A couple months ago, as I eyed this basically abandoned blog, I told myself I would write an epic recap of my twenties on the last day of my twenties. Weeks went by, and now I’m here, staring at the thing that terrifies me most in the world—a blank Word document with a cursor, blinking at and taunting me. Every sentence I have started sounded like a terrible cliché—a series of sad tropes that people trot out on milestone birthdays. “30 is not that old!” “30 is the new 20!” “You’re still young!” And here’s the thing—I know 30 is not that old, and I know that 30 is relatively young (I hope that 30 is not the new 20, unless it involves me having the metabolism of a 20-year-old and living in Paris). But I’m not here to make apologies for my twenties (because, as ol’ blue eyes said “regrets, I’ve had a few.”). I’m here to tell you that my twenties were an alternately joyous, terrifying, soul-crushing, dreamy, enchanting, and maddening time—but I didn’t fully realize how much I’ve grown and accomplished until one Sunday night this past May.
Here’s the thing—I could probably write a seriously detailed, day by day account of my trip to Paris. There wouldn’t be anything new, or anything you couldn’t find on any other travel guide website…good places to eat, stare at fashionably dressed French babies, and where to stay (I will be posting about the awesome cooking course I took at La Cuisine Paris, however). But the thing about travel is that the real stuff, the stuff that changes you and makes you want to get back out there and see the rest of the world? It usually doesn’t have anything to do with where you ate or how you got there; it has to do with how you felt while you were doing it. Or, in my case, being somewhere familiar, yet exploring totally unknown feelings with the sort of depth only afforded you when you are outside your comfort zone.
I used to have really good skin. Like, pretty much perfect (aside from the freckles). People constantly complimented me on it and I always felt a sort of guilt–I didn’t do anything to deserve it, besides inherit my mom’s genetics. If I noticed my skin getting dry, I’d drink more water. If that didn’t work, I’d apply lotion. Any kind of lotion. I frequently fell asleep without washing makeup off my face, and my entire skin care routine involved Dove Body Wash and a wash cloth.
But now, as my 20s draw to an end, those carefree days are a thing of the past. No sunscreen? Serious sunburn. Forget to wash my face at the end of the day? A field of tiny, braille-like bumps will crop up across my face. Happy Hour that’s too happy? That’ll be two rolling suitcases the color of granite underneath my eyes. The final straw came in December when I got my first real zit (yep). It was an angry red and resistant to any of the home remedies that I found on the Internet. I tried to cover it with concealer, but nothing worked. So for a week or so, I walked around with 28 years worth of lazy skincare karma beaming from my chin. I invested in Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer, and my skin began a gradual recovery. I mean, it was by no means perfect, but I didn’t have any Mount Vesuvius clones popping up on my face.
As I prepped for my trip, I remembered that during previous Transatlantic flights, my skin grew grey and pallid, and I knew that if that had occurred when my skin was good, something shocking might occur in my old age. I began scouring YouTube for in-flight beauty routines, and stumbled across the treasure trove of magic that is Lisa Eldridge’s in-flight beauty routine. But the real gem I uncovered was her French Pharmacy video. I decided that one of my main goals in Europe would be to acquire these holy grail products she spoke so highly of. And when I walked into CityPharma in Paris 6th arrondissement, I seriously doubted whether any skin cream could be worth throwing elbows with the City of Light’s bright young things.
Turns out, it absolutely was.
During my 20 minute stint in beauty wonderland, I picked up a wide array of magical beauty products that I am now wishing I’d purchased more of.
As I mentioned before, I studied abroad in Paris during my junior year in college. I didn’t go with a huge, organized group and instead sorted out my own housing. I lived in a large, run down house (that may or may not have been illegal) about 11 miles south of Paris in a blue collar suburb called Savigny-sur-Orge. My room was tiny and I slept underneath a very itchy French Army blanket. The washing machine took three hours to do a single load of laundry, but it also took quarters (why I had extra quarters lying around during my study abroad is a mystery). The house itself was populated by a mish mash of young people from all over the world–later, I’d realize I was living in my very own version of L’Auberge Espagnole.
One of my housemates was a tall Scottish dude named Jamie. I’d never met an actual Scottish person in real life before and his Glaswegian accent was a constant source of amusement and confusion for me. One day as I was leaving my room, Jamie started singing to me–not like, in a romantic way. But in my general direction as a kind of means of getting my attention. At first I thought he was mocking me, “Oh yeah, alright, take it easy baby, make it last all night…she was an American girl.” I smiled sheepishly and scuttled off to the kitchen. For the next week, each time he’d walk past my door, he’d sing more lyrics from the song, always ending with “…she was an American girl.”
Finally, I took it upon myself to look up the song. I was reared on Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind, and Fire. The only thing remotely rock-ish that we listened to was Sting, so any rock music that pre-dated my ability to buy music for myself was totally foreign to me. I downloaded the song and listened to it whenever I was feeling a little bit homesick. Now, eight years later, whenever I hear the song it instantly transports me back to Paris 2005.
There are other songs–Minus the Bear’s “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse” a song recommended to me by a friend before I took of for my study abroad. The lyrics were spot on for my time in Pa-ris, “Sitting on a park bench that’s older than my country,” and I listened to the song on repeat any time I went for a long, wandering walk through St. Germain des Pres. Towards the end of my time in Paris, I happened to see “Before Sunset.” The movie ends with Nina Simone’s rendition of “Just In Time,” and I get misty listening to the song. If I ever get married, that will be the first song I dance to with my husband.
So, when I realized my Eurotrip was just around the corner, I decided to put together an epic playlist–one to serve as a soundtrack for new memories, and one that reminds me of my previous kind of life changing trips to Europe.
Do you have a travel playlist? If so, what’s on it?
I woke up in a wretched mood this morning. I lay in my bed listening to my tiny dog snore like a 300-pound human, and wondered how it was that I managed to always be single on Valentine’s Day. I turned on Robyn’s bittersweet anthem to sad singletonhood, “Dancing On My Own,” and contemplated how long I could stay in bed before the dog would need to be fed and I’d need to check my work mail.
And then I realized that maybe I don’t have a human man to love (I have a canine male to love who takes up a good chunk of my attention), and I have a lot of wonderful things happening in my life that I am supremely grateful for. And I’m seeing the love of my life in two months. Not a man, not even technically a living thing. But a city. Paris.
This will not devolve into a blog post in the vein of that show on TLC about women who are in love with inanimate objects (I am crazy, but not that crazy). But it will detail a decade-long love affair with a city.