Paris Road Signs
I don't know about you, but as summer approaches, I have begun to think of vacation. One of my favourite places is Paris. I've visited at different periods of my life, different economic brackets, single then married, then with children. Paris fit me on each occasion. The light is what first comes to mind when I think of returning to Paris. Around the edges of the skyline, it is white. Sometimes I felt I was walking through white light. Hard to describe. It didn't matter if it was first thing in the morning or mid-afternoon. I never remember blue skies, only white.
Paris in the morning is best viewed from a cafe, if you are trying to keep pace with those lucky enough to live in the city, well, your self esteem may suffer. Visitors wanting to experience vast amounts of geography can seldom afford to wear fashionable shoes and chic clothing. People at all hours of the morning before noon seemed to be dressed for work. (Do they start late and work later? Have they slept in and missed their start time?) Not a lot of jeans and hoodies out on the streets of Paris. I wondered where they worked, was it far to go, what did their office space look like compared to mine? That's the thing about travel, especially when you drop in on a city like Paris, you are in the thick of things with those that belong to the City. It's a 3D experience, and creates those emotions and thoughts that you would not ordinarily have if you were looking at a magazine or watching a travel documentary. You become an observer not only of locals and locales, but of your reaction to it all. It makes you notice more of everything. Young people walking quickly, likely making for the metro. Skirting around pools of water. The streets and sidewalks always seem to have random pools of water, from shopkeepers that have hosed down pavement in front of their business. All aspects of travel comes into play - navigation, curiosity, wonderment, irritation, physical discomfort, sore back, sore feet. Compromises, petulance, whining, sometimes even a bit of boredom. Hard to admit or imagine if in Paris. It is a city like no other. Any big city will offer gorgeous food, amazing shopping, cultures different from what you experience at home. But Paris and the beauty of the streets, the light, that vastness of space when you are looking toward the Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs-Élysées, create a different vibe from any other city experience.
Food is a huge part of the travel experience. Do all Parisians eat a croissant, juice and cafe au lait for breakfast? Or are their pantries filled with boxes of Fruit Loops? Is the business man beside us at the table a guy from Paris who actually stops at this cafe on the way to work for this petit déjeuner or is he here on business? What's the norm? What's his deal? Why did I not ask him?
One night we walked for about 20 minutes to a restaurant that had a courtyard off the street. It had an airy atrium feel, with the street just steps away, but quiet and unique. The meal came on a board, beautifully laid out, so fabulous looking it seemed a sin to eat it. But we compromised, took a picture and then ate it.
My favourite part of Paris though was walking along broad covered sidewalks with designer storefronts to keep me entertained. I was mostly entertained by peering in, it required a different brand of courage to walk through the doors of Dolce & Gabbana.