Saturday, April 02, 2005

Why, Oh Why, Do I Love Paris?

(I apologize in advance for the lack of accents on the French words that may follow. I don't know how to put those into this document)
I love Paris in the spring time
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles

I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year
I love Paris, why oh why do I love Paris
Because my love is here

- Cole Porter
I love Paris. It's it a beautiful city. Possibly the most beautiful in the world. Certainly the French would say so.

I spent two weeks there in early January. If you've thought to avoid Paris in the winter, don't and do go. It has a kind of beauty against the grey winter sky. The cold air makes the cafes all the more inviting.

I really needed a break. It had been over year since my last vacation. Too long. It had been a hectic fall with a heavy graduate school schedule and continuing to work part-time. This trip was about two things for me: relaxing and taking pictures.

Paris, as big cities go, is surprisingly relaxing. It is an incredibly laid back city. This is remarkable for a city that is in the statistically most productive country in the world.

Some of us find wandering about in museums to be relaxing. Stopping at a painting or a sculpture for a moment to appreciate its beauty or message can be quite relaxing. Paris is a museum. Not because it is old, but because it is art. It is a wonderful city for wandering. Wandering the neighborhoods, one can stop and admire a building designed to inspire awe, or designed with a practical beauty. One can appreciate any one of a multitude of statues erected to honor of some historical personage.

I spent a few days wandering in Montmartre. It became one of my favorite neighborhoods. First off, it is on a hill. A tall hill. Not San Francisco tall, but tall for Paris. That hill makes for fantastic terrain on which to build a neighborhood. Stairs join streets at various levels, giving Montmartre an incredible pedestrian feel to it.

Paris, aside from being a museum, contains some of the world's finest. The first time I was in the city, I missed out on the Musee d'Orsay. The building alone is an amazing piece of architecture. It is in a former, nineteenth-century train station. The main hall is will lit by a ceiling of opaque glass. This makes for fantastic viewing of the impressionist sculptures. The paintings housed there are wonderful. Not normally being one for modern art I enjoyed the works immensely. I think this was due to impressionism's proto-modernism. The art was still contained images of reality (of sorts).

As a single man, Paris is an exceptionally beautiful city. The women of Paris (that sounds like a pin-up calendar) are amazing. One thing that stands out in European cities as that people, women especially, know how to dress. Even in what appears to be casual wear, they look sophisticated. Because of this, one might make the assumption that they are all high-maintenance. Not having truly met any of them, I would still say this is probably not the case. I did have some rather pleasant interactions with a young women working in a pattiserie. She was very patient with my oh-so broken French.

Ah, Paris.

One of the benefits of staying in hostels is that you meet an incredible set of people. The first week I was there, I met New Zealanders, Australians, Canadians (so foreign) and the occasional American. I really like the Kiwis. As backpackers go, they are some of the most friendly, outgoing people I have ever met.

Aside from just meeting new people from other parts of the world, the hostel-goer picks up a lot of tips on what to visit and where to eat. The best tip I received, was to visit Shakespeare and Co, an English language bookstore on the Seine, for tea. This was one of the more surreal experiences of the trip. The people in attendance where the strangest collection of English speakers, and possibly mad, as well. Especially the old English woman with the one-eyed dog. All of them threw around philosophical keywords, as if it were a meeting of Karmic venture capitalists, each trying to impress the other more. No one was listening, everyone was speaking.

Those of us listening, me a computer programmer and my two companion lawyers, took it all in and found it to be hilarious. Enough so that we returned for a poetry reading the next night. There was only one poet with any talent, and she wrote marvelous poems out of here life experience. It would have been nice to pick up a copy of her work. The rest was amusing drivel, causing me to leave the room, for want of bursting out laughing at their belief that they were profound.

(I'm not implying that I have any more profoundness then they do, only the fact that I know that I don't).

My trip to Paris wound down with the feeling that it was either time to go home or time to find a job and stay for the duration. I felt familiar with the city and with the culture, at least a little bit. I had enjoyed the atmosphere of the place.

Still, I think that I should have stayed.

Ah, Paris.

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