It’s nearly springtime in Paris and everyone is out on the streets, the cafes have seized the sidewalks with tables and chairs and I can hardly walk without running into waiters. There are so many couples around, hardly anyone in Paris is without a “love interest”.
I haven’t seen another city with as many florists, perfumers and chocolatiers. Or as many fine restaurants with deep wine cellars. An accordion player strikes a chord, and people tarry a while to listen. Paris is without a doubt the ultimate rendezvous, the place where couples naturally gravitate to stroll along the river till dusk descends and arms are needed for warmth. At the stroke of midnight, the Eiffel Tower lights up with a million sparkles and inevitably they whisper silly nothings that alter their lives forever.
Paris hasn’t changed; at the cafes, wedges of Quiche Lorraine and pots of thick hot chocolate don’t add up to the skinny waistlines of the lunching ladies. Everyone is still smoking, and the waiters mutter darkly as they serve the world’s tiniest portions of food. The cabbies still pretend they don’t speak a word of English and are aghast that your French isn’t up to speed. The streets are alive, animated and exciting as only the Parisian streets can be.
What is it about Paris, I wonder, that makes it so special? I lean on the side of a bridge to look at the expanse ahead of me. Through the filigree of the sycamore trees — still without leaf — through the branches and round pods, I see a series of buildings and I realise that what I love about Paris is that it is low rise, aesthetic and congruous.
Napoleon, the Third and Baron Haussmann will be long appreciated for its planning and architectural style. Black wrought iron balconies decorate the
beige stone facades, and each geometric pattern is different from the next one. The charcoal grey slate roofs curve slightly, and wooden shuttered windows remind me that I am in a Mediterranean clime. Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay, Sacre Coeur, all manner of important buildings and sites are on my itinerary, but the path to them is just as interesting.
Change of scenery
Every Friday night, thousands of people on rollerblades enjoy a 25 km spin of the city in a traffic free zone. They take in city as well as river views as they skate past the romantic bridges. At the onset of summer, the Seine’s banks will be transformed into Paris Plage, a recreated beach, by bringing in tonnes of sand, pebbles and plastic palm trees. Office workers, schoolchildren, families will be spirited away to a seaside experience. Mini breaks will be spent lying on a towel, feeling the sand between the toes while the sun warms the outside and a tall cocktail cools the inside. This is Paris. Who says they can’t have it all?