On Thursday morning, I awoke to an unexpected surprise: a fresh coat of snow in Paris! Although these two inches are laughable in comparison to the levels on a fresh powder day, my excitement was as if we had received two feet.
The sun still does not rise in Paris until 8:03 a.m., so the canal across from our apartment was illuminated by the yellow light of streetlamps. The water was a dark midnight blue. The roofs of the houseboats shimmered with their new layer of snow.
An overnight snow created another phenomenon that is very rare on the bustling boulevard outside our apartment: silence.
I laced up my shoes, zipped up my puffy coat and slipped out for a run. Although it was technically only 24 degrees Fahrenheit, the humidity and wind chill meant that it felt like 12 degrees.
With black ice everywhere, my trek across the Seine to the left bank was more of a walk than a run. Not surprisingly, beat up Nikes with worn down soles do not offer the best traction, but I left my trail running shoes in Colorado.
When I arrived at the Jardin des Plantes, the gates were still locked. Most Paris parks close from sunset to sunrise, but I had timed my arrival for 8 a.m., and they were still not open. After a slow lap around the perimeter where I almost got run over by a child on a scooter and a motorcycle driving on the sidewalk, I returned to two guards standing outside the gates.
“Five minutes,” one told me.
Like a little kid waiting to be allowed downstairs to open presents on Christmas morning, I paced outside the gates with two other snow enthusiasts until the guards finally unlocked the gates.
Although running through the snow is not as exhilarating as snagging first tracks after a rope drop, there was something magical about running through a pristine layer of snow in a place that is usually so heavily trafficked.
There were only about five of us in the park when I first entered — everyone taking photos. Snow decorated the branches of the bare, black tree trunks and dusted the green stone statues of old French intellectuals.
By the time I left, there were children running along the paths on their way to school: throwing snowballs and giggling.
Wednesday was the second time this year that it has snowed and stuck in Paris this year. In a year that has been stressful, exhausting, and seemingly never ending, the snow offers a brief break from the grind of the quotidien.
We still can’t go outside between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., and cafés, bars, and restaurants have been closed (except for takeout) since October, but a fresh coat of snow makes everything else seem manageable.
Especially because snow is so rare in Paris, the pure joy and wonder expressed by Parisians is a wonderful sight to witness. And I am not just talking about children, but adults who stop every 10 feet to take a photo or to throw a snowball, laughing and jumping.
And not only did it snow, but the morning transformed into a clear bluebird day — and the first sunny day in Paris since early January. Over the course of the day, I went for three walks. Alas, I left my Sorels in Colorado, and my boots have a hole (yes mom, I promise I will finally get them re-soled soon). But it didn’t matter that my feet were damp. I was so happy to feel the sun (at least on the top of my face not obscured by a mask).
Thursday morning, I walked to work, and there was still snow in the parks and along the banks of the canal. We had another blue sky day — the brilliant blue I normally only associate with mountainous climates and pure air. Maybe there really is less pollution because fewer people are driving (no one has snow tires after all), or maybe it has been so long since I’ve seen the sun that my relative scale of gradients of blue is skewed. Either way, clear, frigid days are certainly better than cloudy, freezing rain and 85 percent humidity.
I know the snow won’t last, but the fleetingness here makes it all the more special. Plus, I am going cross country skiing this weekend, so my tolerance for city living is probably higher than normal. But I am certainly ready for a brief escape.
Snow will always be my preferred climate, and during a time when it is complicated to return to Colorado, icy temperatures and frozen flakes help ease my homesickness. So on that note, I think I will go out and throw a snowball before it all melts away.