Let's Confuse Each Other In German: How I Turned 30 in Paris


Photo by Phillip Trey

I knew how I wanted to turn 30 long before the time arrived. What started as an inclination to do something big, a feeling, and a desire to celebrate and have a better thirtieth than my mother, eventually became a full fledged plan. From the time my mother turned 30 herself, I’d heard the story of how she was gifted a driveway lined with black candles and a package of adult diapers from her friends. I desired...adventure over somewhat cruel gag gifts. And oddly, to be alone. To prove I could fly around the world by myself and still be happy going solo.

I’ve only ever traveled with or for someone, and the idea presented itself as a challenge to myself. The way some people may want to run a marathon or climb a mountain, I wanted this. When I was in high school, I was the type of person so consumed with self-doubt and anxiety that I could hardly go to a fast food drive-thru alone, needing to practice my order in my head over and over before trying not to stutter it out, or maybe just ask a stranger for directions, without feeling bad about myself. So, to look back and think at 30 how far I’ve come from that unnecessary fear, traveling to a foreign country felt right.

Photo by Phillip Trey

I, not unlike many others, have an idealistic view of Paris. The culture, architecture, food, people set my mind spinning with possibilities. So when I started to wade around and decide how to celebrate a milestone birthday, an image of Paris and art and music took shape. I could clearly see myself at the symphony in Paris sipping champagne and getting lost in the moment. Feeling the music and letting it comfort me over getting older. Also, the whole thing seemed kinda fancy and unique.

This fantasy took over and I slowly started telling others what I was planning, without actually planning anything. Then, about two months before my birthday, I committed, cashed in my skymiles and began to plan for real. I started with the day of my birthday, and fanned out with my itinerary. Serendipitously, the Philharmonie de Paris was performing on my birthday, a Monday even. For a mere 25 euros, I bought a very nice seat to a performance titled “Lab.Oratorium.” The website read, “In his last work, Philippe Manoury explores the diversity and multiplicity of sound in the age of the modern concert hall.” Beyond that, I didn’t care. I was set on going and didn’t need to know anything more about the actual event.

Photo by Phillip Trey

My Airbnb was an adorable 6th floor walk up in the 11th arrondissement and helped me feel like I was truly in Paris, not just in a hotel, and the creperies and boulangeries everywhere certainly helped too. When the day of my birthday arrived, I wandered Paris close to the Marais district. I befriended an Australian ex-pat at a café, shopped for Parisian fashions, and felt grateful for my impending evening at the Cité de la Musique concert hall. I couldn’t stop smiling. From daydream to reality, I was here.

The venue itself is very impressive. As I approached the silver and abstractly geometric building, with sharp angles jutting out in different directions, both alien and futuristic, I couldn’t help but wonder about the melding or possible disconnection of acoustics and aesthetics the building served. Inside had a similar effect. The seats and balconies almost seeming like waves ebbing and flowing around a theater-in-the-round style stage. I sipped champagne and snacked on dark chocolate and chips before taking my seat.

Quickly, I learned I should’ve researched the show more. My experience in the past with the symphony is the classics