A love letter to Paris, in my own way

Paris. The City of Lights. The city I’ve dreamed about since my childhood.

For as long as I can remember (and let’s be real, my memory is shit), I’ve wanted to visit the city. I’ve wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Trimophe. I’ve wanted to walk through the streets of Paris, surrounded by old buildings, reflecting on the city’s history and absorbing its present state.

Earlier this year, I was finally able to cross that off my bucket list. I was able to spend two weeks in Paris, indulging my curiosities. I loved it, but there were obviously some things that probably didn’t stand up to my expectations.

Falling in love

I’ve long had an interest in the French Revolution, and in the past few years that grew to encompass other revolutionary events in French history, most notably the Paris Commune of 1871 and the protests of May 1968. It was at the times I felt I was truly interacting with those histories that I was most fascinated.

Seeing the preserved pieces of bread from the Siege of Paris in 1871, during the rule of the Commune. Walking through the Place de la Concorde knowing Louis XVI had been guillotined there. Passing la Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter, which became an important landmark of the May 1968 protests. It was at those times Paris really came alive for me.

There’s so much to see in Paris, truly. Despite being a dense city, it’s still a huge one, with important landmarks and buildings hiding around every corner. I loved having occasionally random encounters with pieces of history, and discovering shops or cafés that really stood out. I’m sure you could live in Paris and still not see everything the city has to offer, just as I’m convinced you could spend a lifetime in the Louvre and still not truly see everything. That place is massive.

Questioning the future

There were times when Paris made me wonder. Unlike other big cities, there’s a notably small number of skyscrapers, mainly in La Défense, and the buildings all have a notably similar aesthetic, with small differences here and there. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just different. This almost makes those structures that are unique seem even more so, as there’s so little variety in the building styles.

I was also a little taken aback at how hard it was to find a decent wifi connection. Paris has great infrastructure, but on this important point it seemed sorely lacking. While I found it was generally harder to find wifi in Western Europe than Eastern Europe, it was painfully hard in Paris. And I won’t even start on the difficulty of finding vegetarian food.

It kind of made me wonder what the future will hold for Paris, or even the present in some ways. I’m sure we’ve all heard at one time or another that France is stagnating, or that Paris is like a museum, and I began to wonder some of the same things.

Is Paris becoming a city for tourists and the rich who buy into the idealized version of Paris the world is presented? Or will it support the essence of what made Paris the cultural centre it is today, the bohemians and starving artists that are being pushed out of the new Paris, and many other of the world’s biggest cities?

It’s hard for me to say, but it seems it may be leaning more toward the former than the latter.

Being realistic

Does that mean Paris is lost, that the Paris we know will slowly fade?

I don’t think so. Paris is a resilient city. It hasn’t been one of the most important cities in the world for centuries without learning to adapt, and history shows us the people of the city aren’t afraid to rise up and reassert their claims when it seems the elite have too much control or are too self-interested.

I still love Paris. I still buy into the myth of Paris, its idealized version, in some ways, though I’ve also gained a realistic perspective of the city. Would I return? In a heartbeat.

I feel a connection to the city, to its cultural centres, to its revolutionary history, and so much more. I look forward to returning again, and hope someday to spend an extended time there.

I love you, Paris.