Eight Days in Paris

A Travel Diary by Noa M.

la Seine IIFrom the first day of grade nine, each student has heard of the Paris Trip. To them, it seems a distant and almost allegorical event. It is spoken of so often with such nostalgia and wistfulness that they consider it to be a state that they will never achieve. Indeed, as a ninth grader, I too believed that I might never experience such a trip. The classes felt too difficult, the weeks and months too long. As a ninth grader, grade eleven felt almost as far away and imaginary as the trip itself. That year was one of the years in which the grade eleven and twelve French classes travelled across the world together for a week of Parisian splendour. I remember seeing the poster for the trip for the first time and envisaging what it would be like when it was my turn. I’d hazard a guess that we all did.

When the time came and the classes departed, my own was left in the dreary Torontonian April, with the grey snow still melting away, revealing the cigarette stubs and poop bags which had been left behind, their owners in  righteous delusions that the winter would never end and their laziness would be forgotten forevermore. Yes indeed, we, like the cigarette stubs and the poop bags, had been left behind.

Two years have passed since then. We have not been left behind again. This year we were the chosen ones who made it across the Atlantic. The journey was not an easy one. We popped pills like tic tacs, attempting, in vain, to catch a couple hours of sleep before the real journey began. There were neck pains to be massaged, technical difficulties to wait through, farts to be endured. At long last, ocean having been crossed, we made it to land. Once we finally escaped confinement, we stepped outside, blinking stupidly in the bright, warm sun. The sensation was alien to us, we who were survivors of that famous Canadian winter.

As we adjusted to the 30 degree change in temperature, the Paris Trip commenced. Whatever we had imagined, it was nothing compared to what the next week held in store. Like the 12 days of Christmas, so were the 8 days of Paris. In the daytime we flânéd through cobblestone streets , weaving in and out of bookstores and pâtisseries, visiting museums, churches, and palaces alike. We saw art we’d only ever seen in books, and looked at bedrooms where kings had slept.  We made habits of losing at least half the group by means of diffusion every time we stepped into any area which felt too large for us, and managed to block off almost every street we entered, making what is henceforth known as an Abélard. We ate sandwiches in the dazzlingly bright and sparkling gardens almost daily, sitting on park benches, mouths stuffed with baguette as we looked out upon the buildings and the people and discussed our shock at all the green. We attended operas and plays and listened to big jazz bands play while the whole city seemed to gravitate towards them. We often stumbled upon scenes so Parisian that they exceeded even our most touristic expectations. In the evenings we went to restaurants and skipped, with arms all linked, in typical Abélard fashion.

When we returned, we were unsure of what the future held for us. French classes had always revolved around the approach of the Paris Trip. It behind us now, we considered the possibility that French classes might cease to exist. After all, with no event to work towards, how could Ms. Rossinski press us on in our work? There was no longer the possibility of saying ‘What will happen if you forget this in Paris?’ It was something to which none of us had given much thought before the fact, but it became a looming dilemma. For any fearful new ninth graders who might read this  – I find it has become my duty to tell you that your fear is groundless and that Ms. Rossinski will always find a way to keep you busy. You, in your turn, shall become the cigarette stubs and poop bags, and more rancid objects if the winter has been especially long. This I promise you, and assure you as I have been assured, that, unlike putrid planes, French can never be escaped.

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