My love affair with Paris blossomed slowly, gently over time. Unlike many others, I never had any romantic notions about Paris, or even a strong pull at my heart strings to spend time there. Our introduction was more out of necessity and convenience then by design. My first time in Paris was to catch a reading my friend was doing of her manuscript at Shakespeare & Company while en route from Montreal to Granada Spain.
Even seeing Paris at her bohemian best on that first visit, it still only struck me as the ideal city to spend a quick layover in on my travels from Canada to other destinations…the perfect entrepot into Europe. Just a stopover to catch my breath and re-calibrate for a few days after a red-eye transatlantic flight, prior to heading on to Rome, Venice, Istanbul, Prague, or some other bucket list destination that was the current object of my desire.
I was always smitten with her undeniable beauty and bountiful culture, but also found that the pace was hectic and overcrowded around any of the major tourist “destinations”, the cost of living expensive, and navigating the twisting, narrow streets of my preferred location in the Marais, Paris’s ancient medieval heart, almost impossible. I pride myself on a strong internal sense of direction…but I spent hours lost, walking in circles trying to get to and from my hotel, which was tucked on a charming side street. But hey, there are a heck of a lot less charming places to be wandering around lost!
On my fifth visit, something changed. The only way I can describe it is that it was like a fog lifted from my eyes, and Paris suddenly touched my soul, profoundly and deeply. Over the course of several visits I began to become more familiar with, and even attached to the lifestyle and heartbeat of the city. Suddenly, for no explicable reason I could navigate not only the Marais, but the whole city with ease, almost as though I had always known her. I now have my favorite local spots to grab the perfect roast chicken or bottle of wine and cheese, know secluded little court yards that provided quiet relief from the busy city, and have other wonderful rituals that I must now do on every visit.
Long walks all over Paris by moonlight, relaxing with a beer on the sloping lawn at the foot of Sacre-Coeur on a sunny afternoon, my morning coffee and croissant in Place des Vosges, or taking in an impromptu musical performance at the Louvre, I feel a part of the city and its rhythm now. Paris is no longer just a layover, but a treasured highlight of each trip to Europe. My stays have inched longer and longer each visit, and I now find myself melancholy when I have to leave this graceful and vibrant city.
What seemed to begin as a fleeting encounter, has now evolved into a full blown love story. I am counting the days until my return in October. Je t’aime mon Paris!