I was dreaming about going to Paris since I was 9. At 15, my good friend went to Paris and sent me a card with an Eiffel Tower that I kept for a while, dreaming that one day I will go there too. At 24, we were planning to go to Paris for our honeymoon with my husband when I lost my job so we had to postpone it. At 25, my dream came true and one summer day I arrived at Paris with my husband.
It was July 2015 and the thermometer was showing +37C degrees. That was the hottest day of the year, when the whole of Europe was going through a heat wave.
As I walked through the streets of Paris, pulling oversized and overloaded luggage, I was jumping from joy. This finally happened! I am in Paris! I was a proud owner of a Paris t-shirt that I bought a year ago in anticipation of the trip. A small Eiffel Tower keychain was attached to my keys. My iPod had a playlist with French songs or songs about Paris. Before leaving the airport I applied some French perfume and put on red lipstick. I felt more French than any Parisian girl that passed by.
However, I didn’t get the French Paris vibe when I expected it, and when I did, it was out of the blue. When I would aggressively seek this Paris feeling by entering a cute café, the drinks would have a plain taste, and the atmosphere would sound too loud or too quiet. One evening we were walking in the streets of Paris, and that’s when it hit me that, despite the fact that the Paris I saw wasn’t the Paris that Audrey Hepburn or the Hemingways have experienced, it was beautiful in its own way. The city evolved with time, like other cities, and there was a beautiful blend of new fashion, new generation of young people with the traditional French cuisine and wine and old buildings that saw the rise and fall of of the French Empire. The city concealed some of its treasures while revealing others, like the four rare volumes of Gil Blas de Santillana printed in the second half of XIX century that we found along with old postcards in a beautiful old shopping mall called Passage Jouffroy. In the five days I spent in Paris I learned 5 important things that I brought home to Toronto with me:
- There is beauty in simplicity – whether it is French cuisine or the way French women dress
- There is power in reflecting and observing as life takes its place – most cafes and restaurants in Paris have placed their chairs in the way that makes it easy to observe other people and streets when you sit down for a beverage. Life in the city is slow during the day and the evening sees more people and excitement and the joy of life is in the air. Taking time during the day to reflect on my own life boosts energy just as much as observing how vibrant the city gets in the evening, with champagne popping, people laughing and cameras clicking near the Eiffel Tower.
- Don’t underestimate the power of scent – it reminds me of great days just as much as the music that I heard when something pleasant happened. I got a small bottle of perfume that smelled like cherry when I went to see a perfume museum called Fragonard, and throughout my trip around France as well as when I got back, in the dark Canadian winter days filled with snow this bottle of joy would remind me of a fun summer spent in France.
- Seeing beauty, just like being happy is a choice. You can always focus on negative things that distract you from seeing beauty or feeling joy, or you can focus on seeing positive things. For instance, when we stepped out on a wrong train station to go see a palace outside of Paris, we had a choice to become grumpy and complain about the walk, or explore the old village that we would probably wouldn’t visit otherwise. We focused on exploring as we walked past small buildings covered in flowers, taking pictures and visiting local bakery to get a fresh crusty baguette.
- Inspiration can be found everywhere and in everything. I was inspired by paintings and sculptures in Louvre, by beauty of Versailles, by how the sunset reflects in the windows of the Louvre, by colourful flowers almost on every tiny balcony of every Paris building, by Fitzgerald’s description of glamorous 20s in the book I found in a small Paris book store, by loud fountains, by a pretty cup of cappuccino I got for breakfast, by tiny macaroons that looked at me from every bakery I passed, by tiny roses in a vase on each table in one of the cafes I visited, by tourists that put their best clothes on to walk outside… it is all about the attitude and what you choose to see.