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A Simple Beauty


By Katerina PetrouPublished 27 days ago 5 min read

Lately, I have found myself longing to revisit the 24-hour trip to Paris that I experienced earlier this year. Celebrating a significant birthday, my twenty-first, I was vastly grateful to experience it in such an extravagant way. But, it wasn’t extravagant at all - that is what made it such an intimate memory.

Arriving at my local tube station before the neighbours had woken from their slumber, my mother and I made our way to St Pancras International Station to meet my uncle. Preparing our palettes for those of the Parisians, we grabbed food for the Euro Tunnel from PAUL - my favourite place to eat in London. Despite it being 7AM, it seemed appropriate to purchase a cake. It was my birthday after all! My personal favourite order is Fraiser, (the green one).

The journey was rather smooth, though, not as scenic as I had hoped. If you are travelling this route, do not feel too bad about having your eyes glued to a novel or a film.

Entering this journey, I warned my mother and uncle that I may not be the chirpiest travelling partner. My birthday is a difficult day for me to endure, and with this magnitude of a celebration, it is only harder. I told her, 'All I want to do is sit at a Parisian café and eat good food.' Also, I adore the rain. 'I hope it rains,' I said.

We arrived at the hotel and freshened up after two hours on the train and another hour spent inside a taxi where our driver rolled down the windows and blasted Stevie Wonder for me. (He got a generous tip.) The hotel we stayed at provided a view of the gorgeous River Seine, streaming towards the famous Eiffel Tower in the distance.

Unashamedly browsing souvenir stores along the way, we stumbled upon a traditional Parisian café. If I go to a country, I want to eat the food of the locals. Travelling to a tourist-heavy area can make this difficult. However, the café we found was discreet in its location, yet prominent in its charm. With the Eiffel Tower standing boldly in our view, I ate a traditionally French beef bourguignon with fresh crusty bread. My mother got drunk in the afternoon and we laughed silly. Taking a few pastries with us to go, the waiter was as stereotypically French as they get. Assisting me with my coat, he whispered 'Beautiful' as he walked away. There isn’t a thing wrong with a little birthday ego boost.

After sitting along the river eating macarons and lemon tarts, we headed to the high street. Shopping is not something I find necessarily a pleasurable experience. However, visiting Sephora seemed like a necessity given its nostalgic background. On my thirteenth birthday, I felt pure joy searching for the Sephora store and buying makeup from brands that were foreign to me.

Next on the menu of the day were crêpes. Dining outside with soft blankets wrapped around our shoulders, the food was overpriced and underwhelming. It did not help that the waiter scolded my uncle for referring to crêpes as pancakes. I believe something as humble as a crêpe should be accompanied by simple flavours. Chocolate and strawberries. Lemon and sugar. Honestly, I cannot remember the exact toppings paired with the dessert - emphasising its lack of significance. There was a sauce, ice cream and some nuts, I believe. It was too busy and, frankly, pretentious. A crêpe should never cost €16.

Once my uncle had departed from my mother and me to return to London, we walked back to the hotel and took a breather. Travelling is exciting, but it can become overwhelming when you are not used to it. Attempting to view an entire city in twenty-four hours is a challenge that risks damaging the enjoyment of the experience. So, we rested our sore feet and touched up our makeup. With a book in each of our hands, we walked downstairs to the bar to order our favourite drinks. Comfortably sitting with a glass of Baileys in my right hand and a book in my left, I revelled in the view of Paris turning on her lights as the sun began to set.

At this point, my mother and I were exhausted. We were not interested in going up the Eiffel Tower, as I believe things are appreciated most when looked at from a distance. Instead, we walked to the nearest restaurant and reclined. The cuisine was not traditionally French, although the atmosphere certainly compensated for this. Buzzing and reactive. It had all the chaos of Paris confined into a warm-lit bistro. The waiters were on trend and the food was pleasurable. Usually, I do not allow myself to order a greasy burger and chips meal when I eat out. Although, given the number of calories I had already packed in throughout the day, I was not going to restrict myself at 9PM. It proves that food is only one part of a restaurant. The atmosphere, company and service all play a role in the summary of the happening.

To conclude a wonderfully fulfilling birthday, we left the restaurant, taking our full bellies with us, to stand beside the Eiffel Tower. 'I hope it sparkles,' I confessed to my mother. After taking some pictures and admiring the view, we walked back to our hotel to call it a night. Just as we reached the hotel, a young woman grabbed her boyfriend’s shoulder and exclaimed, 'Look, it’s twinkling!' And there she was. Sparkling like everlasting falling snow, she shone.

The following morning was not expected to own any significance as we were leaving at 3PM to get a taxi to the train station. There was just one thing missing from the perfect trip. Rain. And, my goodness, did it rain. Sitting in a red and beige gingham decorated café, outside, but underneath a loose shelter, my mother and I enjoyed espressos with freshly whipped cream. My crêpe was, as a crêpe should be, humble. With only Nutella spread and a dusting of icing sugar, I gleamed in the sweetness of the morning. Suddenly, almost out of nowhere, the sky poured down a waterfall. Umbrellas were losing structure, locals were running down the street. It was pure havoc - and I watched it unfold while sipping a coffee. The rain had stopped and I found myself engulfed in contentment. So much so that I did not notice the storm return. And, so, havoc was unleashed once more.

Once our plates were mopped up and our cups were empty, Mother Nature terminated her meltdown and brought the sun out. During Parisian spring, there was a warm glow in the faces, but a subtle breeze cascading through. Less than two hours were available to soak up as much of the city as possible. To finalise the perfect adventure, my mother and I spontaneously jumped on a sightseeing boat ride. Sitting comfortably, drinking our takeaway coffees from the simple shack nearby, we watched Paris glisten in the sunlight. Lined with gold and embedded with culture, a man commentated descriptions of our location throughout the journey - only pausing to wish me a happy birthday, encouraging the other passengers to clap. My mum really is the best.

At last, we grabbed our luggage from the hotel, said goodbye to the Eiffel Tower and sat in Gare du Nord train station eating, yet another, PAUL. I learnt from this trip that there is beauty in simplicity. And, that the least anticipated journeys, tend to be the best.

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About the Creator

Katerina Petrou

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    Katerina PetrouWritten by Katerina Petrou

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