paris essentials: a love story

Alright. I’ve put it off long enough. I’m one of those people who starts a million different things and then leaves them unfinished because I get excited about something else in the meantime, or I feel overwhelmed that I don’t have enough time to do it justice (aka perfectly), so I put it off until I’ll have more time.

Enough!

I MUST share Paris with you! I’ve thought of a thousand different ways to go about it, and was waiting to line it all up perfectly (and also have a zillion other things on my free-time creative to-do list), but alas, I don’t have the 5 months of free time that I would need to devote to all my travel & photo projects including making the perfect COMPREHENSIVE PARIS TRAVEL GUIDE. It’s coming, hopefully, one day!!

But today I have a spare chunk of time, and instead of editing photos from a trip at random, or making progress on one of the 5 books I’m in the middle of, or taking a nap, I want to share dreamy pictures of Paris with you! Now, where should I begin?…

Any reasonable travel guide will start you with the must-see sights. If you’ve never been to Paris before, there are a few absolutely must see landmarks. Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysees, the Louvre, and Sacré Coeur. None of these are worth skipping. If it’s your first time, even if you want to “see Paris as a local,” make sure you include these prime spots. And I’m sure I’ll share a guide to them one day.

But this post is for dreaming. And, of course, romantic Paris – the places that fill your heart to the point of bursting – won’t necessarily be found while running around the city checking off a must-see list. No, memorable Paris, the one that captures your heart forever, is usually found by happenstance, as you’re walking down a petit rue and notice a hundred-odd details oozing with charm, and you think – HOW COULD A PLACE IN THE WORLD GET MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN THIS??

So, I’ll share some of my heart-overflowing, I’ll-love-you-forever, Paris-you’re-my-soulmate favorites.

hopping on rue montorgueil to join the chaotic crowd squeezed in on both sides from old world cafés served by bow-tied waitstaff and shop after shop offering every kind of delectable, mouthwatering treat (chocolates, choux, baguettes, gelato, pastries, macarons, cheese, fruit, wine!)

being one of the busy Parisians buzzing through the intersections and metro exits and packed streets of les halles and etienne marcel on a bustling day

holing up in the English bookstore, beloved by Hemingway and every francophile on instagram, until closing time, passing notre dame lit up in the darkness, stalling on one of the half-dozen two-thousand-year-old bridges soaking up the city in the quiet and ordinariness and majesty of night

pausing from wherever I was coming from or wherever I was going at the corner of pont neuf and taking in the people around me, waiting for the Eiffel Tower to sparkle and boast and charm the world silently from afar

accidentally seeing the Eiffel Tower out of the corner of my eye, heart stopping and remembering where I am

spending the whole evening by the Seine, the glow of the setting sun lighting the water aflame and back lighting the Eiffel Tower, drinking wine and snacking and enjoying relaxed conversation

flâner dans les petits rues in the Marais, in my quartier, in Saint-Germain-des-Près, in the Latin Quarter

being overcome by the majesty of the glass pyramids towering above upon entering the courtyard of the Louvre; traversing the stately halls and maze of marbled staircases inside

stopping to take a breath halfway up six flights of stairs and then turning and taking in the views of the city from the hills in Montmartre

stumbling in and out of tiny shops neatly arranged with well-made, lovely treasures; knowing I wouldn’t buy anything but just wanted to be surrounded by the wondrous aesthetics; eventually opening the door to leave and start the adventure again and returning the shopkeeper’s breezy but assertive, breathy “au revoir”

strolling through gardens with perfectly symmetrical pebble paths, rows of rainbow florals set under a backdrop of dignified mansions, grass “at rest” for winter, and groupings of chairs ready for lounging perched around tranquil fountains

standing in awe and being mesmerized by the richness in color and dramatic brushstrokes and expression of emotion in Monet’s and Renoir’s and Picasso’s and Van Gogh’s works in Musée d’Orsay and L’Orangerie

delicately biting into a wafery macaron subtly flavored with café or raspberries

sitting with friends and baguettes and cheese and bottles of champagne on the champ de mars, talking and playing games and laughing and waiting all day for dusk to fall and the tower to sparkle

nestling into a half-comfortable chair with a glass of wine in a dimly-lit stone-walled room and being serenaded by a jazz trio

tandem-riding a scooter unsafely fast over sidewalks and back roads in the dark of night

sampling fresh fruit and buying whatever is the most in season and thus the cheapest and freshest at our produce stand (clementines all winter, then pears, finally blueberries and strawberries and eventually raspberries, BLESSED JUICY DRIPPY PEACH SEASON, slowly the peaches would fade out and figs moved in to mark the end of summer, then every kind of juicy apple throughout the fall)

rifling through decades-old used books, searching for copies of fictional series I loved as a kid and now can use to practice my French

buying cheese from a fromagier – selecting whichever one or two or three looked the best, ordering it in grammes, watching the fromagier slice and weigh it (usually within 5-10g), and sometimes getting to try a slice if he/she was feeling generous

walking down our street and passing umpteen cafés crammed with couples and pairs of friends speaking french softly and meaningfully to each other

opening the windows and poking my head out into the street, noticing the older lady or young guy doing the same across from me, peering onto the street below, breathing in fresh air and reflecting on the privilege of being part of this neighborhood

heading south from our apartment and wandering down crowded and commercial rue st. denis, past les halles and its hundreds of turn of the century cafés and 21st century shoppers, down busy intersections or shadowy streets til the edge of seine where you can finally breathe and hear yourself think again, where you stop to admire the sun’s reflection in the river water and hold your breath as you look up at the Eiffel Tower, heart stopping as she confidently and gently speaks “Paris”

these are a few of my favorite things ❤

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