A sense of belonging in Paris

Travel writer and columnist Darrel Bristow-Bovey travels because life is short and the world is very large and very beautiful. This year alone he has visited 16 different countries but his very best trip will always be the one to Paris when spring was late.

My best trip overseas wasn’t my first one, which was to Egypt when I was already nearly 30 years old. Although that did open me up and fill me with light and space. It was my first time out of the country and the sun fell on my skin with physical weight and I can still hear the breeze snapping the white sails of the feluccas and smell the white jasmine at the entrance to the Temple of Isis at Philae and hear the call of the muezzin rolling through the streets of Aswan. I know that Egypt belongs to many people, but when I left, it also belonged to me.

That was the trip that made me believe in travelling, but it wasn’t the best trip ever. The best trip was to Paris in April in a year when spring came late and the wind was icy and the trees in the Luxembourg Gardens were still bare and dark and smudged like charcoal sketches and I didn’t have enough warm clothes. And everything was wrong. There was a transport strike and the rand dropped and half my luggage went missing. There was no table available at Polidor the first three times we tried there. A storm had ruined the flowers in the garden at Giverny, and cycling back to the railway station, the chain came off my rented bicycle and I didn’t know how to fix it so I had to ask for help and watch as a square-jawed American said, ‘There’s nothing to it,’ and rolled up his sleeves and impressed his girlfriend at my expense.

A sense of belonging in Paris

I took Keren to Sacre Coeur and, while attempting to return to our apartment, ended up in some place we have never been, footsore and weary. We were supposed to meet old friends from Dublin for lunch at the Closerie de Lilas but I got the day wrong and we missed them. Everything, but everything was wrong, but it was the best trip ever because we were married the week before and she had never been to Paris and we walked hand in hand on shining streets under yellow streetlights, and I know Paris belongs to many people, but when we left, it also belonged to us.

Read Darrel Bristow-Bovey ‘s immersive experience in Madrid.