I’ve just returned from Paris, and I will never be the same.
That is the long and short of it. If you stopped reading right here, you’d understand the general sentiment of this blog post. I spent a week in a city I hadn’t seen in 27 long years, and in that week I found my heart and promptly lost it again.
The last time I was in Paris, I was 11 years old. It was my second trip to Europe, thanks to my generous grandparents, who splurged so the whole family could go on vacation together. I don’t remember much about the trip, beyond the sandwiches on the trains and how much I enjoyed Orangina.
Experiencing this beautiful city at the age of 38 was like seeing it for the very first time. It was cold and overcast much of the time, which I think added a bit of mystique to an already fascinating place. I didn’t have a plan for sight-seeing, just a list of “must do’s” and a little bit of money in my pocket. (Truth be told, I relied heavily on my credit cards for certain things, like Uber and Lyft when I didn’t want to take the Metro.)
I found Paris, as a friend predicted I would, much changed. There were no painters perched along the bridges on the Seine, and I don’t know if that’s because they don’t go out in the Winter months, or because they don’t go out at all any more. All of the gift shops in the heavy traffic areas carry the same merchandise. There is a heavy Muslim presence there, which I found surprising, and I worry that the French way of life is being diluted.
Still, the good far outweighed the bad. While I had heard that there were dangerous areas and “no-go zones” as well as Yellow Vest (Gillets Jaunes) protests going on, I didn’t see any of it. I, along with my husband, brother, and sister-in-law, traipsed around at leisure and fortunately saw everything I wanted to in the week I was there.
Paris as a city has a pulse. There are a LOT of people there, and it’s a lot like New York in that it’s always moving, always breathing. People walk everywhere here, and they walk quickly. I had to really hoof it to keep up. It’s no wonder they’re all thin, even with all the bread consumption. They ride bikes and take the metro, and they all seemed like they had somewhere important to be.
The people are also – in my opinion – very beautiful. (And not rude at all! So friendly.) The women wear minimal makeup and they look put together. The men were dressed in long coats and scarfs, and were so handsome. I am convinced I saw an actual supermodel once or twice on the street. Gorgeous gods and goddesses floating down the sidewalk faster than I could power walk.
What else? The food! Oh, the food! Incroyable! Magnifique! We ate at a different place for every meal, which was super fun and felt like real soul expansion. I tried dishes that I hadn’t heard of and had chocolate mousse for lunch at least twice. I used my very best French to converse with Parisians, and they indulged me as I giggled out the words.
I so enjoyed the adventure of it all. Figuring out the metro and getting lost in neighborhoods, only to find the cutest little cafes and bakeries (patisseries), and share laughs with the locals. I hesitate to share too much here for fear of giving away the magic.
Paris is a city that has had my heart for a long time, and it recaptured my heart and spirit this week. How is it possible that such a short trip could be so transformative? I think I know – Total immersion in another culture, if you’re open to it, is instantly life-changing. Simply seeing a world outside of the one you know. Realizing the world is so big and you are just a small part of it, and that people are at once so amazingly different and so very similar, leads to some shifting in the soul. I am changed. I will never be who I was before I left, and I’m so grateful for that. I am already planning a return trip, as well as trips to other countries.
Until then, I have these most amazing photos and memories to hold close to my heart.