By Abi Hillrich
It was late afternoon in Paris, and I had just left the Louvre and its labyrinthic halls. The weather was clear and gentle in the city that day, a perfect 77 degrees, but there were so many people in the museum that it was too hot to think straight. It’s a pity all that gorgeous art had to attract so much attention; it made it so much harder to enjoy. We were all separated—me, my cousin, my grandparents—when I went to find a map and the rest entered an exhibit that turned out to be a three-floor wing of the museum, through sculptures and floor-to-ceiling portraits and crowded elevators and humid salty air of too many bodies close together in the middle of summer. The Mona Lisa was the star of the show, surrounded by bodies crushed together to get a clear view for their iPhones; I was only in the room for a minute or two before I was driven to leave by the chaos. I still don’t understand the need to see it up close. DaVinci’s masterpiece was so much smaller than I expected it to be.
Eventually, I lost service and my phone nearly died, so I left the museum and was able to meet up with my cousin, right outside the exit. We walked to Café Kitsune, where everyone miraculously spoke English. I got an iced latte with a scoop of strawberry sherbet and Gabriella got an iced mocha with crumbled dark chocolate mixed in. We took our drinks outside to the gorgeous patio across from a park. When my grandparents arrived, we sat a while with our coffee and sherbet, swapping experiences in the maze of a museum. We’d all gotten lost in different areas of the building, and my grandparents hadn’t even made it to the Mona Lisa. Gabriella and I assured them that it was probably grander and more beautiful in their imaginations.
Still overwhelmed from the museum and nearly finished with Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I asked them if I could stay and read while they walked around. Paris is indescribably beautiful, and it’s a comforting feeling knowing that the people around you are there to appreciate the beauty just like you. Visiting Paris is like being told a secret that everyone else knows. It’s enlightening.
The surroundings were classically European, like what you see in movies: an open courtyard surrounded by tree-lined sidewalks and flowers. Everything was wrapped into a feeling of grand contentedness, of completion, of beauty and grace and history that is rarely matched. It is this knowledge of the chaos of the Louvre and the peacefulness of the cafes that makes Paris what it is. This city has an air about it – poise that’s difficult to put into words.
Maybe you’ll never go to Paris, or sit outside Cafe Kitsune reading a new book, and maybe traveling isn’t your thing. This contentedness can be anything for you, though: watching a lightning storm from the roof of your car or taking a nap with your cat after a long day or any other multitude of moments you won’t ever allow yourself to forget. Beauty isn’t hard to find in this grand world that we’re a part of. Taking time to recognize this beauty and allow it to influence your life can be more difficult, but it is endlessly worth it.