“You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
You know that old familiar saying that goes, “Everyone has two countries, his or her own — and France.” Well, as hard as you try to distance yourself from this fundamental truth that drives everyone’s relationship with travel, it may do you some good just to accept it as an inalienable truth. Perhaps you may even come to find it a virtue. After all, if France is already a part of you, who’s to say you won’t find a little, unexpected part of yourself there when you visit?
So if France is already your predetermined destination, why would you visit any other city than Paris?
Paris, the city of light and love and the destination of every college grad and first-time European traveller in the Western World. Seriously, why would you choose this overrun and overburdened city to be your top pick for your next getaway. After all, who wants to see a bunch of bright and shiny newly graduated potential parading around a city scumming up a city with their carelessness? Basically, because Paris is so not passé.
Ok, maybe Paris isn’t as romantic as people make it out to be. It is a bit of a dirty, aggressively multi-cultural city filled with appalling prices and maybe slightly less appalling attitudes, but that’s what makes it Paris! It is unabashed in its attitude. It never even offered the likes of Hemingway or Modigliani special treatment, so why should you expect anything different?
By the same token, why would you want anything else? Paris’ authenticity is what gives it its allure. It is like an artist whose beauty is enhanced by their slightly grungy exterior. It makes you curious; it makes you want to dig in deeper and melt into their world.
And melt is what you will do in Paris.
You will melt from sticker shock. You will have a meltdown over the impassibility of a Frenchman’s façade. You will melt your aching feet in a hot bath at the end of the day. But despite it all, your heart will melt in admiration.
And you will realize why Pairs is the undisputed capital of avant garde culture, cuisine, and literature.
Paris is a product of its position. It is a reactionary city. Whether it is challenging governments or art conventions, Paris is always poised and prepared for change. Like the spiral of its arrondissements, the city is a tightly coiled spring that is wound ever tighter by the inherent tensions that bide their time restlessly just beneath its surface.
So as you sip strong coffee and savor buttery croissants in its cafés, consider the forces that shape the city. Admire the ostentatious buildings, but consider the disruption and upheaval that built them. Gawk at the pared down Parisian fashion, but remember it is a layer between that person and life on the streets.
But above all else, remember to keep admiring Paris. Remember that at its core, this city is the product and a reaction to the world you helped create.
And Paris would tell you, just like Edith Piaf, “Non, je ne regrette rien.”