moment, I felt really connected to the people I was with, despite how different we all were. That is one of my favourite things about travelling, because in a moment like that the world shrinks a little bit, and makes you question why people just can't get along. There is almost always common ground somewhere, be it a love of red wine, a love of a dead stoner rocker, or just the knowledge that the moment you are in is special, and will never, ever happen to you again. I tried to make this story as non cheesy as I could, but seen as I feel cheesy and nostalgic about the whole day, it's hard. But, I just, I loved that day and I loved those people, and even though I'm 99% sure I'll never see any of them again, I still feel connected because we were all there living in that moment.


Candice said...

Hah, totally awesome! I love it. Aussies are the best. I didn't get to go inside the Louvre...I just stood outside. :(

carissajaded said...

Holy shiz girl. I got goose bumps whilst reading this. You're encounter with the tomb of one of the most bad-assiest rockers ever to have lived, is well...incredible! But I have to say I'm sad to hear the louvre was a drag.

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