I'm living an hour train ride from Paris--close enough to pop in when I can, far enough to feel like I'm traveling.
When I first moved here, I chose a destination for each visit, and walked until I couldn't anymore. Because of the amazing pass éducation given to all teachers, I could get in free to all museums. Happily, this was where I began.
The first place I chose was the Louvre, not necessarily because I knew much about it, but more so because I knew this was a place people went in Paris. I lucked into making a friend named Astrid, an Italian living as an au pair and studying art history. She led me from room to room, brightening with each painting she recognized, giving loads of context from the French Revolution and various wars. I wouldn't necessarily say that I loved the Louvre (I was mostly overwhelmed and woefully ignorant of the romantic/classical periods), but I loved the day. I loved listening to Astrid, letting her lead me around. We sat outside together after, the Eiffel Tower in view, and ate our packed lunches in silence.
My second visit to Paris, I met up with Astrid again, though this time at the Musée de l'Orangerie. I had even checked out a library book on this one, so I was much more informed as to what I was walking into. We spent our morning with Monet's "Nymphéas" (an honest to god sanctuary) and Guillaume's impressionist collection, then took an overpriced café by the Champs Elysées and ate packed lunches in a park until Astrid had to leave for class. I ventured on to the Eiffel Tower, which I had previously only seen from a distance. I felt so small standing under it, basking in that special feeling of anonymity that comes with traveling.
I spent another day at the Picasso museum, and discovered Le Marais, a young neighborhood filled with shops and restaurants and beautiful twenty-somethings. Another day visiting the Sacre Cœur Basilica and Montmartre. I met Astrid again one morning for breakfast. I wandered through the Musée D'Orsay and ate lunch along the Seine. I saw a band called Lomelda play at L'Olympic Café, then couchsurfed for the evening.
With each little visit, I understood something new. I walked everywhere, only opting for the metro if it would be more than an hour to walk. I learned how to walk toward the Seine from Gare du Nord. I allowed myself the security of choosing destinations, and the liberty of coming and going as I pleased. I held loosely to any and all plans so as to make room for discovery.