This may come as a surprise to a lot of you reading this, but I’m not a francophile.
Francophone, yes. Francophile, not really. Okay, yes, I really like Paris, and I like to speak French, and of course I have a soft spot for French pastry and the Eiffel Tower and baguettes. But to tell the truth, I mostly wound up in Paris because I speak French. I look at my friends who have fallen in love with Paris, or who have decided to put down roots here, and I can’t see myself feeling that way or going the same path.
But then I discover something like the Parc Buttes-Chaumont in the 19ème arrondissement, and I can’t imagine being anywhere but Paris. I stumbled upon the park yesterday, actually, when I got off the train at Botzaris to sing for a lovely woman who organizes a small chamber music ensemble (I also experienced some severe apartment envy there–just adorable!). The park was right across the street from her apartment, and after I sang, I decided to walk through it to go to the Office Depot on Rue de Belleville. It transpired that that was not the right way to get to Rue de Belleville, so I turned myself around and walked back through the park, but a different way, and that was when I saw this:
It’s a CRAG. Holy cow. With…a gazebo on top?
I didn’t stay long yesterday, but I was determined to explore the park today after my coaching in Belleville. I definitely had a couple of Beauty and the Beast “What IS this place?!” moments. It’s impossible to tell what part of this park existed first, what inspired park-creators to build a park around it in the first place.
As I was walking around the lake, I was certain that I heard moving water, a lot of moving water. I followed what seemed to be a cohesive group of elderly visitors and discovered a cave. With a waterfall.
And I almost cried. I’m not necessarily somebody who waxes poetic about natural beauty, but how often do you stumble upon a rushing waterfall in the middle of a city like Paris? There’s something about Paris being as well-known as it is–it almost doesn’t feel special to come across the famous stuff. I mean, yes, it’s very cool to be walking down the street and see the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame looming over you all of a sudden, but at the same time, is there a person in the world who doesn’t know what that looks like, from movies or postcards? Maybe everybody in the city but me knew that there was a waterfall in Parc Buttes-Chaumont too. But it still made me feel like an insider, like a real resident of Paris, to come across something that was tourist-free, that would probably never make it on to a postcard, but which was nevertheless pretty miraculous to behold.
A little later I found out how big the waterfall was–
–and took some other nifty pictures–
–and then I headed up to the top of the crag to see what I could see from the gazebo thing. Which is a lot.
I’ll bet on a clear day, you could see…well, forever.
But here’s the best part of the whole day. While I was walking around the park, I kept running into a small group of American students who were clearly doing the same thing as I was. And then we all climbed up the stairs and wound up in the gazebo at the top of the crag at the same time. I decided to reach out and ask them how long they had been here. “Two months,” they said. “Me too,” I said. They asked me where I was from and I said Chicago; they said, “No way, us too! Where?” And I said, “Well, I went to Northwestern…” And they said, “WE GO TO NORTHWESTERN.” It was like the time when Grandpa met a guy who went to Lowell Tech on the Eiffel Tower, the first time I came to Paris. It was so cool. It was almost better than this:
Looks like a doughnut, yes?
Think again. It’s a fried ring of heaven that oozes honey. (Don’t worry–I only ate half. Even MY overdeveloped sweet tooth couldn’t handle it!)