Oh Paris, how I love thee. You are a city built of beauty and I adore every last sensual piece of brick, stone and steel you are made of. Over the years, I have traveled to your streets a few times, though my first meeting with your city will always glean the more romantic sensibilities of my mind.
My first trip to Paris was a whirlwind tour over a weekend. I joined my husband for the last leg of his work trip, knowing full well that I had very little time to fit in as much as possible. For this reason, I chose to forego the chic outfits and expensive heels, jumping right in line with all of the other picture-snapping, obviously American folks trying to do the same.
Upon my arrival at Charles de Gaulle, I found that I had no time for sleepiness as I had been told that I must stay awake to survive the first day. It was early morning and my husband picked me up in the rental, drove to our hotel in Bourg-la-Reine just outside of the city, and introduced me to the decadent smells of the patisseries lining the street nearby. Being a woman with a great love of food, I felt myself drifting by every open shop soaking in the aromas wafting through their open doors. It was simply hallucinating.
Once I had recaptured myself from the intoxicating effects of my first flaky pastry and taste of French espresso, we decided we would try to hit as many places as humanly possible – all of the big attractions of Paris.
With a group of his colleagues and our comfy sneakers, my husband and I set our sites on Montmartre, its basilica, and the ridiculous amount of stairs that awaited us to reach the top of the hill. After catching our breath, we were able to enjoy one of the most glorious views of Paris – the entire landscape of the city and every inch of its beauty. It was here, as we looked out across this vast playground, that the decision was made to try to fit in the grandness of the Arc de Triomphe, the Arc de la Defense, the sparkling lightshow of the Eiffel Tower, at least one artsy hall of the Louvre, and capture the wonderfully haunting sounds of Sunday mass at Notre Dame, though not necessarily in that order.
To my surprise, and the dismay of my aching feet, we were able to fit all of these locations into our two-day tour as well as enjoy the other sights, sounds and delights Paris had to offer. We ate cheese platters and foi gras in cafes, flubbed our French language skills to the best of our ability, drank fine Bordeaux wines, carried baguettes in our arms (just to fit in), bought artists’ renderings of the city’s famous landmarks, listened to the music of street performers, and found ourselves rekindling a few simple affections deemed so passé by American culture – like holding hands and sharing glances across a dinner table.
The Parisians sure do understand how to enjoy the best and most simple of life’s pleasures: great food, great wine and great company. Their culture knows just how to relight the fire under those who have no idea their passionate flames have fizzled. My first trip, as well as every other, left me starry-eyed.