Paris, after dark

13 February 2015

I had been living in Paris for 6 weeks. At that point I had stopped my classes at the EF Language School, as the staff and the entire program was not adequate for learning a new language. I had been working for a fashion stylist in Paris, and got to experience the wonder that is Paris Fashion Week. When I first moved to Paris, I had about 10 friends who lived there. Luckily I had been able to make even more friends over the past few weeks. I no longer felt like an outsider, trying to make it in the city. I felt like a local.

Friday, after one very exhausting week of work, including travelling to all ends of the city and dealing with bitchy models and fashion designers, I was in dire need of a drink. It was a chilly evening, but not too frigid out. I sent out a group message on Whatsapp, seeing who was free to meet for a night out. I received a response from a few friends and we made a date.

My friends David, Jean-Claude, Olivier and I went out for dinner and drinks in the Marais. Paris’ 4th arrondissement is a beautiful neighborhood with fun and eclectic shops and restaurants. (It should be said here that my absolute favorite restaurant in Paris is Le Grand Colbert, but it’s not located in the Marais). The Marais also houses the largest number of gay bars in a concentrated area. So the four of us made our way from a delicious dinner at Les Pinces, and migrated to the first of 7 bars for the night. At each one we would switch on who was buying the drinks…after a while we started to forget whose turn it was and we all laughed at our intoxication and memory loss.

At each bar we all seemed to run in to someone we knew and our party grew from 4 to 15 at one point. But the guys and I all agreed we wanted to cover as much ground as we could, so after about 30 minutes per bar, we made our way to the next. It was a good thing that we all ate before we took on such a task, but no amount of food could hold off the inevitable inebriation forever. At 2AM, the four of us walked out of the last bar and wandered towards the Seine, just a couple of blocks away, past the Hotel de Ville.

Staring out into the dark, gently flowing river we all reflected on the good times we had this evening. Laughing at how Olivier thought he was Brittany Spears when he started to lip sync and dance to Toxic at FreeDJ. Or how David thought the muscular guy trying to get past him to the bathroom at Les Souffleurs was trying to hit on him. We didn’t want the evening to end. It was Olivier who suggested that we walk along the Seine towards the Louvre. I wasn’t sure if he wanted to go because of how beautiful and magnificent the Louvre is at night, or because the garden hedge maze out front of the Louvre was a popular gay cruising spot…either way, it sounded like a great idea.

As we strolled along, chatting, singing random bits of songs, laughing at each other and ourselves. The small tour boats passed by us ever so often, lit up, but with usually no visible tourist onboard. None of us knew how late the tours actually ran, the three of them could have checked on their phones if they weren’t so clumsy. I still hadn’t gotten a French SIM card for my phone, so I could only use it when connected to wifi.

We had arrived outside of the Louvre at the Pont du Carrousel. The entrance was intimidating in the dark. The shadows from the lack of light engulfed much of the architecture, and your brain could start to realize the history this palace and the city held. We entered into the courtyard and admired the buildings, the pyramids, the arc and the hedge mazes. There was about 15-20 guys all walking around the hedges, cruising. The 4 of us looked at each other and continued to walk towards the gates of the Jardin de Tuileries. From this beautiful spot we could easily see the Arc de Triomphe, the Grand Palais and the Eiffel Tower. These 3 guys were all born and raised in Paris, and although they have been to many of the “tourist” spots in the city, they each wanted to show me something I might never have experienced. I told them all, “let’s do it!” This evening was already so much fun, I was not ready to go home, and neither were they.

The evening progressed and the four of us felt like adventurers out to discover every exciting detail of Paris. We made our way to most of the monuments, which most usually only see in the day light, we got to discover the romance of these locations in the chill of the night. The part that I enjoyed most was walking to all of these magnificent places with my good friends. We stopped by a 24 hour café to grab a hot chocolate, but realizing that much sugar might be too much for us this late we decided on coffee for the guys and tea for me(I’m not a coffee drinker). The four of us, walking down the empty streets, surrounded by Haussmann style architecture, we felt as if we owned the city. We had not seen another person since we left the Eiffel Tower, and the four of us carried on talking, joking, enjoying the quiet around us.

It was nearing 6AM, and it was still pitch black outside. We finally made our way back towards The Marais, crossing Ile de la cite and taking a few photos of Notre Dame. As we made our final steps across the Pont d’Arcole towards the Hotel de Ville, we stopped on the middle of the bridge and reflected one last time in the waters. As we stood in silence a soft, light and fluffy snow fall had begun. We each looked at one another and knew that our friendships had been elevated to a much more meaningful phase. Our adventure was coming to an end for the evening. We all hugged and kissed our goodbyes to each other, not needing to say too much.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket (As I said, it was basically a watch for me without wifi) and looked at the time. 6:24AM, and then something strange struck me, it was Saturday February 14th…Valentines day. Not really a holiday I ever celebrate, but this evening I had fallen in love with my three friends and with the city.

Although the metro was running once again, I decided to walk back to my apartment. What could be more romantic than walking down the dark streets of Paris, in the early hours of the morning, while it snows and your heart is full of love? Paris, je t’aime!

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