I’d been to Paris once before, back in 2000 on a whirlwind 10-day backpacking trip through Europe – the kind of trip where you try to stuff in as many sights in as many countries as humanly possible so you can say, “I’ve done Europe.” Efficient but ineffective – I could barely remember that I actually ever was in Paris.
Paris deserved a do-over. I spent seven glorious days in the French capital, during a heat wave that reminded me of Texas summers. Even though I was a sweaty mess the majority of the time (no one ever sweats like that in Ireland), I was a happy mess – and found myself enchanted by the city, the culture, and the lifestyle.
A week is never enough time to get to know a place, but certainly is enough time to develop a few opinions. Here are my opinions on what I love about Paris:
The Eiffel Tower
I just could not stop looking at it.
Yes, it is iconic and probably the most recognizable man-made structure on the planet – but wouldn’t that make it a bit cliché? Perhaps, but I still found myself walking under it multiple times, gazing at it from across the Seine at different times of the day – even seeking it out on the horizon when I was in a different part of the city. And the light show every night – when the entire tower sparkled like glitter – never got old.
Thanks a lot, Paris – you have forever ruined my appetite for bread from any other country. From now on, I will be sorely disappointed every time I bite into a sandwich or nibble from the bread basket that comes with dinner because the loaf will surely not have the textured, crispy exterior and warm, fluffy interior that I now expect from all my breads. So thanks for that.
The Sense of Style
The stereotypical French woman is thin, beautiful, and stylish. And I would have to say this is true – but not in the way that you might picture in your head. They aren’t runway model thin – they are trim and shapely. Their style isn’t over-the-top – with designer handbags, expensive clothes and super-high heels (though I’m sure there’s some of that). It’s elegant yet easy-going – a simple, just-above-the-knee skirt with a flowy top, sandals with a low heel. They look put together without trying to look so put together. I now feel that I should throw out my entire wardrobe and start over.
Besides the fact that they are adorable and so French – and that the food is amazing – the one thing I noticed right away is the habit of placing all the sidewalk dining chairs facing outward – perfectly poised for people-watching. So instead of gazing at your dinner companions, all of you are looking out onto the street, chatting while sipping a glass of rosé and watching all the pretty people stroll by.
The Green Chairs
Paris is full of elegant parks and gardens. There are over 400 green spaces found in the city – graced with green lawns, formal flower beds, towering trees, ponds and fountains. But my favorite items found in many of these parks were the green metal chairs. You never were left without a seat because these chairs could be found everywhere, scattered under shady spots or along the edges of fountains – just waiting to be used. And since they are chairs that are portable, you could move them to any spot in the park. Use one just for yourself and find that quiet corner under a tree, or group a few together in a circle with friends – the possibilities are endless.
I saw at least three pianos, placed in random spots in the city – beckoning someone to come play the world a song. And people did – such beauty to the ears and joy to the soul. It really made me wish I had taken up the piano.
My second trip to Paris was definitely more memorable than the first. Exploring on foot, navigating the subways, experiencing the café culture, tasting the cuisine, viewing the art, and watching the people all left me with enchanted memories of the city.
So enchanted that I’m already thinking of a third trip. Gotta get my bread fix somehow.