In 2005, John's work took us to Paris, a dream destination for any new couple on a holiday much less as a place to live for a few months. We were there over summer, which isn't the best time to be anywhere in Europe in my opinion unless it's June. I'm not a fan of the heat or the tourist throngs and most of the locals will be packed up and away on their own holidays, many of them shutting their smaller businesses at the same time.
Still we made the most of it, exploring every inch of the city like we hadn't before on previous visits. It was John's second stint there but I had only visited twice. Paris is one of my favourite cities in the world. I love how walkable it is, the food, the culture and even the Parisians. I speak enough French to get around and have never had any trouble with communication there, which I think is one of the reasons I often hear people say they didn't enjoy their time in Paris so much. If you are able to speak a little French and make an effort, you will magically discover just how many Parisians speak good English and people will be more welcoming to you. If you don't it can go either way.
While John worked I spent my days shopping, exploring the city and taking photos. It was the first time I picked up a SLR camera and because I was learning I took almost all of my photos with slide film. Fast forward to 2012 when I'm sure I'd be hard pressed to find a photo shop that will convert my slides to digital (I haven't tried but living in Norway I doubt I can afford it). So I'm lucky that I made a few prints back then and had one roll of film on a CD or I'd have absolutely nothing to show you now. All of my best shots are reserved for a living room slideshow with an old Kodak carousel sometime in the future.
We got a copy of the Time Out Paris restaurant guide and tried at least one or two new eateries every week. The rest of the time I cooked, spending mornings visiting the local markets and my favourite food halls on the Left Bank. We lived half the time there and the other half in Montmartre on the right, which was a dream of both of ours. It is every bit the bohemian paradise one would imagine. We had our own lady (or man, we were never sure) of the night working the end of our block, a local restaurant where the friendly owner knew us, and a couple in the apartment across the way who would, er, enjoy each other's company without drawing the curtains several nights of the week. We know this because we often drank red wine and played cards by the window in the evenings that we didn't go out. Television was reserved for the wildlife and nature channels only because everything in France is dubbed.
Two of my favourite memories are Bastille Day and the performance we saw by the Paris Opera Ballet. Everyone would be gearing up in Paris right now for the national holiday, which is the perfect time to head to the park around the Eiffel Tower and take your seat for the best light and fireworks show I have ever seen. We didn't visit the viewing platforms at the tower that year (you'll need Eiffel Tower tickets for that) but I do believe we saw it in the most incredible way you can by spending Bastille Day there. The tower was lit up with music and special effects along with fireworks while everyone relaxed on the grass to watch. It was about an hour if I remember correctly and the finale pyrotechnics were spectacular. I hope they still do the show on such a grand scale today - I would love to visit there again over the holiday to see it again - even tolerating the summer.
Finally, I must mention the ballet we saw at the Paris Opera. I love ballet and we made sure we got to see a performance before leaving the city. It was the most beautiful ballet I have ever seen though I cannot remember the name of it now or much about it aside from a love story and something about tending love in a garden. It was modern and I remember feeling so emotional watching it, just knowing that I was sitting in one of the most amazing opera houses in the world watching one of the most talented dance companies, and all this in Paris. Truly any Francophiles dream come true.
I think one of the best ways to experience Paris is to live there for a time. Short trips don't really give you the opportunity to settle in and soak up the vibe of the city. It's truly one place I could see us living again - one of the few places in the world where I am truly content - eating goat's cheese salads in a cafe, watching the people go by, taking style notes from the women and then carrying on my day collecting fresh food for dinner and thinking about where we might go for a drink that evening. No wonder the French work to live.
Have you been to Paris? What were your impressions?