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January 29, 2008

Some ill-composed thoughts on Paris

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Paris turned out to be just Paris; and that, of course, was more than enough for me. Paris had only to be Paris: Paris was just so.

It helped that within 30 seconds of strolling the streets, a handsome man came up and told me I was beautiful even though Patrick was right beside me. It helped that I spent my first night drinking Strawberry Fields at a bar that was so full of life that everyone was clapping their hands to the music and the waiters were dancing. It helped that we were staying in the Latin Quartier and that our 400 year old hotel was in the same building as Shakespeare and Co. And it helped that the women were so naturally beautiful that you could lose your heart a hundred times a day, if not to their wan loveliness than to their coats, which were cut in the most flattering ways I've ever happened to notice.

All my life, Paris has been the city of my dreams. For as long as I can remember I have stared at that country on the world map and mentally transported myself to tiny Normandy fishing villages, chateaux of the Loire valley, and the lavender fields of Aix-en-Provence. Somewhere deep, deep down, I think I've lived in France in past lives; I feel that I've know the country and that I've loved the city that is Paris. So it was surprising when I found myself undeniably nonchalant as we rolled into the Gare du Nord late that first night.

I figured out why soon enough. For all the frothiness and fervour surrounding the idea of "my first trip to Paris!", Paris was just a city. It was a city, like I come from a city. I guess I expected magic, but, happily, I found solid ground instead. But I did feel instantly at home in Paris; my head was on straight, I could problem solve, I could speak the language, and I was strong enough to really help people. That's what Paris was like for me. I just felt better in it.

It's just that for the longest time, when I pictured myself in Paris it was as a single girl, and I'm not that anymore. I'd live in Paris for one reason and one reason alone; to break hearts; regrettably, of course. But suddenly, I don't want to do that anymore. And as great as Paris was, as much as I felt a part of the people, being part of a couple, Paris loses something. The natives are just too good looking and they're way too forward to risk going there as a couple. Better to leave the living there to past lives and adolescent fantasies about being the centrepiece of every cool bar in the city, every pictoresque place dans le parc.

I'd always thought Paris would be the greatest city on the planet. It came damn close: New York nixes it and Montreal does too. But it is still top three. And I know that if I come to be in any severe need of finding myself, I will go to Paris to do so. If I go to any city at all . . .

Posted by linda at January 29, 2008 5:36 PM

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