When I was a little girl and a field-trip to go Whale Watching in Santa Cruz was scheduled for my 2nd grade class, I couldn’t wait. I’d studied whales, done a report, looked at their pictures and had heard the stories. Whales were huge. Spectacular. “Bigger than you can imagine.” I didn’t sleep the night before the trip and fantasized about their mass. I could visualize a whale blackening the sky, draining the ocean, overpowering our boat.
With the same kind of anticipation, I dreamed of Paris. As a little girl I glued rocks to the heels of my black patent-leather Mary Jane shoes in Pre-K so I could have my own high-heels, and yes, I wore them all day long, coming home with one rock attached to my right shoe. I used a beloved bathing suit as a jaunty hat after I had grown out of it for its original purpose. And I convincingly took bathroom toilet seat covers and fashioned a bib necklace stacked so high on my neck, I could’ve might be mistaken for a Maasai warrior. I’ll never forget my grand entrance down the staircase at the Spaghetti Factory in that ensemble. I was proud of my ingenuity.
Days before my departure to France, I got emails and calls from friends and family gushing over the stores they had seen, been to, experienced and knew I would love. Everyone knows how I feel about fashion and they all said, “Paris is where you belong,” and none could believe that this would be the first time I’d ever been. I took notes, made a list, planned my outfits. I couldn’t wait to see the Eiffel Tower, stroll down the Champs-Élysées or take a boat ride on the Seine. I bought padlocks for my kids to hang on the Pont des Arts bridge. And we all were excited to climb to the top of Notre Dame and stand in front of Mona Lisa at the Louvre.
But secretly what I was really giddy about, breathless with anticipation, was to walk into the very first Chanel store on Rue Cambon. And finally see Colette instead of just hearing about it. I was dying to spend time looking at every vintage item at Didier Ludot, and explore Merci—a store that was on everyone’s list. After my research, my list wasn’t long, but I couldn’t wait to see what I could only see in Paris.
To look knowledgeable, I packed some Paris with me. My Isabel Marant sneakers took me to the top of Notre Dame. My Balenciaga boots to the Ponts de Arts. Laraunce Decade had lunch with us at Jules Vern in the Eiffel Tower, and Zoraide accompanied me to dinner at Le Pré Catelan. Christian Louboutin made appearances in random bistros and brasseries here and there. And wherever I was, I had on La Perla.
Though grey and chilly, Paris was romantic and gorgeous and at my feet. But sadly, my feet never walked into anything on the list that was tucked safely inside my Lanvin “Happy” bag. After seeing all the culture and history of Paris for days, it was suddenly 6:00pm on Saturday and it was dark. Everything is closed on Sunday, and we were leaving Monday morning. How had I missed it?
Choking back tears, we did stumble upon Didier Ludot after getting lost, but feeling defeated, I walked right back out. It was over. I had seen Paris, but not the Paris everyone thought I should see. I was devastated.
I remember feeling the same way when spotting my first whale. “That’s it?” I thought. It can’t be. But it was. And then it was time to get back on the bus and go home.
I never had a desire to go whale watching again. But I can’t say the same for Paris. I’m keeping the list in my bag until every store on it is crossed off.