I’ve become accustomed to waking up to church bells. Growing up in Southern California, the river of traffic lulled me to sleep at night, through the roar of motorcycles racing up and down Crenshaw Boulevard and the rare, desperate screams of ambulances. During college, I lived at the Shaffer House, a cozy Victorian home turned into a funky apartment building. Smack in the middle of a triangle of churches, the bells rang in surround sound.
Here in Paris, I’ve lived at the foot of Sacre Coeur, and steps away from Eglise St Germain des Pres. The peal of bells has become as normal as the traffic once was. But on Sundays, they reverberate through me. I attribute this to that Sunday morning feeling, the light from the window playing on my face, incessant, until I’m irrevocably awake. Still, I lay in bed a little longer and listen to the bells. Rather than becoming part of the Parisian soundtrack, they take up space, cutting through the stillness of my little room. This single minded awareness of sound reminds me of Professor McGrane, who’d always begin his classes by ringing a gong as a call to mindfulness. I always rolled my eyes, but honestly? It worked.
Sundays in Paris are syncopation. The shops are shut. The offices are closed. While the entire city doesn’t shut down, inevitably, the places you regularly visit will be shuttered. Despite the fact that Sundays in Paris can be barren, bleak days for running errands, I do my best thinking on Sunday mornings.
Lazing in my bed far longer than I should, nursing a mug of ginger green tea, Sundays become the time to journal. I start by recopying passages from the novel I’m reading into a notebook, doodling at the corners, until my reserve shatters, and I am pouring myself into its pages. Paris may not have the rapid pulse of New York, or the impatient stop-and-start rhythm personified by the constant traffic of Los Angeles, but it still renders a need to carve out quiet moments.
In his second novel, The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides describes Paris well:
“The window gave onto a view of dove-gray roofs and balconies, each containing the same cracked flowerpot and sleeping feline. It was as if the entire city of Paris had agreed to abide by a single understated taste. Each neighbor was doing his or her own to keep up with standards, which was difficult because the French ideal wasn’t clearly delineated like the neatness and greenness of American lawns, but more of a picturesque disrepair. It took courage to let things fall apart to beautifully.”
After growing up on a steady diet of Old Hollywood films, part of Paris’ magic is its unchanging skyline–the zinc rooftops and terra cotta chimneys–and on a lazy Sunday, there’s nothing better to do than dreamily stare out the window and take it all in.