Paris: A Love Letter
On this day last year, I was in Paris celebrating the fortieth birthday of my dear friend, Nicole. It was a rare opportunity to share a week abroad with a group of amazing women, sans families, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. A year later, I find myself nostalgic and a little bit antsy to return to La Ville-Lumière.
My first trip to Paris actually took place in 2010, about a month after I moved to Seattle, and also involved Nicole. I was so swept up in the cross-country move, I remember feeling a little bit unprepared for my Paris-Warsaw trip. I hadn't read or researched nearly as much as I would normally before traveling, but Nicole was planning her own trip to Paris at the same time, so she offered up her flat and I relied on her for tourist tips.
I was definitely excited to visit Paris, but I didn't expect to love it the way I do. I knew I would love London, but even though I studied French in high school, played lots of French music in my studies over the years, and have read a great many French and Paris-dwelling authors, I just didn't feel super connected to the city before visiting. But by the end of our first evening in Paris, I knew it was special to me. Four days in Paris, three days in Warsaw, and then two more days in Paris, and I still can't believe how much I packed in: Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Musée du Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, Musée de l'Orangerie, La Sainte-chapelle, Notre-Dame de Paris, La Conciergerie, Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre, Catacombes de Paris, Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Moulin Rouge...that's a lot. All of it thrilled me. Everything we did, everywhere we went, I was in love from start to finish. Okay, maybe I don't love the system for obtaining Metro tickets, but otherwise, I love it all.
As an American, the message we receive is that Paris is dirty and the French are jerks. I found the first part to be somewhat true - Paris definitely is dirtier than New York or London - but not so much the second part. The French are not jerks. They're lovely. They'd just prefer it if people could throw them a bone when it comes to upholding their customs. Translation: don't travel to France expecting an American experience. The French would like you to at least say hello to them in their language before they do us the favor of switching to ours, since they all speak at least French and English. Doesn't seem like too much to ask, does it? They'd also like you to say hello when you come into a shop, and to be patient when they don't wait on you hand and foot at a café because in France, you're allowed to take your time and sit as long as you want. If you think that's being a jerk, then I guess I'm a jerk too, because I love it all.
I also love the architecture, the lights, the bridges and river boats, the cathedrals with unbeatable views and endless narrow, twisty staircases to reach said views. Oh, and gargoyles! So many gargoyles! I love that smoking is still the thing, and to hell with the health risks. I love that people make out, like to second base, on park benches and trains. I love that the men wear scarves for style and not warmth and dress like they have somewhere to be, even if that somewhere is just in a green chair by a fountain reading the paper. I love the slow pace, the cacophony of church bells, sirens and horns, the tiny dogs on leashes, the mentality that no one should belong to a gym because everyone walks and bikes everywhere, and also, LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MINDLESS EXERCISE, get a tennis racquet! I love the chocolate and the bread and the pastries stacked artfully in alluring windows, the wine, the cobblestones, the twisty streets, the parks and statues, the cheese shops so pungent you almost can't stand in them for more than a few minutes. I LOVE PARIS. I love it in the rain, I love it in the spring with flowers. I love it.
If I think about living in another country, I always come back to Paris. I loved the charm and quirk of Amsterdam, London is the most familiar, and Stockholm is like Europe's Seattle. Any of those would be amazing places to throw down for an apartment with my limitless fictional budget. But I always end up in Paris in my mind. It's like an itch you just can't scratch. It's why Nicole has already been to Paris so many times her trips can't be counted on one hand. It gets in your system and you can't shake it.
When we were visiting last spring, Nicole met and attended a painting class with an American couple who had relocated to Paris. They invited our whole gaggle of girls to their apartment to help celebrate Nic's birthday, and for me, that basically sealed the deal. Their building greatly resembled the ones in the picture you see here, and their apartment was a corner unit on the sixth and uppermost floor with a terrace and a fireplace and beautiful moulding, full of antique furniture and brightly colored walls covered in paintings they'd made, overstuffed window seats and amazing champagne. I thought to myself, "This is where I want to be."
So. Whenever I have that amazing salary and the ability to buy an apartment anywhere in the wide world, look for me in Paris, hopefully with a view. Which shouldn't be hard, considering that every single place you look in Paris will reveal something worth seeing. Till then, I'm thinking about maybe brushing up on my French so I'm even more ready the next time I visit - and there will be many next times.