A Letter to Paris

Dear Paris,

Je t’aime, ma chérie!

Every second spent in your city was la vie en rose. The world around me was presented through rose-coloured glasses, every passing moment tinged with a little bit of magic.  

On our first day in your welcoming embrace we walked to the Arc du Triomphe and climbed all 284 steps. Eyes glazed from the bitter cold, or perhaps tears (of happiness), I can’t be sure, I gazed at the streets branching off from the arch as Louis Armstrong’s voice sang in my ears. The ferris wheel in the Place du Concord was barely discernible, blue and red lights pricking the thick fog like the points of a needle. The Champs-Elysee flickered with strips of colour (silver and merlot) from break- and head-lights, illustrating its nickname: the street of rubies and diamonds.

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It snowed that day.  White flakes the size of fingernails were caught in the loose strands of my hair, in the wool of my scarf and on my chapped lips as a smile spread across my flushed cheeks.

We slipped into Laduree, a patisserie on the Champs-Elysee, to escape the cold air biting at our skin. Joining the sprawling line of sweet-toothed customers that spilt from the front door, we tucked our gloves into our coat pockets and bought three macaroons each: salted caramel, rose petal and chocolate ganache.

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The Latin Quarter, the bohemian hub of Paris, was my favourite place to catch up with friends. We would walk down the narrow cobble-stone streets with linked arms, attempting to read menus and convert euros to dollars before giving up and settling on a restaurant based on its cosy facade. We would eat escargot, duck, tiramisu, french onion soup, madame croque, omlettes and even (once) frog legs (never again), all the while laughing so hard we would choke on our wine and aperol spritz. Only when we finally chucked a bunch of euros on the table as tips and swung our coats from the back of our chairs would we realise time had drained, midnight being the nearest hour.

 

 
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The Eiffel tower is a grandiose story worthy of a novel exceeding the length of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, but from me it will be granted just one sentence:

Life began anew at each sight, my starlit eyes banishing the lies
that one can become impartial to such a heart-warming tower of light. 

On the second night I discovered I could see the very tip of the shimmering structure from our seventh-floor hostel room if I crouched in the windowsill. The rotating light flashed through the slit in our curtains as if reminding us that the addictive bustle of the City of Lights was waiting just beyond the glass (how could we forget).

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At Fragonard’s perfumery, we were taught how to distinguish the three notes of fragrance in a bottle and handed half a dozen samples of parfum, from belle de nuit and emilie to diamant and belle chérie. In ‘How to Be Parisian,’ the authors write that every woman should have a scent that defines her, but she can’t find it without knowing herself first. Paris, you helped me discover mine.

On another day when the sky was splotchy and we got lost in the metro, we also lost any notion of time in the never-ending hallways of the Louvre. Five hours trickled by as we ticked off the Mona Lisa, Vénus de Milo and Victoria de Samothrace. Another sixty minutes were swallowed in the museum room as we spread our coats on the marble floor, lying down to chat and laugh in the midst of beauty.

There are too many highlights to describe them all… from the dazzling Moulin Rouge and the nostalgic Shakespeare and Co bookstore to the cafe in which mon prefere French film (Amelie) was shot, and the cafe overlooking the Notre Dame.

 

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Amelie’s cafe, the ‘Des 2 Moulins’ / Two Windmills

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Paris,

I miss your white wine laced with blackberry liqueur, and 3 € bottles of rosé.

I miss sprinting along the Seine with my scarf catching in the wind, a band of saxophonists rehearsing under a bridge as we race for our boat at 9pm.

I miss admiring the glow of delicate pastries in the windows of patisseries.

I miss the time I left one, my mouth stuffed with caramel eclaire. I bumped into a Parisian man who laughed when I apologised, exclaiming: “Bon appetite!
(I will surely never experience a more ‘French’ circumstance)

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Paris, I am sorry humanity is hurting you.

You may have left me dizzy with happiness, but to the watchdog that is the Western media, France is a bed of blistering coal under bare feet. A certain man with a moral compass lost somewhere between the U.S.-Mexican border and south swirled a toe in the pool of fear by recently proclaiming that “Paris is no longer Paris.”

How can suffering from unsolicited terrorist attacks cause a city to lose its rich history, strong sense of culture, character and charm? The City of Lights will always be the City of Lights, even if the security is doubled and the people are alert. If anything, a city grows sturdier in the demonic face of tragedy and grief.

Yes, the sight of six military men clutching semi-automatic rifles filtering through the Jewish Quarter had my heart pounding against my ribcage. Yes, goose-bumps crawled up my arms when dozens of police cars screamed past us at midnight toward riots at the Gare du Nord, just a kilometre from our hostel. But, as French President Francois Hollande said in response to Trump, “There is terrorism and we must fight it together.”

Terrorism is a dreadful thing, but we cannot give it the privilege to change a country’s fundamental roots.

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Sacre-Coeur / Sacred Heart
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The lonely painting behind the Mona Lisa

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Paris Playlist

La Vie en Rose, Louis Armstron

Parlez Vous Francais, Art vs Science

Cest Féerie, Pierre Port, Moulin Rouge

La valse d’Amelie, Yann Tiersen

Je Suis Seul Ce Coir,  ‘Midnight in Paris’ theme

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Hemingway once said:

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man,
then
wherever you go for the rest of your life,
it stays with you,
for Paris is a moveable feast.

Merci bien, Paris, et a bientôt.
Yours truly & 

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