From the first moment I looked upon Paris, I was in love. Paris was everything I thought it would be: beautiful, sophisticated, ancient, orderly, and relaxed. All the clichés were true. As I stared at the Arc de Triomphe and then down the boulevard of the Champs-Élysées, fashionably dressed people in their fitted pants, beautiful dresses, and black jackets moved around me, a tourist too dumbstruck to move.
I was in love.
Subsequent visits only deepened my love for the city. When I returned last month to lead a tour through Europe, I added extra days for the City of Light. I couldn’t bear to not have time alone with Paris.
Paris has been written about countless times and will continue to be. But that won’t stop my fawning. To me, Paris is the best of society —smart, classy, sophisticated, and soulful. Its seemingly endless history mixes with modern life. It takes the best of each and creates something even better.
Paris reveals herself through solitary walks through her history, from the Place de la Concorde where Marie Antoinette, King Louis XVI, and countless others lost their heads, to the Tuileries Garden built to accompany its namesake palace that burned down in 1871. There is the Louvre, a centuries-old royal residence turned art museum; the ancient Sainte-Chapelle, home to stained glass windows dating to the 13th century; Notre-Dame, whose presence looms over the city’s historic center; the Jardin de Luxembourg; Montmartre; and the Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter, with its patchwork of winding streets that used to be home to working-class Parisians and artists, always seems to reveal something new.
And, when my mind loses itself in history, my senses pull me back into the present. Sharply dressed Parisians I see make me reconsider my drab backpacker uniform of a t-shirt and jeans, and think, “I can do better.” The smells from the patisseries turn me, a hater of desserts, into a lover of them. How can one deny such exquisitely glazed and decorated tarts? These visual treats are a delicious work of art. All the fromage shops, bakeries, and markets where one can fill up for only a few euros make expensive Paris a foodie’s budget dream. A trip to Paris is nonstop eating, with rich food washed down by smooth red wine. In Paris, gluttony is not excess but a way of life.
Although I love my home in NYC, the city’s hustle and bustle and dog-eat-dog mentality often clashes with the go-with-the-flow attitude I’ve learned from traveling.
Paris is the opposite of New York. Here people stop to appreciate the little things in life — lunches that linger over wine, two-month vacations, picnics in the park, shops closing at an early hour, and daily market outings. In Paris, life is a play and each act is dedicated to what matters most: food, wine, friends, love, and conversation. Here one lives life rather than racing through it.
I idealize Paris. I know this. My romantic notion of the city, born of books and movies, is only reinforced by each visit. And like all long-distance love affairs, we idealize the good and gloss over the bad. Daily life in Paris may not be as romantic as I believe, but we all need some romance in our lives, and I am happy with my affair.
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