When You Have Paris

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!

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This entry was posted in Holidays in France, Life in General, Living Abroad, Travel in France and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to When You Have Paris

  1. punkaboo says:

    So beautiful, NK. I feel the same way.

  2. Heather in Arles says:

    Oh that was so gorgeous. I think this might be one of my favorite of your posts. Did I say gorgeous? I did because it is. “I was the roses” is just breath-taking.

    • breadispain says:

      Thank you so much, Heather! You always leave the most encouraging replies – I’m glad you liked it. 🙂 I’ve been wanting to post that little Olive Us movie for a couple of weeks now but I knew it deserved a good accompanying piece!

  3. An insightful and provocative observation…..it has me questioning who I am when I’m in my beloved villages of rural France and Zug in Switzerland. Bon weekend.

    • breadispain says:

      Thanks so much for reading Elizabeth!! I’m glad that you liked it and found it thought-provoking. It really is something I love about traveling – how I change a bit from place to place. Have a lovely long weekend!

  4. gigideparis says:

    Ohh so true… Thank you for this post…it has me pondering on which cities have me feeling what way…and why…. I love your idea off ‘being’ the rose… And how GORGEOUS is that petit film.??!!
    Mmmmwwwwaaaaa! That a big kiss from me! 🙂

    • breadispain says:

      YAY! Thanks Miss Jill, I’m so pleased you like it! It is so fun how we are sort of chameleons when we travel…le sigh, makes me wish I could do even more of it. !!!!!!! And yes – how precious is that film? I’ve been wanting to put it up for a while now but was waiting to have a nice piece to post with it. So adorable – all of their films are really charming. 🙂

  5. Love is post and I feel the same way about certain cities…

  6. I Say Oui says:

    I find I’m most of aware of my surroundings when I’m by myself. A stroll alone can be quite magical, I agree!

    • breadispain says:

      Right? I don’t know why but there is something about being alone in a place that makes it have a greater impact. Perhaps one just has a stronger sense of self when we don’t have the influence of others. Thanks for reading!

  7. jblewett says:

    I call this a city’s ‘back-alley score’ – even when you’re way off the tourist beaten track, just wandering around half-lost, you’re still filled with something ineffable and joyous. New York, New Orleans (lulz, staggering drunkenly for miles in the wee small hours to wind up lurching into the French Quarter at like 4am and realizing that I’ve been walking in exactly the wrong direction for hours is a memory I treasure, thank you babe!) Paris, Tokyo, London, Istanbul, Rhodes… there’s just something about being ANYWHERE within their bounds, even the scary/bad parts that sort of elevates the soul. DC ain’t got it, Los Angeles and Hollywood don’t even make my detector twitch, I adore both Portland and Seattle, but they lack that essence.

    • breadispain says:

      HA! I’d forgotten about your 2am tour of New Orleans – classic. YES – London is another great example and you are right – some cities don’t have that magic and I don’t know why. Whatever it is though it is a cool thing and I really enjoy it…we need to plan a trip friend!!

  8. Theresa says:

    Loved this line: “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. ”

    You are such a great writer. I can’t wait to read your book(s).

  9. sarainlepetitvillage says:

    I let out a deep sigh at the end of this post… Paris! It just gets ya! I’m going in February and I’m counting down the days 🙂

    • breadispain says:

      Thanks so much – glad you enjoyed it. Paris really does get to you – I always love to visit. BRRRRR – February – make sure you bring your long johns. 😉
      p.s. I really enjoyed your post today…but I’ll go comment there. 🙂

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