Evening in the Tuileries

May 16, 2009
By Jason Young BRONZE, Los Altos Hills, California
Jason Young BRONZE, Los Altos Hills, California
4 articles 2 photos 0 comments

My feet carried me as fast as they could go. The wind stung my cheeks and I could hardly blink without shivering; each and every painful breath was like swallowing a thousand frozen needles. Even with the sweater, scarf, two shirts, jacket, thick pants and stylish new beret, I felt as if I were marching through a blizzard in only my underwear. “Across the Pont du Carrousel and a left on the Quai François Mitterand,” I thought to myself, “couldn’t the taxi driver just drop me off at the front of my hotel?” I had just set foot in the Tuileries Gardens when the first bells of the Nôtre Dame struck ten.
Without the light from the street lamps, the gardens in front of me became a mass of black shrubbery. The moon cast a sickly glow on the gravel path, and the eerie, elongated shadows of dark trees stirred ominously in the faintest breeze. The restaurants buildings on the grounds, bustling with waiters and guests during the day, had decayed into skeletal frames; the stacked chairs like piles of bones. Not a single sound hung in the air; not a single sign proved that life existed in the bleak desolation of the place. Nonetheless, a million false eyes stalked me from the trees in my terrified mind. “My God,” I thought, “this is one miserable night”. After a few minutes of searching aimlessly though the park for my street, the Hôtel Westin unveiled itself from behind a cluster of chestnut trees. I gave a sigh of relief and broke into a trot.

Coming out of the darkness, I stepped onto the main path that spanned the length of the gardens. I nearly tripped over a young couple sitting on the grass and in doing so, almost slammed into an old man. I uttered a few clumsy apologies in French and, ignoring the nearby street saxophonist (who looked at me imploringly for a few Euros), I made my way hurriedly along. “These crazy Parisians,” I muttered, “What is everyone doing at this late hour in this kind of weather?”
I was just about to descend the remaining marble steps to the street when a flash caught the corner of my eye. Suddenly a burst of light cast a silver glow upon the dark clouds above. I looked up and traced the source of the light. There, across the banks of the Seine and above the Haussmann buildings, the Eiffel Tower. Soaring above the rooftops, the tower dazzled like a thousand blazing diamonds against the darkness above, resplendent in all its majesty. The million lights glittered and shone, bathing the city in radiance.
At first I was speechless. The breath leeched out of me and my body froze in awe (and from the cold). This, this clunky, rusted, stereotypically-French tourist trap was the Eiffel Tour? The iron beast by day had taken on such a stunning appearance at night that I could not keep from staring. Only then did I notice that the entire city had cast off its daytime mask and taken on a new life. Suddenly, the Paris of crowded boulevards and multitudes of tourist transformed into a city of harmony and peaceful solitude. The people of the city- the young couple, lost in a world all to themselves; the old man exuding absolute calm and composure; and the musician playing his heart out for the world to hear- all coexisted with such harmony and lived with such joie de vivre. The ominous path behind me glowed from the warm rays of a generous moon, and the hustle of the day mellowed to permit serenity to lay a blanket of peace over the garden. Sweet zephyrs rather than harsh gusts floated in from across the rooftops, and the Parisian air softened to a mellow freshness. Strangely, even the previous squeals and cries of the tortured saxophone now sung out more melodious than Apollo’s lyre.
I stood motionless for quite some time, the beauty of the city wafting over me. A few passersby started giving me looks, but I did not care. My senses no longer perceived the world around me- I had lost myself in the magic of it all: immersed in my personal discovery of Paris. My eyelids fell and a faint smile crept across my face. This is home.

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