I have been in Paris now for exactly one month, and I’ve been badly negligent in documenting my experiences here – mostly because I have been extremely busy getting settled at work and at home. But I’ve been (thankfully) prodded by a few people to start writing, so I am going to do my best to recollect the last few weeks before they fade from my memory…
On the day I arrived, the weather was absolutely beautiful. I was told afterwards that it was actually the first “real” spring day after what had been an unusually long and cold winter. As I rode in the taxi from Charles de Gaulle airport down into the heart of the city, I could almost feel the “Spring energy”: everywhere you looked there were people out walking around, eating lunch at the outdoor cafes, sitting by the fountains or on the steps of monuments, and lounging in the sun along the banks of the Seine. The city was alive. I’d arrived to Paris at its best.
I had been to Paris several times before, but always on short trips – either for business meetings, or else on vacation with my family while growing up (we lived in the UK for three years, and sometimes took weekend trips to France). But because these trips were always so brief or busy, I hadn’t seen much more than a typical tourist does the first time they visit – Notre Dame, The Eiffel Tower, a boat ride on the river, etc. So while the general look of the city wasn’t new to me, many of the sights I found myself flying past in the taxi were – and they were impressive ones. I rode past the church of Saint Augustin and La Madeleine, through Place de la Concorde – where the most infamous be-headings of the revolution took place and the Luxor Obelisk now stands – across the Seine and past all kinds of other famous buildings, until finally we reached the narrow, winding streets of the 6th Arrondissement, where my hotel was located.
I was exhausted after the long, overnight flight from DC, and I actually had to be at work early the next morning, so I really wanted to get some rest. But it felt almost blasphemous to take a nap with the city surrounding me. So I dropped off my four big duffel bags in the room (only two at a time fit in the hotel elevator – and that was without me), freshened up, then went out for a quick walk. I hadn’t gone more than 50 yards down my hotel’s street before I found myself suddenly loomed over by the towers of Saint Sulpice – the second largest church in Paris after Notre Dame, recently made famous again by it’s role in The Da Vinci Code.
It was the first of many such surprises. In fact, the “quick walk” ended up lasting a solid two hours, prolonged again and again by new sights around each corner, and an amazement at the thought “this is where I live now.” If I’m accused of sounding cliche I can only plead guilty, because if any single impression characterized my arrival here, it was a realization that the biggest cliche about Paris is absolutely true: it really is an incredibly beautiful city.