Bonjour (bohn-ZHOOR), everyone! I just got back from our vacation in Paris, and there is so much to share! Given the countless number of blogs discussing “things to do in Paris,” I wanted to share with you my own personal experience. With time, we get a little too comfortable with our preconceptions towards the rest of the world and the French are no exception. There is no doubt the French have had their influence on American culture. It’s no wonder we hold such preconceived notions about what to expect. It’s not just that, though. What image of Paris do magazines, blogs, and television build in people’s mind? I expected to see models and fashion icons as I walk down the streets, and had thought it would be overwhelmingly glamorous and runway worthy. Except, when I went there, I was confused. I saw no such thing. However, this city reassured me that first impression is not always the last impression. Paris is not what I had thought. It’s better.
(*All images captured by our phones*)
The city was dusty and somewhat dirty. I was hoping for a lot of french doors (which I did see) and grand gardens (for which you would have to visit museums). As hours progressed in the streets of Paris, I finally started to notice and get a deeper sense of things. I began to observe an obvious and effortless sense of style. And once it’s undeniable presence began to penetrate my mind, there was no going back! You begin to see personality everywhere and in everything - in the architecture, in the small floral shops and food bazaars in the nooks and cranny, and even in every thoughtfully chosen fashion accessory. Where else would you catch classy women with bright pencil-heels, pedaling bicycles in the middle of the day? To my surprise, high heels were a rarity but fashion sneakers were definitely everywhere (my decade old sneakers, however, were a disgrace. But to be fair, they are one of the most comfortable pair of Nikes I have ever owned). As you start to get into the rhythm, in the zone, of noticing, you get hooked into taking mental notes of random women and men alike as they walk, roam, or bike the arrondissements of Paris. It’s quite subtle but prevalent everywhere you look.
I will forever remember the part that I loved. It was the moment I walked out of the station and was struck by the captivating Architecture of the city. You could immediately tell the difference. It was almost like the door of Narnia opened, and I appeared at a different place. Of course, I didn’t see talking animals and lions which I would have loved to see. But to my consolation, there were lion statues. You can not speak highly enough of the architectural magnificence of Paris. The buildings are centuries old and the wood floors are a bit worn out, but thats what gives them their unique character. And the museums are incomparable. Just the Louvre itself is like every single Smithsonian combined into one museum and, of course, the art is second to none. I just can't begin to fathom how people, centuries ago, could have built such things. Just as timeless as the architecture is the culture.
Unlike America, whose culture is a few hundred years old, Europeans have had thousands of years to develop theirs. The concept of personal space, which we are accustomed to as Americans, is not so prevalent in the Parisian culture as I have noticed. You’ll find people sitting in such close proximity to one another that it is almost unsettling. But as you get accustomed to it, the experience eventually becomes liberating. It really pushes you out of your comfort zone to embrace a culture so intimate in its art of communication. My favorite part of Paris, in an instance, was the ubiquitous cafes, where people are less engrossed in screen time and more absorbed in mingling with each other. At least that’s how it appeared to me. They are engaged in conversations for hours on end over a cup of coffee or croissant or a hearty meal in these local cafes. Being someone who loves mingling with friends and family over a cup of tea or coffee, I naturally found this immensely enjoyable and relaxing! There seemed to be a strong relationship between food and daily life. Everyday since our return to the USA, we have been craving the fresh smell of that patisserie downstairs and the need to unplug. The table set-up by the streets and the late-night street food were so intriguing that I almost felt nostalgic.
Paris affected me in a way that allowed me to open up. It was both magnificent and humbling. The life of being in the streets and being so close to one another in that personal setting, beyond that personal space, is what reminded me of a different culture. We are reminded of how important it is to break free from our day to day lives and experience first hand the beauty that other cultures have to offer.
If you have read this far, you are amazing! Merci (mehr-SEE) and I hope to see you back again. Until then, au revoir (oh ru-VWAH)!