So, what is it about Paris that I’ve fallen in love with? People say it’s the most romantic city in the world. However, on our most recent trip (last month), my fiance and I discussed this prospect and were decidedly considerate not to offend her, but Italy, for example, can seem more romantic as one’s vision of romance goes. Lush foliage and terracotta rooftops, earthy, welcoming natives and Mediterranean food creates a most romantic feel in Ostia Antica. In Rome, too, narrow winding streets to get lost in and around, while stopping for an espresso and a glass of wine every so often, offers an overwhelming sense of love of life – and with the one person you love, easily translates to undeniable romance.
Paris’ moniker, ‘City of Light’, I will say works for me better in the rain. Today, all cities are lit up at night, but when it’s raining and the cafes are lit, the rays spill out onto the sidewalks, creating a colorful image, not unlike van Gogh’s “Cafe Terrace at Night” (although he paints no rain in that piece). I think, though, that it may be the historical origins of ‘City of Light’ that composes for us an allusion of romance. Gas lights illuminating Avenue des Champs-Elysees as early as 1828, Europe’s center of education (Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter dates back to the 13th century) and Paris’ participation in the Age of Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries all contribute to that designation.
OK, so that’s not it…so what then? Could it be the River Seine? Sure, we walked and kissed along its banks – droite et a gauche – even during the one trip when we brought our three teenagers. Could it be the architecture? Well, again, we decided that it’s probably not the buildings and bridges since they are mostly gray stone. Le Tour Eiffel is, after all completely constructed of iron. And, the pyramid at the Louvre is glass and metal. Not really so colorful. Now, Barcelona, on the other hand, is draped in color, thanks to Gaudi.
Like any good love story, though, it’s difficult to describe the logic for one’s love. It’s a combination of magic, intuition and reactionary emotion. It’s hard to pinpoint any one characteristic, and it’s not just one or even five; it’s a menagerie of melded gems creating the whole mosaic. In fact, Paris does have its own store of hidden gems, too. Behind those gray stone buildings are courtyards where there’s quiet and flowers and green and tall windows with black wrought iron grates that look out over the courtyards. It’s quaint and secluded and, actually, very romantic. And, on any given day during any simple, short stroll, one can buy flowers and cheese and wine and baguettes as well as a tantalizing assortment of pastries.
Ah, so this all, then, is the romance. Parisians romance their days through their long culinary lunches, people watching at cafes, leisurely, late walks down cobblestone streets, stylish strutting and vibrant social conversations. These images sneak into your subconscious and follow you home so that they’re coursing in your veins and, ultimately, become a state of being.
Paris is a state of being. And, this is the Paris I’ve fallen in love with – the Romantic Paris.