March 12, 2011

Pour l'amour de Paris! (For the Love of Paris!)

Even people with too many blessings to count can still have a fantasy list of things they'd like out of life. I am reading an article in a magazine reminiscing on my fantasy of going back to Paris. It's been a desire ever since my high school French class. I dreamed of traveling and speaking the beautiful language...oh the people, the French country side in the summer, the ART! As time passed, I attended college and received a degree in graphic deign but the day before graduation I realized photography was my passion. As I packed up and prepared for my grown up phase of life, my parents took me to Europe for my graduation present. By the time I hit the French Riviera after six weeks of seeing seven countries I was adonné des voyages! (addicted to traveling) As if the architecture wasn't beautiful, the beaches of Nice were just out of this world.
To date, I have traveled to thirteen countries...and counting. I still am discovering that I would love uproot my life and live on a sailboat, like the Dorian Iribarren did when he was just a baby with his family. I picked up that fantasy after reading a photo book he was given at his college graduation. An album of his life, his dad's hand written storied, notes and pictures from his summers living in the Bahamas, sailing across the Atlantic to the Azores. Journey's documented and races back to the Caribbean where they lived such a great life and live today.

Just after I moved to Florida to expend my business in 2007 I spent my 28th birthday here by the beach, my new home...if business was good! I was lucky, created a new venture but kind of alone. All my friends were back in St. Louis, Dorian was in New Orleans at Loyola and I kept thinking...Now what? What is next? What would my next personal feeling of success be? And I said out load, "I will feel like I have made it when I get flown to photograph in Paris!" Oh Paris, what a romantic city full of all that art I studied in college. And then, in November of 2010 at age 29, two months shy of my 30th, I said, "I'm going to Paris!" For new years we booked two tickets and a hotel in St. Germain by Notre Dame and that was it. I was going to celebrate a new year and my big birthday! We made no plans, just a small suitcase and warm fur jacket. I packed my journal I wrote in the fist time I was there in '03 and was excited for this new adventure, I was grown up. Once upon a time I was organized, a bit of a planner but having little time in my everyday life outside work, I have realized that the best things in life are not planned, or even though of, they just happen! Just like that.

I reach out to an old friend Vicki. She had moved from St. Louis to France and we made plans to reconnect. She was a graphic designer and had lots of new things happening in her life. Upon meeting she filled me in on her boyfriend Mika. "He's french!" she said....and lovely he was! She wanted to marry him, she described! They were headed back to the states to visit family just before new years. We decided to meet in Paris when they returned at their apartment. I was eager to see Vicki who I discovered is now a Parisians who exhales a romantic life!

It was December 28th, Dorian and I arrive in Paris from Miami for 8 days of no plans only to eat a lot, indulge, see Vicki & Mika and drink as much red wine as we desired. We loved Napa in Aug. so we figured we'd adore the bordeaux in France. We flew into an airport that resembled an architectures dream, Charles de Gaulle. As Dorian and I found our way to the train we debated on just grabbing a cab. There was a line of 200 french fellows in their winter wool in front of us waiting for the stairs to grab the tram to the train station. Armed guards with machine guns stood like profiling statues and we didn't understand a word of what anyone was saying - I loved it!!! In a city filled with 11 million people I was finally here, with no cell phone, no plans, I was away! We grabbed the train into the city and then the subway to St. Germain near Luxenberg gardens. Arriving at our stop we walked up 4 flight of stairs with the crowd of dashing Parisians. As we carried out light luggage we steeped up onto the street of Saint Michel with eyes wide open! We stood there as birds flew over our head, smelling the cafe aroma with loads of people piddling by as the horns honked along the Seine river and the view of Notre Dame at our backs.... I felt as if I was in my dreams. We literally spun around staring at the romanesque architecture on the face of the buildings and our senses were high. Part of us wanted to throw the map away and just wonder but we looked at each other, smiled and started translating french street signs in route to our hotel. Dorian smiled and said, I've been all over the world but have never seen anything like this!

After new years and miles of walking on foot throughout the city, we went to visit Vicki and Mika for the photo shoot. As we climbed 5 flights of stairs to their apartment where we were welcomed with cheese and wine! Of course! Like a heart opening to love, I heard Vicki's story of their trip back to the states over the holiday. Next I spotted the ring Mika propose with to her while they were back home!!! The same enthusiasm in Vicki's voice that I remembered from our past was exuding there at the dining room table. We finished the wine and headed out for pictures to capture their engagement. We took photos and laughed as I learned more about their life, love and relationship. They told me about how the take the train to go travel throughout Europe, they've been everywhere and their adventures will make you jealous. I found myself idolizing her stories, getting lost in the way they looked at each other even though my camera was staring at them! You know, you can tell a lot about a person from their laugh and how comfortable they get when they scoot closer together. As they sat on the stone wall that potentially was thousands of years old, I though to myself....I am taking pictures in Paris, I'm doing what I always wanted, my dream of "making it" has come true! I could have stayed there for months, watching people, learning how to order food, eating crepes, sitting on the steps of Montmartre. As we walked back we saw litter on the streets of the Veuve Clicquot champagne from the Eiffels New Years party we had attended.... I've never been so happy! People litter Veuve here!

As we finished up photos we shuffled into a coffee shop to warm up and escape the 25 degree temperature. We talked, Vicki made a reservation for the next night for us at her favorite dinner spot for fondue. As she spoke over the phone in french her words were like a song. She's so beautiful. I was in a dream so I felt, again, now in a coffee shop; a place that you have to literally move the table so you can fit into the booth. You sit on top of your neighbor cause there is little room, but it's cozy. You learn to get to know people and be close, I gave up owning my personal space and just felt free. As I talked to Mika he told me more about their life here, his job and his travels growing up in Europe. I began admiring him even more. He's one of those people you meet and feel instantly connected to, genuine and comfortable....perfect for Vicki. As much as I love to talk I could listen to these two all day long! Their journeys, experiences and taste for life is just never ending.

As I left them that evening we took the train back to St. Germain, little restaurants filled with Parisians kissing, drinking and what we call just living was glowing through the windows as we passed! All of Paris is expensive so at some point we have learned that its not about money - it's about taste, living your life outside of work and with your family is what really matters. Everything else is temporary. Here, they work so you can go out to eat, entertain and travel, living life with intent. I watched people live happily as I took photos around the city. I adored the natives who were sitting on a park bench a musician gains the love of the entire crowd in front of Sacre Coeur. I now realize, it's not about waiting for my opportunity, it's about creation it. I have a million blessings to count but I still have a fantasy list of things I want out of life. In writing the long, long, long blog I realized this; it was my dream to travel since I was little, as I grew older, I saw the world in a beautiful way, I was hungry for it. As I dedicated my life to wedding photography I was flown to beautiful islands, places of celebration and always wanted to work in Paris.... As I booked my flight to Paris this time, instead of planning a vacation, I lived the journey. Through that I reconnected with Vicki and met Mika, they got engaged and I took pictures in the city I have always wanted to seize. In retrospect, if I waited for someone to "hire" and fly me there for a wedding in Paris, I could still be waiting here for that client. But, now I am 30 and in celebrating my birthday, a new year and a fabulous relationship I have in my life I fed my passion for traveling and look what happened - I "made" it. If you just take the steps your feel are solid, the path becomes paved.

A special thanks to Vick and Mika, you deserve the best in life, love and I am so happy you are living your dreams. You live in one of the best cities in the world. I admire you two who don't take life's luxuries like elevators for granite and although you climb stairs to your 4th floor apt you get to see the eiffel tower everyday you walk outside your front door. Laissez les bons temps rouler. Cheers to love! Je vous aime deux.

Le Pont des Arts in Paris has been invaded by “love locks”. Lovers from all over the world bring a lock, symbolizing their love and together place the lock on the bridge over the Seine River and throw away the key.

Photo of Dorian & Me at the Louvre in Paris. It was about 21 degrees at night on our way back from Champs Elysee. We walked the entire city, from Montmartre/Sacre Coeur, the Eiffel Tower, to Arc de Triomphe, past Notre Dame where our hotel was located in St. Germain. One of the best adventures by far to date. Jan. 2, 2011