Photograph: wondering in the streets of Paris with my mom for her 60th birthday. Photographer: Martin Herrera Soler.
Did Martin really do this?
The tale of a trip to Paris…
September 17th was my mom’s 60th birthday. After two years on the planning and many hours of French classes, she managed to spend a month in Paris to celebrate this special and certainly unique event.
Clara and I returned late on Monday after traveling for over two weeks in Boston and New York (more on this trip later). I had taken my passport and had pondered on the idea of crossing the Atlantic to visit my mother, but it all seemed way too complicated. Clara did not have her documents in order to travel (since she was waiting for her residency card), and after all I had not planned such an event… and if you’ve known me, I do not do things that are not planned.
Well, it turns out that on Tuesday morning when we open the mail, Clara’s residence alien card was there… and waiting to be used. Late on the afternoon I talked to my father, who told me he had made-up his mind and was going to go to Paris to spend my mom’s birthday with her. I guess that was all I needed to get me going… It seemed that everything was lining up.
At 10.00pm on this same Tuesday, we found a ‘last minute deal’ that made it happen! Los Angeles – Paris with 4 nights – in a hotel for 900. [By the way, this is quite and upgrade to our usual hostal dorm]. The ticket by it self through American Airlines was more than 2500. So just in case you were wondering, these last minute deals do exist and work… I always thought it only happened to other people. Now I know it happens to those that do not work… 😉
Wednesday at 10.00am we were on the airport ready to depart to Paris. The trip was not uneventful, and just as a sample of the journey, we arrived seven hours late and lost 2 connections on the way… but you know what? I guess the lack of planning made it all feel great anyway. Anyone who has talked to us lately can testify that those seven hours of delay turned us into the most informed Katrina people in the world. We have read every single magazine that was in the newsstand in each airport we cruised by.
By 5.00pm on Thursday, and without my luggage (I mean what can you expect?), we were in 58 Rue Bonaparte, (cinquieme a gauche) 75006 Paris, France. A kind lady (yes, I was also surprised to find one in the train in Paris) showed us in the map where my mom’s house was located. Little did we know that in order to get to the intercom to call any apartment, we needed to get through a solid and beautiful metal door and a combination of letters and numbers in the security box.
But confirming that when things are meant to be, some sort of magic (other call it alignment and flow) takes place, another gentle parisien opened the first door for us. We were now confronted with the challenge of finding out which one was the apartment and getting to it without having to reveal to my mother the unexpected surprise. After some trial and error, and well rehearsed French speech, someone rang the bell and let us in. It had not been my mother, so we still needed to figure out in which apartment she was in.
I had a hunch that the apartment was on the third floor. It just happens it was not. But the guy that opened the door, behind his best French accent let loose a subtle yet distinguishable southern (to not say porteño) accent. Confronted with our best effort and little vocabulary he spoke to us in Spanish. Another proof of the flow theory, he knew exactly where my mom was staying since they had crossed each other the day before in the diminutive elevator the constructor managed to squeeze in the ventilation area of the escalators (I swear only three people could fit as long as they were one after the other like forming a train).
That’s how we made it to the fifth floor left apartment… Dam! Then we realized what this ‘cinquieme a gauche’ really meant. After listening through the door and clearly distinguishing her voice, Clara and I debated briefly on the best strategy to get her to open the door without sacrificing our identities. We were not ready after SO much, to let go the surprise factor. That’s how I cleverly decided to pretend I was a bread delivery guy. She came to the door but insisted she had not ordered any bread. So confronted with an almost surreal conversation in French between a still unaware mother and his son, I said in my most natural tone and style, ‘la puta madre… abrí la puerta que hace más de una hora que te estamos buscando’ [that’s kind of like ‘fuck, open the door that we’ve been looking for you for more than an hour]. Still, she could not place the voice with the place. When she finally halved open the door, this is what we saw…
Check Picture Below
(due to technical limitations it cannot be included in here)
[Paris, Sep. 15th at about 7.00p GMT+1]
… Just this made it all worth it. It took her until next day to really get it. It’s funny, as Clara said, sometimes we move faster that our heads can really handle. It took us well over a day to really get it ourselves. We were in Paris. Perhaps between the silky dark hot chocolate, the crepes and the overwhelming amount of cheese and bread, we got it.
The moments that followed are even harder to describe. I am SO happy I went! Rarely have I in the past had the altitude to see beyond the practical and make this kind of decision that will last in my memory for a life time… the decisions that ultimately speak of who I am and my true nature.
I am so grateful to Clara, who needless to say sparks this kind of flowing life force in everything that she gets in contact with, and that includes me. I am grateful to my father who simply by the way of he lives and the decisions he makes, keeps giving profound reference points of who I want to be. Ultimately I am grateful to myself for seeing beyond the obvious, for allowing myself the gift, or perhaps I should say the blessing, to spend this very special time with my mom, my dad and Clara.
Perhaps it was the company, but Paris and its famously tourist unfriendly inhabitants were as nice as it gets. The four days we spent in Paris were simply graceful, fun, relaxed and in a very special way, simply magical.
Martin Herrera Soler | Photographer | www.MartinHSPhoto.com