The city of Paris is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the entire world, and this begs the question of what makes Paris, Paris. It is the City of Lights, and a major artistic and cultural center in Europe. There are baguettes, croissants, macaroons, éclairs, and so much more. Over two million people from varying backgrounds call Paris home, and millions more visit each year.
Now you know the statistics, but that is not really the point. What is Paris? What makes it so beautiful? Is it the Arc de Triomphe or the Catacombs? The Eiffel Tower or the Louvre? The Musee d’Orsee or Notre Dame Cathedral? As I visited each of these places and more I began to ponder the question of what Paris is, and why.
This is a difficult question to fully understand, let alone answer. I thought about this the entire time I was in Paris, and I am sure I will continue to think about it when I return in a few weeks. My conclusion is short, sweet, and simple. Paris is whatever you make it. Paris is completely different for each person on our trip, to the two million people living there, or the tourists that visit every day. For this reason, I can only tell you my version of what Paris means to me. I will attempt to give just a little bit of insight, and that I can convey what I have experienced.
For you to appreciate this anecdote I feel that you need to know a little bit about me. I have never been a Francophile; in fact, I would consider myself quite the opposite. My elder sister, Allana (love you!), studied French in high school and was planning to spend two years of her life there. I always disliked French and took Spanish, often teasing my sister or discrediting the French. While I became more aware of the truth behind French stereotypes, I definitely became more enthused about being in Normandy and Paris. Still, I held reservations for Paris. I was excited for the beaches of Normandy because of their significance in American and World War II history but I honestly thought Paris would be my least favorite place on this trip.
Despite this, Paris floored me. In less than a day I became fascinated with the city. To me Paris was rich history, fantastic food, wonderful art, and stunning architecture. I make Paris to be a destination, a place of exploration and adventure. As I strolled through the streets of Paris, all I felt was love. I also happen to be a hopeless romantic, and while I did not fall madly in love while in Paris, I do find it to be the City of Love. Everywhere I went I felt that people were there pursuing their passions, realizing dreams, and experiencing something they have always wished to obtain. I thought about how few people have the opportunity to go to Paris, and how for some it is a lifelong goal. I saw wedding pictures, and couples enjoying the view of the sparkling Eiffel Tower. I felt love in the paintings and sculptures, the carefully tailored gardens of Versailles, and the magnificent River Seine. I can hardly put into words what I felt in Paris. There was an intangible feeling of rightness, and utter happiness as I roamed the city.
Fortunately, this will not be the last time I visit Paris. Vincent and I will be returning in a few weeks as we extend our ventures abroad. I am quite sure that even that will not be the end of my Parisian escapades. Paris, I will miss you sorely, but this is not goodbye. Au revoir!