Hearing about what Paris is like depends on the who is doing the recounting. Some love it and want to call it home for its cultural gravitas or embattled history as a place to be for fashion and prominence, others may describe it as cold and callous, uncaring, or beautiful and majestic. Even a few say it's romantic, or unkind to visitors and inhabitants alike. My opinion: Paris is what you make of it but have zero expectations. It's a city that will mesmerize you with its endless streets lined with mysteries and socializing you desperately want to be included in. It might try to trap you there forever.
Frantic drivers use horns to push through the chaos, millions in movement at once, a gargantuan traffic, crowded salmon migrating up stream, dodging motorbikes and scooters, from the metro to their rendezvous of the night. Markets branch off the main avenues and boulevards, luring you away from your route with fine cheeses behind glass cases, fruits or fresh oysters displayed on piles of ice, up for offer accompanied with wine, all set onto red and white checkered tables between the stalls. Each way you look, a sidewalk café, bustling at night or mid-day with Parisians smoking cigarettes over an aperitif or coffee with small bites to eat. It is more than a place rumored to be blossoming with romance, strolling across statue lined bridges lit in the night, reflecting on the Siene, littered with lovers' locks and the old man playing an accordion or two.
"But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight." - A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemmingway.
Paris forced me to look inward, the wealth and waste on grandiose display with ancient monuments adorned in gold and marvelous buildings juxtaposed next to the poverty of beggars asking for handouts, smelling of neglect, despair and un-showered stink. Those with nothing living between those with everything. This is not unique to Paris, but it takes on a unique display here where life's realities confronted me head on while having the greatest plethora of distractions allowing for escape.
Here is the view from my cute little green room overlooking the city with a view of the Eiffel Tower which lights up at night past Montparnasse. Thanks to Dan and Mila who have put me up twice for quite some time. They're generous lovely people that made my experience so wonderful.
I would stroll through Jardin de Luxembourg, listen to two men play Sydney Bichet songs on the clarinet and piano on bridge near Notre Dame while waiting for my friend Camille from San Diego. The beauty of Saint-Chapelle stained glass windows is unparalleled. Passing over a young brass band playing for a happy crowd underneath Pont Neuf made one of my first impressions.
On a Sunday afternoon, I would go walking along the Siene, do a quick yoga pose in front of the Eiffel Tower. In start of March, pink blossoms on trees mark the beginning of Spring and daffodils are everywhere sprouting from the ground through the grass. I was also able to meet many other friends while visiting. Moroccan tea with Myriam at the Grande Mosque or a night out with Kevin and Alex, two fellow volunteers from my time at a Vedic Temple in Bavaria.
The Louvre and Centre Pompidou.
One cannot beat the cliche of sitting at Les Deux Magots, while reading a book by Hemingway (in said book he writes about writing at this cafe). Having a terrace beer at Montparnasse.
Wednesday, March 1 was a rainy morning passing through the Monmarte neighborhood. It was also Ash Wednesday, a large choir was singing in the Sacré-Cœur cathedral. Later that day I had a four course lunch at Abri with Soraya. One of the best meals I've ever had! Great converstation and delicious.
That night I went to Belleville neighborhood to meet Vincent, a friend of a friend. There we stumbled upon a laundromat where many people with drinks and instruments were gathering inside. This place was across the street from a place where I ate a potato and cheese crepe. I watched in awe as the people disspersed from this underground social event. I wish I had been invited. Laundry and a live band with booze sounds like the perfect end to a Wednesday night in Paris.
I went Versailles, which I would say was nice but doesn't get much of an elaboration from me here. My favorite museum was the Musée d'Orsay. I was able to meet more friends of friends to play some billiards. You can't top a Sunday brunch of oysters (best oysters I've had) and champagne. The best falafel in Paris (maybe the best in Europe, I've never had better) is in Les Marais, called L'as du Falafel. Go there. Eat a falafel. Don't miss it.
I could go on and on. There are so many great places to grab a bite to eat or a drink or stroll. If you want to know more, just ask me sometime!
I was able to sense a feeling of tragic loneliness soaked into the core of this city, mixing turbulently with the hope and dreams it inspires the world over. People often conjure the idea of Paris as a city of love, a city of lights, strolling hand in hand and kiss as the French do. To wander alone in these streets, to be forsaken to a lonely abandonment for a night in Paris, is chilling and harsh. The nights are quiet, desolate, with very little activity going on over the majority of the city past midnight. Finding company is more out of necessity to escape the fear of confronting your own insecurities. Perhaps its more the driving force of coupling here than desire for another?
Overall, I really really enjoyed my time in Paris. It is beautiful and the people here are wonderful. It is a place like no other. Truly magnificent. Thank you to everyone that helped make my Paris experiences so magical.