I’ve fallen in love a handful of times in my life: in high school when I awoke in Lausanne, Switzerland--my first time in Europe--and looked out my flower-boxed window at a city so gorgeous and pristine is didn’t seem real.
In college when I wandered the cobblestone streets of Orvieto, Italy--a crumbling, enchanted, hilltop town--for the first time and thought to myself, “Do I really get to live here for the next three months?”
And most recently, in Paris.
It’s more difficult than the previous times for me to pinpoint the exact moment I handed a little piece of my heart to Paris, but I think I first started to feel those strange flutterings in my stomach as I rode the metro into the city from the airport. A dejected-looking man was squawking the same melancholy notes on his clarinet over and over in an otherwise silent compartment. He kept going for a while. It was downright terrible and no one said I word. I smiled. This is something I can get behind, I thought. (It was only my first taste of the many subway performers who would serenade me while I was there. Most were far better than him.)
And after a single day in Paris, I didn’t want to leave. Like, ever. I loved the architecture, I loved the fashion, I loved the convenience of the metro, I loved the thousands of cafes, I loved how polite everyone was (why do Parisians have such a bad rap?), I loved the deliberate, widespread lack of English. I guess you could say I fell pretty hard.
I didn’t spend my time there running from place to place and checking off must-see items on my list. It was a slow, sweet, week-long affair.
Two friends from Korea, both of whom are very special to me, met up with me there. While we are worlds away now, one of these friends at the time was, well, more than a friend. It became increasingly difficult to shake the cliches about Paris as the ultimate city for love. It really is one of the most romantic places I’ve ever been.
We stayed in a cozy creaky-floored apartment in the 9th arrondissement, owned by a kind man named Xavier--who, incidentally, had the best wardrobe I have ever seen (not that I looked in the closet, ahem). We spent our days wandering the streets hand-in-hand, chatting and stopping periodically to take photos of scenes that caught our interest: a small truck with a basket of lavender on the roof; several pairs of tennis shoes dangling from a single telephone line; a radiant sky still full of rain clouds from earlier . Another day we bought a bag of cherries from a farmers market, then went thrift store shopping. It wasn't a groundbreaking itinerary, but these little memories are what have stuck with me months later.
In the evenings we bought overpriced cocktails, went to jazz clubs, became hopelessly lost. On a particularly memorable night, we rode an elevator to the top of Tour Montparnasse for stunning views of the city, then shared a bottle of wine on a darkened bench in front of the Eiffel Tower, right as the tower’s nightly midnight light show began. Still wanting more views of the city, afterward we walked along the Seine, taking in the the glowing lights that cast yellow reflections across the river. (I can’t be certain, but that single evening may have ruined all future dates for me.)
When I returned home, I spent about a week researching how I could possibly move to Paris before realizing that life as a resident would likely ruin everything. The fantasy would be shattered. Everything would be different. Like those romantic relationships that only seem to make sense inside a set of time-stamped parameters, I knew I couldn’t love Paris in the same way as a permanent city-dweller.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back, but you can be sure I’ll be back for another tryst. In the meantime, I’ll continue struggling to describe Paris in anything other than cliches. City of Love. City of Lights. City of Fashion (and attractive men with beards). City of the Best Damn Pastries I’ve Ever Tasted.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Paris. This year you have my heart.