I don’t know where the time went. Oh wait, I do know… It got away from me. But I managed to get away from time too and escaped to Paris for a few days. I didn’t have a plan really, and not having one turned out to be the best plan of all. Visiting friends, listening to beautiful French, walking through street markets, and remembering what it was like to live there.
Moving to three different cities in three years means I’ve experienced three challenging (some more than others) quests for the perfect apartment. And while it might have helped to be the kind of traveler who goes with everything set up and ready for arrival, I prefer to figure things out along the way. When I first moved to Paris (a tough city for finding a decent apartment on a budget) I went with a single bag and an overly-optimistic 4-night booking at a youth hostel. Daunting as it was, had I not done this, I would’ve never found the best apartment gig I could have asked for… And, if I were to do it all over again, here are a few things I would have liked to know before arriving in each place:
“What if they tried to demolish Central Park in New York, Hyde Park in London or Tiergarten in Berlin, to build a mall?” This was the tagline of a protester’s poster in Gezi Park, Istanbul, as recently shared via Twitter. Turkey’s youth may be protesting about much more that just the demolishing of one of their capital’s largest green spaces, but this question still got me to thinking… Could we imagine a day when our cities no longer have parks?
Every city has two sides. Even Paris. Especially Paris. It’s amazing how quickly your opinion of the city can change. One moment it’s exciting, alluring, inspiring, and the beauty of its Hausmann giants glow, reflected in the midnight water of the Seine. But then this feeling disappears. You begin to notice the grey, dark, depressive hum that doesn’t stop. The city becomes lonely, abrasive, a pair of snapping fingers telling you to wake up and look at reality in the eyes.
“I wonder how much lung cancer I’ve accumulated in the two days I’ve been here.” This is what my best friend who was visiting asked randomly while we were going on one of my out-of-the-way kind of walks through Paris. At first I was confused… “You know, from all the second-hand smoke,” she clarified. This friend happens to be extremely well traveled, has lived in big cities, and can make cross-cultural comparisons better than anyone I know. So when she observes that the French smoke a lot, it is because they really do smoke, a lot. And it’s true. While most cities have discouraged smoking in every way possible, Paris almost welcomes it. Why do you think all the terraces have those exterior lamp heaters? It is not to make it more comfortable for the tourists.
Waking up late, reading the New York Times supplement you never have time for during the week, drinking coffee slowly – taking your time to savour it. Sundays are for going on walks around your neighbourhood (even if it’s snowing) and stumbling upon a pop-up sale from The House that Jack Built…
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to start with part one of what will hopefully be a series of posts about ‘Things Parisians Adore’. I was originally considering the title ‘Things Parisians Love’ but I couldn’t bring myself to add to the already saturated over-use of the word love. It is used so much, and for everything, that it no longer carries the same connotations it once did. We have no problem saying how much we love this movie, or love that restaurant, but when it comes down to saying it to a person, love suddenly becomes such a strong word. Adore on the other hand is a word that has become slightly neglected. You rarely hear it said aloud, and so it can be a refreshing linguistic change. And because this is one way of saying love in French, it seemed an appropriate fit. So here’s a few things Parisians adore…