I sure hope I'll be back...
10.07.2013 - 17.07.2013
So, after a week in Paris, some final impressions:
Paris is different from what I imagined. Partially because when I imagined it, I imagined it around the time that the writers I love were living there, and the world has changed a lot since the early twentieth century.
I think I was surprised to see Paris in color, because I always imagine it in black and white. I know that even in the 1920s the people who were actually living there saw the city in color, but even so. I'd always kind of imagined Paris aged differently than the rest of the world.
It didn't. Or, if it did, it's not obvious from seeing the city today. Cars are a vital part of life there, and they're busy driving quickly down the roads, except for rush hour, where they're very busy stopping and starting along the roads.
I can't talk much about the metro, because the only time I took it was when we first arrived in Paris after a decent day of travel and with all our luggage. That tempered my view of it, though tickets did seem much simpler in Paris than in some other cities I've been in. (One ticket was good from when you entered the metro to when you re0emerged onto the lights of the above-ground city, and you didn't need to calculate exact fare for the route you were taking before you bought the ticket. If you wanted to spend an entire day taking trains and staying in subway stations, you could.)
Large sections of the city are gorgeous. Lots of buildings, parks, statues, plazas, etc. are beautiful. But it is still a city. There are homeless and beggars on streets. There are people sitting on benches muttering or talking to themselves without seeming to be aware of anything that's going on around them. There are salesmen and petitioners who's knowledge of English has a huge gap- the word “No.” There are people who pretend they've just seen a gold ring on the ground and try to... (probably sell it to you, possibly take your wallet. Possibly both.) Oh, and there are pigeons. Everywhere.
And with all that, it's still a beautiful city, filed with art and history and literature. And for all that, I love it.
I never up the Eiffel Tower. I never went into the any of the museums. (I did see a few statues inside the Louvre.) I never saw the Mona Lisa or the Gates of Hell. I saw the pyramids of the Louvre a lot, and the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame de Paris once. But for the most part, I didn't search out what most people came to Paris to see.
As I was walking though th outside of the Louvre one day, I heard a kid ask his mother “is it bigger than all of the museums in Brisbane put together?” At a guess, I would say yes, because I can't think of any museums in Brisbane. But there's so much more to art in Paris than the Louvre, and there's so much more to Paris than the art.
I could have comfortably spent much longer in Paris. And at some point I probably would have seen a museum, and then a bit later seen another one. And at some point I would have climbed some of the monuments that let people climb them. And at some point I would have stalked other authors to where they'd been years before.
But for right now, I'm glad I saw what I saw. It's far from being everything in Paris- one week would never be enough time for that. It's far from being everything most people think of when they think of Paris. Other people have their own things that they see there. It's partly what I thought of when I thought of Paris, but more importantly, it's what I'll think of when I think of Paris in the future. I have memories that I could never find inside a guidebook. They're not all picturesque, but that's part of what makes the city real.