I recently captured a renew enthusiasm for travel, with a trip to Paris over American Thanksgiving. It reminded me of how compelling and inspiring it can be to change settings, if only for a few days. For me, it serves as something as a “hard reboot,” providing energy and an invigorated sense of life’s possibilities. And of course, wherever I go, there are special things to enjoy about the destination.
The praises of Paris are truly infinite, but here is my personal favorite “Top Ten List,” for this particular trip. Reasons to love Paris:
- The language. There’s no denying that the French language is beautiful and lyrical. Most usually I have no idea what is being said to me in French, but it sounds delightful!
- Food, glorious, food! It doesn’t matter if you are sitting in casual brasserie or a Michelin three-star restaurant, the food in Paris is awesome. One may not enjoy the dizzying selections of menu items, but the food is wonderful. On my first evening in Paris, I headed to a little shop for espresso and a snack. I ordered a cheese plate and six delightful varieties were delivered to me with yummy bread. Simple, but perfect.
- The more leisurely pace of life. It’s almost part of the French DNA: to stop and smell the roses. I was dumbfounded when I realized that people suffered far less attachment to their mobile devices. When folks strolled about the streets of Paris, their heads were not buried in Smart phones! And when people gathered for coffee, wine or a meal, they were engaged with each other. Brilliant!
- The scale of it all. After living in New York for a few years, a girl can forget that not every important city is climbing with sky scrapers. In the City of Lights, the lanes are wide and the buildings are low—and with this comes a sense of freedom and space.
- Art and Culture. There’s not much more to say about this. The architecture is beautiful, the museums overflow from every corner of the City. It may be my imagination, but people really seem to appreciate beauty.
- The river and the bridges. Shortly before going over to Paris, I came upon a recent interview on 60 minutes with the outstanding American historian David McCullough. His most recent book is about Paris, and he explained that he thought the bridges over the Seine made the city so exceptional. I completely agree! The beautiful river winds about the city, separating the right and left banks. One need not gaze far to see many breathtaking paths from side to side.
- The high style and sophistication of all of the French people. When I was a little girl growing up in Oklahoma, my elderly grandmother Mee-Maw would get “dolled” up to run her routine chores….going to the bank, heading to the beauty salon, or visiting the doctor. She was a simple woman, but she always wore a colorful dress, perfectly (at least in my eyes) complemented with glittery costume jewelry, usually a brooch and “ear screws,” (she was of the vintage of ladies that didn’t have pierced ears! Somehow I sensed that about Parisians of all ages. I saw so many ladies “off a certain age,” who—in 2012—seemed to fully embrace that sentiment of my Mee-Maw….every day is special and worthy of trying to look one’s best.
- Colorful neighborhoods of all sorts. My companion and I were staying in the “Latin Quarter,” surrounded by Paris’s great universities. In the heart of it all is the Luxembourg Garden. I would never want to underestimate the grandeur of our own Central Park, but the “Jardin du Luxembourg,” has a stately elegance all its own. Other areas (Arrondissements as the French say), from the Marais to the Right Bank, have their own distinct flavors and feel. All of this is easily accessible on foot, too!
- The wonderful array of local stores. As I strolled the city, I did happen upon some of those American standards like McDonald’s and Starbucks, yet the vast majority of retailers, shops, and restaurants are home grown. In my mind, the stores are small, charming and often unique, featuring foods of various sorts, decorative items, jewelry and gifts—all with that unmistakable Paris flair.
- Their love of dogs! I don’t know enough about French history and culture to say why the French love their dogs so much, but at least as much in New York, a passerby will see a proud and affectionate owner taking their pup for a stroll. Moreover, in Paris you are more likely to see a generally small and well-behaved dog in a restaurant or shop. I, of course, this is just great.
I generated this memo as I was on my plane ride home, with regret off course. For, I have only touched the tip of the iceberg as to what makes this particular European capital so fabulous. The same can be said or just about every city over there. The only question is, “which one should I visit next?”
Here is a visual representation of some of my favorite things in this most beloved city: