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The first time I came to Paris was in 2009. I was quite short on money, working part-time at a dead-end job, while pursuing my Bachelor’s diploma. I haven’t traveled much until then, mostly due to the lack of funds, though I always had this intense desire to go out and explore the World.
I remember that day as it was yesterday. It was a late morning during a hot month of August, when I landed in Paris. I was seeing a guy at that time and we decided to meet in Paris since he was traveling in another country. It was one of those meaningless, “Summer fling” relationships that was just as dead as that part-time job. Paris is a romantic city, but (and we will get to this later) one does not need to be in a relationship to truly enjoy all of its wonderful sights.
I took a taxi from the airport, which dropped me off not far from the museum of Louvre, where I rented a tiny hotel room with a shared bathroom, for the whole floor. And since the hotel itself was tiny, we never ran into the other guests for the three days that we lived there. Though very small, the room had a beautiful (tiny) balcony with a captivating Parisian view of the opposite buildings, with charming windows and gorgeous rooftops.
New York to Paris is a “red-eye” (aka night) flight, which lasts about 7 hours, before you are deposited on a different continent, with bleary eyes and a hazy mind. “What time is it? 1pm in the afternoon? Oh well, it is 6am in the morning, according to my biological clock”.
I believe there are two categories of people – one that can take a sip of coffee and run through the rest of the day exploring the sights, and the second that will feel too terrible, therefore it will need a nap. The two categories are not rigid, and it is perfectly fine to jump from one to another, depending on one’s physical well-being at the time.
So, after taking a quick nap, we rushed off to explore Louvre as this was always one of the major sights that I was dying to see. While exploring the museum, we slowly checked-off all the main (hmm, most famous) art installations, including Mona Lisa. We only spent about two-three hours in the museum, leaving it with a heavy heart, since the time that we allocated to it was clearly not enough. Alas, there’s so much to see in Paris, and three days for a first visit is a… spit in a bucket.
We continued on to Montmartre, taking the stairs up the Sacred Heart Cathedral (Sacre Couer), we made it to the Eiffel Tower, where we kissed under that elegant, iron symbol of France, we hanged around Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, browsing the numerous souvenir shops, and we even managed to visit the Versailles Palace on our third and final day in town.
Despite all these famous, iconic attractions, my most vivid memory of that trip was seating down outside in one of the local cafes, facing the street with a feeling of deep excitement mixed with a shocking realization, which sounded like: “Hey, I am finally in Paris!”. Boom. Exclamation mark. Nah, what am I saying. Five exclamation marks!!!!!
My second trip to Paris was in April of 2015. By that time I managed to get my act together, that included a decent job, and a number of international trips under my belt. One of them was to Rome, which quickly became one of my absolute favorite cities, and well… spoiled my next trip to Paris. Ahem.
Coming back on my second visit in April, with my mom, on another three-day getaway, apparently didn’t do much to revive any feelings for the city of lights, since the entire trip I was thinking: “Rome is so much better”. And not just thinking, making sure to repeat this statement out loud several times on the plane back home. You see, I wanted all the French people around us to hear it. Why? I don’t know. But I do know this – I was quite an asshole.
On my third trip to Paris, I decided to invite… no one with me. It was Fall of 2016, I was traveling for work, and I just wanted to finally have this city entirely for just me and only me.
I had a fully packed itinerary, which included a ton of sights, museums, and even a sunrise. Despite the busy schedule, I decided to skip the metro as much as I could and just walk. You see, Paris is a very walkable city, and unlike New York, even when its packed with tourists, it still brings you pleasure to navigate its narrow, cobble stone streets.
Walking down along the Seine river, admiring the architecture, the numerous bridges connecting the two banks, I had plenty of time to be left alone with my thoughts. What I realized slowly is that Paris did not earn its reputation for nothing after all. It deserves all the glory, all the praise and the fame because it truly is a magical place… How so?
Paris is a large city yet it is small and cozy and it’s even possible to cross it entirely on foot, depending on one’s level of fitness, of course. It is sparkly, it’s grandiose, yet it is subtle and not overwhelming, because more often than not, its true beauty is in the details. It is bright, and can overload one’s senses, yet it is painted with the same, monotone, pastel colors. It’s overpriced, and is full of pickpockets, yet what a pleasure it brings to sit down in a corner, order a cup of coffee or glass of wine and just… be.
Many of us probably know that Paris has this famous nickname: the city of love. You would think that given its reputation for being one of the most romantic cities in the World, you should only come to this city when you are in a relationship, or at least… single, so that you wouldn’t feel overly sad. Well, it’s not so.
Paris is a gentle city, and is perfectly capable of mending one’s broken heart too. How? By partying? No, simply by walking. By being alone with your thoughts, you will discover, you will understand why things often don’t workout in life, as they should. Heck, you can do that at home, you’ll conclude, but no… you do need a change of scenery, and you do need to get away from the rut, in order to face the reality and, the truth. And apparently, you can search but won’t find a more agreeable, more loving and understanding city than… Paris.
Paris is also a mecca for artists, for there’s no other city that inspires more. Inspiration here comes from every corner, every street, every glance, every park, and every window. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there are tons of museums, castles, art galleries, and even homes of long-dead, famous people, where one can re-live (okay, or at the very least – visualize) the life of others. So the next time you pass by Notre Dame, don’t forget to stop and linger for a moment, look up at the imposing towers and think – how intrigued was Victor Hugo? What did he see in this mysterious, Gothic beauty that led him to write the “Hunchback of Notre Dame de Paris”?
So here I am on my well… fourth visit in Paris, prolonging my trips to this city and frequenting them too. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up living in this city, one day, for good.