This was not a good week, which is feat, because I spent the latter part of it in Paris, which tends to make a week excellent by default. If I’m honest, this week sucked, mainly because of the election. Like, 90% of the awfulness was the election result, though the fact that I have still been ill all week and I had big deadline at work didn’t help either. Even Paris couldn’t really cheer me up, which I feel guilty even saying. There is widespread strike action happening in Paris at the moment, which meant that our original Eurostar train home was cancelled on Friday. We were given the option of a full refund, which I considered for a while, wondering if it would be better to spend the weekend at my parent’s house in Oxford, decorating our Christmas tree and hanging out with the dog. We are staying in Jake’s family’s friend’s apartment for free, which is the luckiest thing ever and the only reason we planned a Christmas trip to Paris at all, but did mean that, with a full train refund, we could cancel our trip to the cost of zero pounds. I did consider it.
In the end, we opted to come home about twelve hours earlier, getting back into London on Monday morning rather than the evening. It’s not Paris’ fault. How could it be? Paris is wonderful, and has been, even though I’ve been in a post-election funk all weekend. I ate macarons, we visited the Musée D’Orsay, which is my favourite museum in Paris, and I spoke French at every possible opportunity. That has been, without a doubt, the highlight of the whole trip; my French is surprisingly competent and I have enjoyed conversing with shopkeepers and bus drivers and crêpe makers to no end. But all of that goodness, not to mention the general protection and privilege of a life where you get to pop to Paris for a festive weekend, couldn’t stop me having a mini meltdown in the Place de la Concorde as the sun went down yesterday, feeling so sad about what happened in the UK this week and feeling strongly that we should be back at home, spending time with our friends and family. It felt so wrong that we were making dinner plans while looking out over the Eiffel Tower, having just come from a country where we have re-voted into power a government that has presided over the creation of thousands of food banks due to austerity. I felt the weight of my own good fortune heavily then and felt desperately sad for the state of the UK and all the people in it who will continue to suffer, both those who voted for this and those that didn’t.
I may well write more about this later this week, because it is right at the intersection of travel and politics. Who gets to travel, and when, and where? The weirdness of having run off to continental Europe the day after all but confirming a disastrous Brexit. The sinking feeling in my chest as we got free entry to almost every amazing attraction in Paris, because we are under twenty-six and members of the European Union. The ensuing guilt for feeling like that is the tragedy of Brexit, when, truthfully, the ability to travel, live and work across Europe has always been something available to only the most privileged of Brits, and that the impact on food, medicines and the economy will be much more devastating and important. Just plain feeling like I wanted to go home, however beautiful Paris was in the winter daylight, and then feeling ungrateful for that.
Sunday was a lot better. We visited my aforementioned favourite museum, scooted (literally, the metro was closed due to the strike) to Montmartre, climbed the Basilica du Sacre-Cœur at sunset, took the bus to the Eiffel Tower to see the tower lit up at night and have a crêpe and some mulled wine, and then had a very delicious, very French final dinner. It was really good. I feel very lucky. But I am still excited to head home tomorrow, more excited than I’ve been all year to head back to London from abroad. I suppose that means it really is home at this point.
Paris is very photogenic city. Which photo is your favourite?