Paris. Part Two.
When I first arrived in Paris with a friend in 2005, as a young and wide-eyed twenty year old, I was enchanted. I was enchanted by the towering edifices of modern man that heralded elegance and majesty on both sides of the Seine river. I marveled at the tiny streets with quaint cafes. I relished the Nutella crepe I ate and felt wholly Parisian getting a baguette at a boulangerie (I mean, of course I did. I was twenty. Baguettes were one of my only reference points to a particularly French way of life). I felt expansive walking from the Louvre to the Musee d'Orsay to Montmartre to the Arc de Triomphe (and points in-between). I remember the hiccups of course: the tired legs, the not speaking French, the lotion accident (spilled a bunch trying it on) in a fancy department store that brought an exasperated clerk into our midst.
But the feeling I have had the most when recalling Paris has been, simply, awe.
I still don't think there is any place quite like Paris, but I'm no longer enchanted.
Perhaps it's the military and police presence in more places than you'd think. Or the sirens that go off more times a day than I can count. Maybe it's the smell of urine wafting up in the places you would expect and the places you wouldn't. Or the tourists who, despite recent reports that tourism in Paris is down this summer, are swarming in droves in all of the usual places.
Perhaps it's also just where I'm at in my life. I'm no longer twenty. I'm no longer wide-eyed at the world in the same way. I'm wide-eyed about what I find myself interested in and curious about. How my internal environment is shaping my external environment. (I'm pretty sure this is called introspection.) I could care less about monuments and statues (although some are pretty to look at). But you'll never find me climbing the Eiffel Tower (which, coincidentally was evacuated at one point during my stay).
But Paris provided me with exactly what I had set out for. Time to write. Places to write. Long walks around the city. Baguettes (of course). And a deep appreciation for greeting. That is to say, when passing a stranger, when entering a store, one always says "Bonjour." It was a reminder of being seen, of seeing others, of acknowledging the presence of people.
It was easy for me to fall in love with Paris at 20. It was a whirlwind romance.
And while I didn't have that experience now at 31, I came to regard Paris as wholly unique. A place of introspection, of a polite if distant people, and a city that has seen growth and pain, has experienced turmoil many times over but continues to recover and discover. It is a place that embraces all of the senses. It is completely itself. It never tries to be like any other city, like any other people. And this I can admire. This I can appreciate and tip my proverbial hat to.
Merci, Paris. You are original. And for that, I am inspired.