So this week, I wanted to introduce something kind of new to the blog. Normally, my posts have consisted of places I’ve visited recently, so far just over this past summer. But something kind of hit me while I zoned out the other day, staring at my mom’s “souvenir closet” in the corner of the living room. Inside, my parents have filled an old glass-paneled wooden cabinet with various trinkets, big and small, from the places we’ve gone as a family, and things I’ve brought back from all my trips.
The first one I decided to include in this little throwback is this kitschy little plastic Eiffel Tower keychain that *DISCLAIMER* I did not actually buy. I’ve never been one to buy a ton of crap when I go away. This is mostly because I usually have no room in my suitcase, but I also always prioritize things like food, nightlife, and excursions over bringing physical things home.
(Take only photos, leave only footprints, amirite???)
That being said, I do try and come home with one little thing (especially if it’s for my parents or sister) that will remind me of everywhere I’ve been. One thing I love about holding something tangible like that in your hand, is that it will always take you back to where you got it, who you were with, and what your adventure was like, creating its own unique snapshot of that experience that will never leave you.
This origins of this little Eiffel Tower began, coincidentally, at the end of my time living in Paris. For five weeks, from the end of September to early November I ate more stinky cheese and croissants than I thought humanly possible, saw more art than I’d ever seen in my first 20 years combined, and nearly ran out of money.
I got to see so much of this incredible city and still only barely scratched the surface. Because we were part of a study abroad program, we had 1-2 excursions weekly with teachers and other program directors to places around Paris. I was so bummed that I had to miss the last one to Père Lachaise Cemetery (although I can’t for the life of me remember why), so I decided, just two days before we were to leave Paris, I’d set off and explore the star of the 20th Arrondissement on my own.
So, like, I don’t have to tell you that walking through a graveyard by yourself is creepy.
Halfway through, I think I even put my headphones in because I was really spooked. Besides that, it was really awesome, and definitely a much different activity than just following a Google map to the monuments around Paris. I was holding a paper map written in French, trying to follow the winding paths to find some of the famous tombs - among them were Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Gertrude Stein, Modigliani, Chopin, Jim Morrison and lots of others. I could only find Jim. :(
While I wasn’t successful in finding like anybody, the tombs I walked through where nonetheless, haunting and gorgeous. Some were overgrown, cracked and warped by tree roots and weather over the years. It was in such direct juxtaposition with the spotless and elegant aesthetic of the rest of Paris. I think it was a grit that I really started to miss having been there for so long.
Somewhere along the way, before I actually made it to see Jim Morrison’s resting place, I found this little gold Eiffel Tower on the ground, presumably abandoned or lost by its previous owner. Besides a couple of Monet prints I picked up at Musée de l'Orangerie, I realized I hadn’t gotten my usual little trinket to bring home with me, so I figured it was meant to be.
I get a really interesting feeling when looking back on that day, because it was the definition of bittersweet. I had loved my time in Paris, but was more than ready to move onto our last stop in the program, which was Rome. I was upset that I didn’t get to explore some of the most popular places in Paris, like Montmartre or Marais, and that lots of my days were eaten up by afternoon classes and tons of work (that semester was a doozy). I was upset that, unlike Seville beforehand, I never settled in or got to feel at home in Paris. I imagine I felt the discouragement lots of transplants feel when they first move to New York.
My little Eiffel Tower is unique in that it doesn’t fill me with these enchanting “Midnight In Paris” kind of rosy-colored memories. That part of my study abroad was past the honeymoon stage, and I can look back on it as the times where I learned how not to travel, how not to spend my money, and how not to budget my time. I learned that some people aren’t meant to travel together, and that’s okay. I’ll forever be grateful for these lessons and will never ever take them for granted.
I absolutely fell in love with Paris while I was there, despite feeling like an outsider. Since then, I think I’ve gotten used to this feeling, embraced it even. It’s a necessary mindset I think everyone should (even HAS to) go through if they truly want to travel the world, uninhibited. Until then, I’ll just keep adding to my list all of the things I’ll do next time I’m lucky enough to visit the city of lights.
I hope you guys enjoyed my first “souvenir story” post! Please let me know if you liked it - I have a cabinet full of stuff that I’d love to keep writing about. If this was helpful and you liked my little feature, feel free to share it or pin it below!