Dreams are made of Paris, opp shop bargains and, in this case, the memoir of a young Hemingway… I was twenty two years old and getting dressed for the day. I walked up to my parents’ room where they had a full length mirror. A quick outfit check before going out was my intention, but the result of this took me by surprise. I was wearing a blue and white polka spot dress with a soft red cardigan wrapped around. On my feet were my latest opp shop find, a pair of gold Bally flats I’d found in a Queensland Vinnies while on holiday with my sister. My eyes grew big as I realised: “Oh this outfit feels French. Parisian.” I stayed by the mirror because the intrigue was building inside of me, hatching an idea which I felt very natural. “I look very French,” I thought again, and my heart skipped a beat. Suddenly I was reminded of another treasure I had discovered lately: a book by Hemingway called ‘A Moveable Feast.’
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
Would a holiday count too? That afternoon I was at the travel agents, investigating my options. Before I left, I had booked a three-week holiday to Europe and my travel insurance. I was to leave five months later, in February. Telling my parents and family about my whim decision was easy. Having their trepidation was easy, for them, I’m sure. I studied at university, worked my part time jobs and soon enough February came. Summer turned to winter as I flew to Paris, still grasping the reality of what I had done. Back then, I wasn’t the best flyer and was grateful for the Emirates hosts who took pity on the nervous girl flying by herself, regularly dropping off tiny waters, fresh fruit and chocolates to me. I arrived in Paris full of excitement. Overpriced airport coffee in a tiny cup and overpriced airport mineral water: yes, please! Catching the train to my suburb and getting lightly lost, I soon located my hostel I walked up three flights of stairs, on faded red carpet to my room. I still remember the words “Welcome to the Hotel California” playing on the stereo. I found my room and claimed the top bunk. It was window facing and, from the comfort of my bed, I looked down in wonder at the street below. There was a bustling bakery next door and I watched the door open and close, noting that as a nearby food stop.
It was 7pm and I was strangely not hungry, just tired from the long flights from Melbourne to Paris. I soon fell asleep and didn’t move from that top bunk until twelve hours later. When I woke up, all the other bunks in the four-dorm room were full of people waking up. A big breakfast of croissants with jam and butter, watered down orange juice and hot chocolate gave me stamina for the day. In my eyes, this was the best hostel in the world for providing such a generous breakfast. In wonder, I discovered there to be no limit to the amount of croissants a guest could have! I joined a group of other travellers who were setting out on a day of sight seeing. Once I was outside, face kissed by the cold Winter morning in a foreign city and the “Rue de la” street signs around me, I felt the same feeling which led me to book this trip came back to me. It sounds funny but I always had a desire to “see Paris before I died.” Maybe I got this from a movie, maybe a travel brochure or maybe it was an excuse to see this dreamy city was soon as I could. Whatever got me to Paris, I’m so grateful that it did. Going there by myself at this age, and travelling around Europe at a young age was an experience which enriched my life and gave me such inspiration to draw from. I’m so glad I did it.