It started the moment I boarded the plane back to Singapore from Charles de Gaulle. A mixed feeling of helplessness and sadness overcame me. The two-week adventure in a fantastical city that I had only previously heard about, has come to a regretful end.
Was it the people and new friends that I have made that was reining my heart my back?
Was it the nostalgic beauty of the buildings and architecture that didn’t let me go?
Or could it simply be the fact that Paris was just too enthralling for a mortal man to leave it without a tinge of indescribable loss?
C’mon Andy! You’re gonna be back…h…o….(and I just couldn’t say that last word in my head)
I needed Paris again and the sight of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris in a movie list on my in-flight entertainment screen was indeed more than comforting. It was a captivating beginning with summer sights of Tour Eiffel, Champs Elysees and the white grandeur of the Basilique du Sacre Coeur. The golden era of Paris was almost magical in the film. The likes of the slightly bizarre Dali, a young Picasso and a half-drunk Hemingway just made me love Paris even more. (Ah crap…did I just use the ‘L’ word? Nevermind….) Man…I wished I was the one being transported into the Belle Epoque (Beautiful Era) and not that big-nosed Owen Wilson.
Kristin Scott Thomas of The English Patient fame worked as an au pair in Paris at age 19. But a few months in Paris convinced her that France or possibly Paris was the place to be for her. She studied French, attended a prestigious drama school and met her now-ex husband. All in this city.
John Grisham, the best-selling legal novelist, admitted in a recent interview that his regular travel destination is Paris because his wife just couldn’t get enough of it.
And CF’s mum, a Chinese Singaporean, loved Paris and almost all things French so much that she now spends half her time in Paris every year for the past 30 years. A French Permanent Residency made French pleasures all the more accessible for her.
I guess I’m not alone.
A Singaporean friend had left for New York while I did the same for Paris. Both of us were on an almost solo vacation to rediscover ourselves. Interestingly, a few days before she was due back to Singapore, a WhatsApp message came blinking on my iPhone – “I’m missing home already…”
Funny. Why didn’t I feel the same?
After 14 hours of emotional agony, the island of Singapore beckoned the plane in. What should have happened were thoughts of fried kway teow and roti prata, but unfortunately, all I could think about were wine and cheese. Merde! This has never happened before. They say travel is a business that sells on escapism. I couldn’t agree more. The short-lived fantasy of being able to transport oneself to a different location to run away from the harshness of reality is indeed a sweet illusion.
But is Paris merely a temporal escape for me or an alternate reality?
The answer to my own question slowly unfolded within a day as the Singlish came trickling back and the cravings for a hot cup of Milo were unstoppable. Oh well….perhaps I really am too comfortable in my Singaporean skin after all.
Reality, it seems, is ironically both bitter and pleasing at the same time. Reality is how I am now rounding up this post with a sip of white wine and a bite of Brie cheese in my Singaporean bedroom. Parfait. Absolutely parfait….