There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
There are some cities that work on you like a potion (I was going to say like drugs but potion sounds so much prettier – even Lewis Carroll knew that). I find my energy and attitude changes depending on these types of towns. In New York, my god, I can’t help it I just feel COOL. All the time, the whole time, no matter how un-cool what I am doing is…like riding the elevator to the top of the Empire State building…the city just infuses me with a sense of coolness. In New Orleans, I feel zany, almost child-like, always ready to have a party, someone who doesn’t just stop to smell the roses but stops, smells them and then buys them a drink (who knew roses were so boozy?). Wellington, NZ makes me feel like a hip adventurer: “Go swimming in Orca infested waters that are near arctic temperatures, you say? Pfff…that’s just a Tuesday.” In Sydney, I feel sophisticated and laid-back all at once…and for some reason, more attractive – must be something to do with being surrounded by surfers. The point is, all these cities have big personalities, the type of personalities that can impart themselves upon you when you visit and bring out some inner part of your being, they affect you when you are there walking the streets and taking in the views. They can shift your perspective and, in turn, your sense of self.
There is something quite delicious and exciting about this shift that occurs when you travel and I think it is a reason that we gravitate towards, and love, certain cities – it isn’t necessarily for the cities themselves but, instead, what happens to us when we are in them.
I remember, very distinctly, the first time I was in Paris alone.
MB and I were there for a long weekend and he went in to work that morning. I, a new resident of France and of speaking French, got myself up and put myself together…more carefully put together than usual because Paris can do that to you, make you feel as though you should dress for her. I slowly made my way down the stairs of our hotel and out into the crisp autumn air, my map carefully concealed, for whoever wants to be a tourist?
I turned right and then left, unsure of which way was best to make my way down the Seine towards the Louvre. Unwilling to consult the dreaded carte, I turned left and soon realized that it made scant difference which direction I went as I could always cross over at some ridiculously gorgeous bridge or other in order to turn around. I pulled my iPod out of my purse and switched it on, strolling slowly as Billie Holiday crooned in my ear. Occasionally, I would stop and look at the posters and books displayed on the green stalls lining the sidewalk, sometimes I paused to lean onto the concrete barrier and take in a view…blue sky mixed with some piece of a man’s soul that had been carved into a thing so beautiful that it made my heart hurt. At one point, I popped into a café and had a tea, sitting in my chair facing the street…allowing myself a moment to be an observer, no longer a participant, of the world.
It all felt desperately romantic. And I, more romantic for being there. I found myself reminiscing about things I hadn’t thought about in years, happy things, sad things, sweet moments of my life that tend to remain forgotten and dormant under layers of practicality and daily doings. I felt as though my soul was sighing contentedly…I wasn’t stopping to smell the roses, I was the roses.
Later that evening, I met with MB and we sat at a café and shared a bottle of wine.
“How was your day,” he asked. “I hope it was okay on your own.”
I took a sip of wine, wondering how to explain what I had felt like that afternoon. “It was fine,” I say, pausing, searching for more words. I find that none will come so I say the only thing I can think of.
“It was Paris.”
I love this little movie; it fully realizes my Paris. If you would like to see more of these lovely films check out: http://oliveus.tv/ They are all deliciously charming!