We returned to Canada, but I kept reliving Paris every time I told stories to friends and family. One of those friends noticed that I brought back a previously unrecognized glow. I thought, perhaps, as my husband noted, it was because there I was ‘in my element’. I do not find it strange that, just like with certain people, only a few places in the world can open up the heart of one specific person. Do you know what I mean? Paris is not for everyone.
I am not being snobbish here. Yet, I have heard a lot of disappointing remarks about this city. From people who were vivid travellers and people who left their hometown for the first time. People who travelled there during spring and autumn, and still did not find any charm, but labeled every aspect of as ‘overrated’. There are places for people like that as well, places that will teach them something significant, a memory they will take back and never let go. Even if Paris was not such a place for those people, it, however, became consequential for me.
When we planned our trip to Europe right before the pandemic began, I had a thought slipping through my mind. I remembered myself as a child, growing up in a small city in Russia, a child with improbable dreams, who could not even think of going to Paris. It was expensive. It was extravagant. It was unreachable. Accessible only through the eyes of writers and movie directors.
Then one day, I was on the train to Paris with my husband and my child. I was not taking my child there in order to fulfil my childhood dreams through him. He was just coming along, and I wanted to believe this experience would settle in his subconsciousness. As for me, I went with no expectations, except an enthralling connection to that city. I kept explaining it by reading authors of the 19th and 20th centuries since a young age. I was raised on stories written by Russian thinkers who fled the Revolution and found refuge in Paris. Somehow, this city, like a thin line, a vein, was going through and connecting with Russian culture, therefore, settling profoundly in my subconsiousness. That was my explanation of the inexplainable connection.
Hence, Paris did not disappoint. And how could it? Uniform-like Hausmann buildings—a stage for a girl to feel like a main heroine of a story. Consistency of people elegantly dressed (in most cases) leaves room for my own style inspiration. Cafés and streets where great writers and artists discussed their ideas and wrote. Casheme and perfume. extravagant old madames in fur. Fashionable crowds and majestic churches.
The city has shown me all I’ve read about and even more. Effortless sophistication. The sophistication of art, architecture, the demeanour of locals and the busy atmosphere of cafés. How could I not love it?
I’ve heard a lot. I’ve heard how tourist crowds will be utterly annoying, rats will be peeking out of every garbage can and how overpriced and overrated Paris is. I’ve heard. I listened. I still wanted to make my own opinion of it.
I’m not saying it all doesn’t exist. But putting away the impression and expectations about Paris that cinema created in minds of millions, I still believe this place has something special to offer.
So it has. It truly is special. Unique even. The center of all things fine. Paris is a Merry-Go-Round in disguise. Hop on a wooden, gold-decorated horse, there is space for everyone. I take the memory of this ride back into daily routine with me. And. the charm of Paris is that every image of it, that pops up in my mind, fills my chest with a warm, tingly feeling. It functions as a veil, a shimmering light, on reality of cold wintry days, making me see it, approach it with more elegance and assurance in overpowering beauty.
P.S. I promise the next post will be less poetic, and I will share our itinerary in Paris.