It’s hard to put into words the feeling I have when I am in Paris. Or when I think about Paris, for that matter. If you’ll pardon the expression – there really is a certain je ne sais quoi about the City of Light. It’s unexplainable, intangible – yet it’s most certainly there. It’s palpable. It’s Paris.
I thought I’d give a glimpse of some memories I have accumulated over the years that bring a smile to my face whenever I think of them. There are hundreds really, but I had to narrow it to ten.
And of course, these are in no particular order. How could I possibly?
1. That first croissant. Paris does croissants like no other. Flaky, buttery, crispy, doughy. Dreamy. It doesn’t matter if you get ’em at a hotel, a fine upscale cafe, a local neighborhood joint or from the local boulangerie. Some say it’s the water that makes them so damned good. I don’t care really – all I know is that they are to. die. for.
2. The Seine. Rain or shine, strolling or riding, up top or down below – it’s beautiful no matter which way I remember it. Even picnicking along its banks. The Seine makes Paris, in my opinion. You can feel the energy of the city flowing, pulsing through it- even though the water generally remains pretty still. Every vantage point offers something unique and picturesque. The bridges that traverse it are each special in their own right.
3. The 400-year-old quirky hotel where I stayed during my first visit. And making friends with the housekeeper who also served me breakfast every morning, a simple baguette-style roll with butter and jam, along with the most delicious cafe au lait. Ever. I would stare out of the tiny breakfast room window onto the beautiful square below as I practiced my rudimentary French with this welcoming woman who greeted me with a big smile and seemed to sing her responses to me in her native French. She charmed the socks off me. I arrived not knowing a soul- and left with a new friend.
4. The jaw-dropping views from the top of the Eiffel Tower, La Samaritaine, Arc du Triomphe and Sacre Coeur. See it once, you’ll never have to see it again- those gorgeous panoramas of the city are ingrained in my mind forever. Those Paris Mansard rooftops, bridges, tree-lined boulevards and church spires are truly one-of-a-kind. I can close my eyes and recall the images whenever I want.
5. Calling home every night on my solo trip from a tiny phone booth situated at the end of a quiet, cobbled street near my hotel in Paris. I happily visited late every evening and would excitedly recount my tales of the day, at length, to the voice waiting on the other end. I’d skip back to my hotel in the dark, thinking of what the next day had in store.
6. The Grand Architecture. I’ll never forget the first moment I ever rounded the corner near the Pont Neuf and got my first view of the grandness of the buildings lining the river. But I’ll also remember walking the back streets of Montmartre and the upscale neighborhood in the 7th arrondissement. I fell in love with the grand apartment houses in varied shades of stone and cement that seem to loose themselves in the sky with onyx wrought iron balustrades. Flowers just fill the tiny balconies and seem to drip down the sides of the buildings.
7. My time on the I’sle Saint-Louis. I love strolling the tiny island. The shops are all so charming. It was here that I was pampered by a shop owner getting a true glimpse of what good service is like in Paris. She spent about an hour with me, draping me in scarf after scarf until she found just the right one to work with my ‘coloring’. She smelled and looked delicious. It was also here that I heard wonderful accordion music beckoning me from the back of Notre Dame.
8. Taking in the view of Notre Dame, while resting on a park bench near the edge of the Seine. I was sitting there minding my own business when a pigeon decided to crap right on me. Ah. Good times. I wasn’t exactly happy when it happened – but it’s something I’ll never forget- and now I can smile about it! I will fondly remember it as my ‘Good Luck Greeting in Paris’.
9. Shopping at the food markets. I always remember how alive each and every sense feels when shopping for food in Paris. Whether in the open-air markets or specialty shops – I savour every moment. The colorful flowers, the fresh fruits and vegetables spilling out of crates and the hand-written signs announcing their variety and price in French. The smells of rotisserie chicken and roasted potatoes. And don’t even get me started on the cheese. Hundreds of varieties of cheese, each more foul and putrid-smelling than the next, fill the air. And I adore each and every one. The moldier the better! I long for that awful smell and a small sliver of that cheese.
10. Spending time with my Parisian friend, who also happens to be a foodie. I love hanging out in her fav off-the-beaten-path spots, eating at her local haunts and enjoying espresso in the back room of her hubby’s Pharmacie while he gives us lessons in French skin care. But, perhaps the most memorable experience of all the time with her was enjoying a home cooked meal at her house, spending time with her family. Not one single thing I have done in Paris compares to that.
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