What you’ll need: a baguette, a beret
Everyone has their own Paris.
My parents will be going to Paris in a few weeks, and everyone has advice for them. You must see this! You must eat here! You must! You must! You must!
Paris is the most-visited city in the world, and thus it’s not surprising that so many of their friends have visited, revisited, and made lists for themselves and acquaintances of what must be done in the City of Lights. But, of course, all this is a testament to the fact that you can’t go wrong in Paris. While those of us who have visited only a few times would recommend the few places we’ve been to, those who have lived in the city know that there is no one view of Paris. Each story written on the city is unique. We may think that the city itself is the story, but that is an illusion; Paris is impervious.
And so too, I think, are its inhabitants. How else could you deal with the influx of tourists, the requisition of so many public spaces for photo-ops and souvenir sellers?
This past April I flew to Paris to meet up with a friend studying in Fontainebleau, a town just 45 minutes to the south. I ended up spending only about 5 hours in the city itself. I’d been to Paris twice previously, spending about a week both times. I’d seen the Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower, Moulin Rouge, even the Catacombs. So this time I planned visits to the Palais Garnier, the Marais district, and Notre Dame, which I’d only seen from the outside.
When I got back to Fontainebleau I flipped through a book of photographs of Paris from the air. I was amazed then to see so many gorgeous sights–French gardens, museums, palaces–that I’d never seen, never even considered visiting. I understood then that you could spend a lifetime walking the streets of Paris and never see everything.
Do you appreciate it if you’re Parisian? Do you notice that everything you pass by would be the most-visited tourist site in any other city?
One can only hope that the answer is yes. That day I spent in Paris this past April was cold and rainy, and my boots were soaked through immediately after exiting the Metro. But at the end of my few hours, I emerged at Cité, the Metro stop nearest Notre Dame, and found myself surrounded by a flower market. It was unexpected and breath-taking. Instead of going to the Cathedral right away, I strolled through aisles of hydrangeas, pressed my nose into roses, took pictures of lime trees and birds-of-paradise. I don’t think I could ever not love this.