I woke to the sound of rain against the balcony of my apartment and thought that the day would be spent inside at the Louvre. I'd been lucky up until this point, the only rain I'd encountered was my travel day from London to Paris. Blue, sunny skies had forced spring to bloom and each day on my walk to the Metro, the leaves and flowers poked their heads from beneath their buds. I thought my luck had run out, but by noon, after I finished my laundry and a bit of work, the skies cleared and sunshine sparkled off the rain drops on the plants making the world look fairy-like.
I put on a spring dress and a sweater and went to the Luxemburg gardens, which turned out to be my favorite place in Paris. The Luxemburg Palace seemed more like a country estate in the middle of a city than a palace. I sat by the fountain watching the children feed the ducks and parents play with toddlers. Locals lounged in chairs, their arms bared to the sun soaking in the warm light. In the last few days I've barely stopped, sometimes being on my feet for over seven hours. Here I relaxed, eating bread and cheese. When I finally rose to walk around the gardens I spent an hour smelling the flowers, watching men and women play bocci in the square, and for the first time I felt a part of Parisian life instead of a tourist.
The sky was still blue as I left the gardens and made my way to St. Supuis and St. Germain, two churches within the Latin District. I have to say, though lovely, I've had my fill of being inside beautiful, old churches after being in Italy last year and then seeing five churches these past few weeks. As I left St. Germain, I saw the dark clouds moving towards me. Since I'd left my umbrella at home I figured I would shop until the rain hit and then wherever I was I would take cover. I roamed through the artisan market next to St. Germain, made my way through bright-colored shops of fancy clothing, costume jewelry, and perfume forcing myself to behave as I found the ultimate shopping in Paris - the Latin Quarter. Here, I could afford the prices and the items were unique and to my liking, but still there was the issue of room in the suitcase.
As I turned down a small side street, the sound of thunder shook the buildings and I ran for the nearest cover - an ice cream shop. I love gelato. I ate it twice per day while in Italy, and I never thought a gelato could rival that of Michelangelo's Piazza's gelatori in Florence - but Amorino in Paris is actually better. As the rain came down in sheets, I sat outside under the umbrellas eating double chocolate and cherry cream. I took in my surroundings: the patter of the rain, the cobblestone streets, the floral shop, the Paris architecture, the brassiere and patisseries while I savored my dessert and thought, wow, here I am - this couldn't be any better.
The rain stopped and I walked around the Latin Quarter peeking in shops until I found the temptation that broke me. A store called Parfums had unique, feminine clothing all hand-sewn and designed by the woman who owned the shop. I tried on a dress that didn't look quite right. The woman shook her head and brought me three different outfits that all fit my body perfectly. "Tres Jolie," she said with each spin I took in the mirror. I added the amounts, did the conversion and realized I could afford the splurge, but could my suitcase? NO, but I couldn't leave the skirt and dress behind. I'm in Paris, shopping has to be part of my experience, so I bought them.
I left with my fancy shopping bag and made my way to the Seine. As I crossed the pedestrian bridge and looked towards Notre Dame, a rainbow appeared. I mean come on, how more perfect could the day get? I smelled the fresh air, I watched the people, I strolled to Notre Dame and took pictures as the sun set. I made my way to the Isle de la Cite and spent another hour perusing quaint, bright shops, trying to speak french to the shopkeepers who thought I was local.
As night fell, I walked from the low-lit Hotel de Ville, along the Seine to the Louvre. I sat inside the Palace looking at the candlelit facade as I listened to a man play the cello. And in that moment I felt that life was perfect.