I’ve been two days now in the city of lights. What a journey, flying from Los Angeles to New York where I attended a Yankees game, saw Van Gogh’s Starry Night at the Museum of Modern Art, stood in Times Square, and visited the great lady standing torch in hand. My arrival in Paris was a welcome change from the hot and humid weather of New York. The earlier humidity here had already changed to summer rain and cool breezes.
It is said that Paris is a walking city. In all my previous visits I was unable to truly understand nor enjoy the truth of these words as I was rushing from monument to museum as part of a large tour full of students for which I was responsible. Being here alone without an itinerary has changed the lens through which I view the city. Parisians moves with various gaits. First there are the working who rush to their appointments weaving through the crowd. These are familiar to anyone who’s ever been in a hurry. Then there are the watchers who sit in cafes or lean against the walls enjoying casual conversation or time alone. There are the elderly who move at their own pace. There are friends or couples leaning into each other and ambling slowly along the river or through the many parks- so many couples! L’amour is alive and well in this romantic city.
I took my first evening walk from Montmartre with Notre Dame Cathedral as my destination, though I found myself casually strolling, watching the watchers, exploring little side streets filled with cafes and shops and visiting every church along the way. There is an irony in the structure of Paris that consists of spacious boulevards and parks contrastubg against the dense buildings packed together. Residency and commerce have grown together shoulder to shoulder and really falling over one another so that one only has to glance a little to the left or right to see the other. Here there is a patisserie, bookstore, clothing salon. There a mechanic with garage doors open to the street and men in blue overalls rolling tires along the sidewalk to another garage where a car is on a lift. The very sidewalk where I stroll is shared by the mechanics as part of their garage floor. Above all are the many apartments where Parisians live. Everything feels so dense and yet spacious and beautiful for all the trees and pastry filled windows. One only has to walk a block or two for everything they could ever need. It’s like living in a neighborhood mall.
Moving without agenda brought unexpected surprises. I took a wrong turn somehow by following the gps app on my phone, information that can only be trusted as suggestions as the buildings constantly interfere with the signal, and found myself overlooking a train station. The view reminded me very much of a Monet painting I’ve seen, and I wondered if Monet himself had stood on this same spot. Given the number people stopping and taking pictures, I knew that my hunch couldn’t be far from the truth. What a discovery!- one which I would have missed had I been rushing to my destination. I also happened upon two beautiful churches tucked into what have become small alleyways as well and numerous interesting streets lined with markets and cafes. I think I could eat a different restaurant three times a day the entire six weeks I am here and still not visit all which are in walking distance of my apartment. I think I just might give it a try though!
Indeed. I’m going to enjoy this Parisian way of life, at least for the summer!