(The above beauty marked an important milestone for me: a return to solo travel..and some stellar photography with my Blackberry, no?)
A conversation I had recently with some colleagues spurred me on to tonight’s post. And actually, this one is in proper sequential order from the last one, I just needed time to sit down and compose it.
My last post had me at mid-summer still processing the interview I had with the Public Prosecutor in June. As much as I had hoped to hear every day if she wanted to move ahead with the investigation against Marco, I knew it was futile. The summers are so hot and oppressive in Rome that pretty much everything closes down for July and part of August. So, it was a sure bet I would learn nothing until at least September.
On the professional front, I was selected to work in my company’s London office to assist on pr efforts for our new UK business. The news came quickly and I was told I’d be there anywhere from two to four weeks. I found it a bittersweet opportunity. I had fallen in love with London years earlier and would have jumped at the chance to work there. But the timing of this new opportunity meant the long drive I had planned to take with my boyfriend to move him permanently back to his home state in the South could not happen. And strangely, on the day he moved and our trip would have started, I flew to England. Talk about moving in opposite directions.
I was excited and sad. I wanted to go and I didn’t. And I found it unnerving that I’d once again be overseas by myself for most of it – just like I used to travel – before Italy ever happened.
Well, working in London was just as good as it gets. I loved my morning walks in the nearby parks, taking the Tube to all parts of the city to explore and becoming familiar with the non-tourist, normal London existence its inhabitants experience. It’s such a great city and enchanting country.
But being in London meant that I knew I had to visit Paris. I just had to. Paris is a mere train ride beneath the English Channel. A weekend trip would get it done. But the thought of it made me nervous and excited. I relished the chance to challenge myself in a new city that speaks a foreign language; and I worried about it. Still, I purchased a ticket and found a boutique hotel in the 17th arrondissement, and on a late August weekend, so went I. With each city sped past on the Eurostar, a familiar feeling returned to me, with just a tinge more of the paranoia I get traveling alone (money belt, constant worry about pick pockets, etc): I was filled with a sense of possibility of all that I would see and a sense of “hell yeah, I’m back!” because, as I like to say, you cannot keep a good woman down. You just cannot.
Arriving at the train station in Paris was a really memorable moment. I stood there thinking “Wow, Keri, you are really going to do this. Let’s do this!” My positive self-speak is a device generally called upon when I am totally freaked out about something. And traveling through a non-English speaking city sets the table for a freak out. Somehow, I managed to keep my panic to a manageable level, and off I went to find my hotel.
Through the course of the trip, I saw pretty much ever site a tourist is supposed to see while meandering in lots of back alleys and winding streets that most tourists did not traverse.
I walk pretty fast and purpose-like, so I was moving at a good clip. By Saturday night, I was ready to eat a big meal, drink a glass of wine and avail myself of a mind-blowing dessert. And I wanted to do that in the St. Germain area. I had read it was a happening place and had passed by it earlier in the day. But getting there would require me to take the subway and that gave me pause.
The Parisian subway system is much more like New York’s and not as dignified or safe-feeling as the London Tube or the Dublin D.A.R.T. It was just the feeling I had from having been on it several times that day. To take it at night, for some 15 minutes to get to my destination meant I’d have to take it back at night too. Or, I’d have to take a cab. Both prospects made me feel uneasy. Yet, I really wanted to see the Parisian nightlife in St. Germain.
I walked from my hotel to the poorly lit subway entry and began to walk down the stairs. And I stopped. The uneasy feeling was only increasing and I recognized it and respected it. I turned around and walked right back up those stairs, accepting that I wasn’t going anywhere but back to the area around my hotel.
And that, dear readers, was a huge deal. Countless times before while traveling I had walked places that gave me that uneasy feeling such as an Irish slum with roaming, feral dogs in Dublin, and a narrow, empty alleyway in the Arab quarter of Granada, Spain – and I had pushed through them and always been fine. The one time it didn’t turn out great, I almost got killed. And I had promised myself to always listen to that feeling from that point on.
I will always remember that staircase in the 17th arrondissement as well as the dinner I suffered later that night near a table of chain-smoking Parisians. And in a city that many say steals your heart and captures your imagination, I found my resolve to listen to my inner voice and finally respect it.