There is a photo of me at fifteen, sitting on the stairs of the Opera Garnier in Paris. I was there on a school trip. One of our teachers took the photo, a rare candid shot among dozens of posed photos snapped in front of landmarks. I sit next to two of my friends; one is blinking and the other is rolling their eyes. In all fairness, it is not a good photo and they would both probably prefer that I had simply torn it up. But it is the only good photo of me from that holiday, and the only one that shows exactly how I felt on that trip – I am smiling with my whole face.
That trip to Paris changed the trajectory of my life. I talk about it often, because it was a pivotal week for me. Suddenly, I knew exactly who I wanted to be: Parisian.
It hasn’t all worked out exactly the way my teenaged-self envisioned, of course. She thought we would live in Paris by now, for one thing, in a tiny apartment, with a small dog and a job as an interpreter. But the reality is nothing to complain about. I have had more time in Paris than any girl from Winnipeg could reasonably expect to. I have built the fabulous monochromatic wardrobe I dreamed of and an independent, globe-trotting life that I love. And all along, I have kept going back to the Opera Garnier, because that’s where it all began.
There is nothing special about the Opera Garnier for me, really, aside from that old photo. I have only been inside once. But I love it. My favourite run route in Paris loops around it. The front stairs are the best place to stop and eat pastries cheekily purchased at nearby Hugo et Victor. And the photos – oh, the photos. I can scarcely count the number of shots taken of me on these stairs over the years, and we just keep going back for more. Somehow, the elegantly carved statues and ornate wrought iron lampposts never lose their charm for me. It’s hard to get tired of them, but I think my appreciation stems, at least in part, from all of the history I have with them.
When I look at these photos, I am astounded by how far I’ve come. From the girl in the fleece jacket and sneakers to a jetlagged twenty-four-year-old in a bright red coat who had just returned to the city of her dreams to a (mostly) grown woman who has seen so much of the world but has an infinite amount of exploring left to do. When I look at these photos, I can see how far I still have to go and how much I still want to accomplish. And I know that the Opera Garnier will stand through it all, a monument, at least for me, to the incredible possibilities that life holds.
#celine #chanel #lechateau #aritzia #minimal