… but then I turn in the other direction and there’s the Seine. And there’s Paris. Postcard Paris! Paris from French Kiss and from Midnight in Paris and from Charade and every other Paris film I’ve ever seen. I gape at the Seine, which is rippling in the breeze and glimmering in the early-evening sun. Down the expanse of it, I can see a series of arched bridges, draped like expensive bracelets over an elegant wrist. Willem points out Notre Dame Cathedral, just towering there, in the middle of an island in the middle of a river, like it’s nothing. Like it’s any other day, and it’s not the freaking Notre Dame! We pass by another building, a wedding-cake confection that looks like it might house royalty. But, no, it’s just City hall.
It’s funny how on the tour, we often saw sights like this as we whizzed by on a bus. Ms. Foley would stand at the front of the coach, microphone in hand, and tell us facts about this cathedral or that opera house. Sometimes, we’d stop and go in, but with one or two days per city, most of the time, we drove on by.
I’m driving by them now too. But somehow, it feels different. Like, being here, outside, on the back of this bike, with the wind in my hair and the sounds singing in my ears and the centuries-old cobblestones rattling beneath my butt, I’m not missing anything. On the contrary, I’m inhaling it, consuming it, becoming it.
I’m not sure how to account for the change, for all the changes today. Is it Paris? Is it Lulu? Or is it Willem? It is his nearness that makes the city so intoxicating or the city that makes his nearness so irresistible? (pp. 88-89, Just One Day, by Gayle Forman)