25 September 2011

Paris? Mais Oui!

A recent job interview brought me to Paris for a couple days.

Ah...Paris, the most beautiful city in the world. It is referred to as the 'City of Lights', but it is so much more than that. Beauty seeps out of every corner, hidden below trees...

Or above doors... 

accompanying you along your way,

or to surprise you with impromptu music, by skilled street performers.

She is a city of tiny alley ways providing popular rendezvous points for friends and packed neighborhood hangouts. 
Paris, like Los Angeles, Rome and other big cities, is all about the neighborhoods. But where it differs from the others, is that almost all Parisian neighborhoods, like the Marais, Pigalle, Saint Germain, the 7th...they are all stunningly beautiful in their own ways, steeped in history and most importantly, cared for.

Rome is a fantastic city that I enjoy every time I'm there. But the French are infinitely better at caring for their environment and keeping streets clean and maintained. And it shows.

Paris is stunning by day, with more things to do, museums to see and parks to lounge in than possibly any other city on the planet.
Les Jardins du Luxembourg go on and on and on with grassy knolls, fountains, ponds, tree lined promenades and thousands of chairs to relax and soak up some sun. In my own search for a chair, I quickly learned that there is an unspoken rule of two chairs per person. And since the saying goes, 'when in Rome Paris'...

So after a bit of searching and a bit of waiting, I snagged myself two chairs as well! Ahh, nice to rest my feet after seven miles of walking! Fresh from my first interview in French (which was not easy after 10 years of not speaking French), I took some time to reflect and imagine myself living there...
But I was actually in Paris, so I couldn't get too comfortable, because there were pâtisseries calling my name... Nicole... Nicole... I could hear their voices, with the lovely way the French pronounce my name... viens...nous avon une surprise pour toi...viens! Attendez-mois, j'arrive!

Ooh la la..

Mmm, yeah that looks good too!

But, I do have a confession to make--and the mere thought of writing it down makes me hear the sound of records screeching to a halt and all of Paris stopping dead in their tracks to turn and say: "Quoi?" Ok, here goes...brace yourself...

I am just not a fan of Parisian macarons. There. I said it. I keep trying, really, I do. But for me, they are more beautiful to look at than they are to eat. Yes, they are soft and delicate, but with all their intense colors, and alluring flavors, why do I have to waft each bite through my nose just to guess what I'm eating? Albeit, I still have not had a famous La Durée macaron, and maybe one little nibble will inspire a scene like the food critic in Ratatouille. But I doubt it. I just think that with all the absolutely stunning pastries in Paris, 

why waste a caloric splurge on these dry little cookies? Mousses of raspberry, passionfruit, pistachio, petit fours with soft cake and dense creams--not to mention an infinite variety of the best chocolate creations in the world--who cares about these macarons?

And, c'mon...les croissants? Nearly any bakery in Paris can provide you with a painstakingly perfect, flaky croissant, but a friend took me to experience quite possibly the most amazing croissant on the planet. Who knew such a small package could pack such an amazing punch! These are the Ispahan croissants at Pierre Hermé bakery. Go there, have one, go back, have another...

They are filled with the most delightful pastes of lychee, raspberry and rose. Every bite fills your mouth with each distinctive flavor. Absolutely delightful! 

Delightful pastries make the day fanciful, but by night the city really becomes splendorous. Iron street lamps illuminating your way, expertly lit architecture and the Seine to reflect the stunningly beautiful bridges, lit by cherubs embracing their lamps.

What is it about Paris that moves my soul and millions of other's so completely? When I am there, I feel as if I am fed by centuries of artists, pouring their love and energy into every crevice of the city.

How can one return to the mundane ordinary of life after a trip to Paris? Pablo Picasso once said:
"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life"
That is what makes Paris so splendid--enough art and beauty at every turn to make a life less ordinary.  

I have to say that although it was just a brief trip, I had a good amount of time to reflect on the idea of moving to Paris. And the strangest part is, there I was, face to face with an opportunity that I had always dreamed of, and I wasn't the least bit excited. I realized that it just wasn't right. For the amount the job was offering, and the amount of hours per week it required, I would not have time or money for the things that I love about Paris.

And after running around (I averaged 7 miles a day!) and commuting on buses and the metro...I decided that even if I didn't actually live in Paris, I would be able to enjoy it much more coming to visit often than joining the rat race and being too exhausted to enjoy anything. 

Alors, vous revoir dans mes rêves...

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