My experience with Paris has been somewhat similar to that of my experience with Lost In Translation.
When I first saw the film, I thought it was dreadfully boring and devoid of meaning. When I gave it another chance, I thought it was just ok. After the third time, now a bit older and wiser and with more perspective, I thought it was insightful, touching, funny and devastating and it became my favorite movie.
Some things I’ve come to love instantly, like cheese or cherries or the silly faces of french bulldogs. With other things, like Lost In Translation or Paris, true love did not come at first sight. Now don’t get me wrong, Paris is an amazing city, and just like Lost In Translation, it’s now one of my personal favorites. It just took some time for this love to blossom.
One, Two, Three
I first visited Paris in 1997 when I was just a little kid. I don’t remember much from the trip, other than the seemingly endless steps leading up to Sacre Coeur and the perfume my mother wore and some stickers and French comic books she bought me. Not exactly the overwhelming experience it could’ve been.
My second visit to the city of lights came in 2005, and by this time I was a rowdy teenager with a friend in tow. We were still traveling with my family so we weren’t entirely free to roam the city, but I have some fond memories of that trip, mostly because of the good company. However, I distinctly remember thinking the city itself was somewhat dirty, grey and disorienting. Definitely not in my Top 3.
My third visit was in the hot summer of 2011. Now a grown-up (of sorts), I was traveling with a friend, rather spontaneously, and was completely blown away by this amazingly beautiful, enchanting, magical city. Since that day Paris has been one of my favorite cities. Definitely in my Top 3.
Paris is so much more than its famous sights. I think that might be part of the reason why I didn’t find a deep connection to it at first – when you’re just running from one famous sight to another, you sort of feel like you’re just running in someone else’s shoes, living someone else’s vacation. When you’ve gotten the must-see things out of the way, you’re finally free to find your own must-see things, live your own vacation, and experience the true Paris. Your own Paris.
My Paris is the smell of fresh baguettes wafting out of boulangeries, it’s delicate pastries and street musicians, narrow cobblestone alleys and small cafés, it’s high art and street art, it’s red wine picnics by the Seine and sunsets in the parks. My Paris is the Jardin des Tuileries on a sunny afternoon, Montmartre just before nightfall, the magnificent rooftops of the city and the bistros on Rue du Château d’Eau.
My Paris is ever changing.
Paris is filled with fantastic art and architecture in many forms
Paris is also a paradise for foodies
Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe are some of the best known spots in the city
…but this is closer to my Paris