I fell in love with Paris even before I had ever visited the city. In fact, I fell in love with everything French as far back as in my early childhood, when I first heard the language (probably on TV) and watched French movies and travel documentaries about France. It was an instant crush.
For the record: I have always had a passion for languages, - even different accents of my own language have always fascinated me, - and foreign languages are like music to my ears. The French language more than any other.
I first visited Paris in 1984, and it was everything I had dreamed of, and more. Le Tour Eiffel… L'Arc de Triomphe… Les Champs-Elysées… Pont Alexandre… Le Louvre… Montmartre… all the famous places, of course. But most of all it was the sounds, the smell of fresh baguettes from the bakery, the restaurants, the elegance of the French women, in all its simplicity… the green areas…Jardin de Tuileries… La Seine… les bateaux mouche… Notre Dame… Sacre Caeur… le Quartier Latin…
I was lucky enough to be visiting my French friend, who lived with her newly wed husband in a Paris apartment close to La Place d'Etoile. Thus I was able to experience first-hand what it was like to live in one of those wonderful old buildings. The solid wooden door… the concierge downstairs… the spiral staircase… the high ceilings of the apartment and the large windows, opened up to let the summer breeze play with the light curtains…
And the kitchen, facing the backyard, with a large window where the sounds from the neighbors came in and tickled my ears, with their laughing, the sounds of their pots and pans as they were making their dinner in the neighboring flat.. the smell of food… a dog barking… All familiar sounds, but yet so different there… Because the backdrop was different from what I was used to.
And I loved the Paris shops, all the specialized shops: boulangerie, pattisserie, charcutterie … Even going to the local supermarket and buy food was an adventure! What a selection! The Bon Maman jams … the cheese… the sausages… the wine … oh-la-la!
But even going to the big malls, like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, was a more pleasant experience than visiting many other malls I’ve been to. And the Paris life … starting the day with a bowl of café au lait and some croissants with confiture du framboise… Perhaps not the healthiest alternative in the long run, but my God, what a joy!
Lunching out at a restaurant, watching the people walking by and having a nice conversation with friends … flaner sur les quais… listening to someone playing the accordion in the French way … the sound of Edith Piaf on the radio, or some more modern music on Radio Énergie … In 1984 they played “Red, red wine” with UB40 and “Neun-und-neunzig Luftballons..” - and my friend recorded the radio-program for me and I played it again and again when I came back home, and longed back to Paris.
Me in Montmartre (1984)
It took me a while, though, to get back to Paris. I always wanted to go back, but I got married and gave birth to 2 children, and vacations became a family desicion and not something I could decide all on my own. So for quite a few years, family vacations were spent mostly at home, entertaining guests, or somewhere in our own country, most likely in some child friendly environment. On a few occations we also visited friends in England, so we did go abroad at some point, but not as often as I would have preferred.
But then - finally! - in 2009, my (ex) husband suggested that we should all spend a week in Paris, and of course I jumped at the opportunity! We booked a private apartment that was perfectly situated close to the Metro station St. Ambroise, and I just loved it! The location made it easy for us to get around and visit many of the sights, like La Tour Eiffel, L'Arc de Triomphe, Louvre - and many more. Living in an apartment was also like being at home, and so much better than staying in some cramped hotel room. We could prepare our own food when we wanted to, we could get our clothes washed, and we had plenty of room to relax and watch TV or do whatever we liked in the evening after a long day walking around Paris. I promised myself that I would never again stay in a hotel room unless I'm on my own and only need a bed to sleep in, and that's a promise I have kept.
We had a lovely week in Paris as a family, and I loved spending time there with my kids, who were then teenagers. I hope that I will be able to go back there with them as grown-ups, too, because every age has its own preferences and the experience would be different for all of us the next time around, I'm sure. There will always be new things to see and do in Paris. It's a beautiful city, and I just love the athmosphere, the old buildings, the river Seine and the embankments ... les bouqinistes... sitting in a street café watching people passing by ... the museums ... the churches ... the shops ... My great wish is to be able to spend a longer period of time there, and some day I will make it happen.
I also went back to Paris in 2014, with the teenage son of my best friends. He had a wish to go to Paris, and since I had more time on my hands than his working parents at the time, I suggested to take the boy with me and spend a week there. And so we did.
We arrived the night before Bastille Day, and stayed in a private apartment. The landlord had left a lot of food in the fridge for us and also lots of useful information about how to get around easily and where we should go on Bastille Day to get a perfect view to the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. So we followed his instructions and had a spectacular time! And of course we spent the week visiting many of the other most famous sights, since this was my young friend's first visit, and I didn't mind seeing them again. But the next time I will probably spend more time exploring parts of Paris where I haven't been before. I know there are so many passages, small parks, shops, cafés, museums and galleries everywhere, just waiting for me to find them! And I can't wait to tell you all about them!
Back in 2014 I hadn't yet started my travel blog, so I didn't write down a lot about the places I visited or took pictures with a blog in mind. This is something I regret now. So the next time I go, I will be equipped in a better way and more prepared to share my adventure with the public. This time around, I just wanted to share some thoughts on what it is that I love about Paris, and maybe inspire you to go and explore the city on your own.
I will always long back to Paris. I’ve been there twice since that first time in 1984, but hardly often enough. As much as I love the rest of the world and want to see it all: Paris will always have a special place in my heart.
Paris, je t'aime.
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