I've always said that I would never live in Paris. Despite having visited the city a number of times in the past and finding it beautiful, I never felt a kinship to it in the way I do with London or New York.
However, on my way down to the South of France from London, I couldn’t resist stopping over in Paris for a few days to stay with my 24 years old cousin, Jeremy, who lives in a fantastic apartment in the 3rd Arrondissement. My sister joined us and there is absolutely no better way to appreciate a city than to be guided through it by people who live/have lived there.
It seems that living in “New” York made me appreciate the classical and old world beauty of Paris even more with its elegant Haussmanian buildings, perfectly manicured parks and tiny cafes spilling out onto cobbled pedestrian streets. There is a sense of architectural unity, a common look and feel throughout the city, which is just not found in disparate and diverse Manhattan.
I embraced my inner, but often denied, “Frenchness” with much more fervour than I anticipated and fell in love with Paris a little more with each new experience.
Sharing a delicious alfresco dinner in a tiny cobbled street, near the Isle of Saint Louis - drinking Rose wine and unashamedly smoking in between courses. The scene couldn’t have been more typically French unless we had also been wearing berets and biting into raw garlic cloves.
Visiting the “Buttes Chaumond”, an oasis of green and cascading water in the heart of the City, where we took in the sweeping view of the Sacre Coeur and the Eiffel Tour in the distance, after a rather breathtaking hike to the top of the hill.
Stumbling upon a serene and peaceful Medieval garden – the Cluny museum - in the heart of the busy "Quartier Latin".
Having dinner at La Bellevilloise, away from the beaten path, in the 20th Arrondissement - a spacious restaurant, filled with olive trees inside, with an outdoor terrace and a jazz club. We were treated to a live acoustic guitar set by 2 men who took it in turn to sing easy listening hits from Eric Clapton to Jeff Bluckley.
As we walked to the Metro on the way home, we stumbled across an odd little café tucked in the curve of a paved street and the tiny tables set outside enticed us to have one last drink. We ordered a glass of wine, which came in the tiniest balloon glass I have ever seen, and was served by the café owner who had clearly consumed quite a lot of alcohol himself. It felt as if we were in a small village, rather than Paris ....
Finally visiting the Musee D’Orsay, which houses the world’s most important collection of Impressionist Art (my favourite period). It was overwhelming for me to see so many of the paintings I have admired in books for many years all within the same building - from “La Montagne Sainte Victoire” by Cezanne, to “Portrait en bleu” by Van Gogh, “Bal au Moulin de la Galette” by Renoir and “La Laveuse” by Toulouse-Lautrec. I actually got teary eyed more than a few times.
Perusing old and dusty books in a small and quirky English bookstore called “Shakespeare & Co”, opposite Notre Dame at Kilometer Zero (so called because it is the point where all distances to & from Paris are measured). Rows upon rows of books, piled up to the ceiling on precarious looking shelves. A woman playing her own hauntingly beautiful melodies on a piano, crammed in between bookshelves. An upstairs area with more clumsy piles of books, but also beds and chairs for people to read at their leisure. Notes with messages about life, love and pain handwritten by visitors and stuck to the walls or left on tables. It was so inspiring and ever so bohemian that I couldn’t resist leaving a note of my own … I felt compelled to buy some books as a memento of my visit and picked up “The unbearable lightness of being” by Milan Kundera and “A moveable feast” which is Ernest Hemingway’s account of his time as a struggling writer in 1920s Paris.
I think I may have changed my mind about living in Paris one day ...