March 4, 2008, marked my fourth sojourn to Paris (you can peruse the journal notes from my inaugural trip here). Some globetrotters might balk at repeat visits to one destination, but sometimes I can’t help myself, just like when I’m compelled to listen to the same song over and over again or eat the same meal for days, if not weeks. I’ve come to believe that you can’t really get a sense of a place until you’ve scratched the main attractions off your to-do list and moved on to exploring–even getting lost–off the tourist track. Of course, you could simply skip the tourist itinerary altogether and jump to step 2, but I’ve done that before, too, and returned home feeling like I missed out on something.
It was during this fourth visit that I confirmed that, aside from the Bay Area, I could see myself living in the City of Light. Sure, the sidewalks are often dotted with landmines of poodle poo and sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re in the proximity of rank, unwashed feet or just a wedge of well-aged Camembert. But cinematic Robert Doisneau moments pop up everywhere (stylish couples still kiss in the middle of the street while entwined in a statuesque embrace!) and sinful patisseries grace virtually every block. The city is charming, inspiring, and infinitely photogenic. An Old World air endures despite its growing reputation as a “European city of the future.”
I’ll admit that there are quite a few touristy things I still haven’t tired of: Standing beneath the Eiffel Tower and craning my neck to see the tip. Inhaling the sweeping views from both the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triompe. Crossing the Seine onto Île de la Cité. Navigating around the sculptures and sepulchers in the various verdant cemeteries. Marveling the bony architecture of the Catacombs. Strolling through Jardin des Tuileries when the multicolor tulips are in bloom….I really could go on forever like a smitten schoolgirl.
Surprises are wonderful, too, such as squeezing into a jam-packed, thimble-sized bar to see a raucous garage band from Montreal, Canada; discovering a vegetarian bistro with a thoughtfully prepared menu; playing video games in an opulent squat located in a crumbling fin de siècle building; and finding that you have a corner of the Louvre all to yourself.
Perhaps one day my rose-colored glasses will fade and I’ll no longer salivate at the thought of eating several pastries a day (future Five on Friday theme?), but until then, I’ll dream of Paris’s extraordinary combination of variety and familiarity as well as its efforts to sabotage my waistline.