23 Moments I fell in Love with Paris
1. The first taste of French mayonnaise: it was like fluffy clouds of lemon and dill.
2. Walking by the Seine on the first day and finding the place on the west bank where the kids gather to dance salsa and bachata.
3. The first taste of a pistachio, raspberry éclair. It was beyond creamy, and the textures overlapped with joy.
4. Sitting at a cafe in Luxembourg gardens and seeing a bird poop on a suave businessman's head. We tried to keep our amusement hatted, but he saw us and started laughing in good grace, and then we all joined laughing when we saw he could laugh at himself. He left, still laughing, wiping the stuff out his hair.
5. The first, buttery taste of foie gras, and the way the waiter made us wipe the plate clean before he would take it away - even though all that was left was a smidge. He was such a funny, fatherly sort of man that we had no real option to do otherwise.
6. Stepping out of the bread shop to see this lovely flower store across the way.
7. The lady who apologized to us for the crowded metro on our way into the city for the first time. She wished us to have a good trip despite the less-welcoming welcome.
8. Sitting and drinking in the beauty of one of Monet's "Water Lilly's." Looking out the window at L' Orangerie to see the Paris Wheel.
9. Watching all the regulars come in at Le Petit Italien. The waitresses would kiss them and chat for awhile, making the place feel like a special kind of homey.
10. Trying on a beautiful blouse and skirt at a French boutique and feeling them fit like magic. Unfortunately, magic was also requisite, and missing, to make my bank account grow to match the price.
11. The lady in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles who couldn't understand my camera to take a photo of us, and didn't speak English for me to explain, so she ran all the way across to the other side to fetch a friend who could take the photo. Lovely person.
12. The Frenchman who stopped his work van and waited to pass so I could take a photo of an ivy-covered wall.
13. Seeing the outlines of the Eiffel lit against a clear, blue jasmine sky.
14. The lady playing accordion in Montmarte. Her bright, mischievous eyes as she sat there tapping her foot and watching the people walk by.
15. The string band playing in the metro. Watching the first violinist as he showed off to the gathering crowds.
16. Seeing the Seine sparkle in the morning light.
17. Watching the German couple sitting next to us at the Trocadero teach their two lively kids how to barter for Eiffel Tower key chains. The kids would run around the corner to barter and then come back and consult with their parents. They ended up getting a better deal than their dad suggested, and the accomplishment they felt in that moment was inspiring to behold.
18. Belly-laughing at an inappropriate joke at a street entertainer show.
19. The old French lady who kept trying to jam my credit card into her calculator. When I pointed it out she laughed and started telling me how I would bring my husband to to Paris and teach him the city, and take selfies from the Eiffel. By the time she was done she had manufactured for me an entire family and we were all laughing.
20. Watching a man light up as he walked by, and turning to see him greet his little girl after a day at work. I've never seen the sun rise in someone's eyes like that before, and I will treasure the memory of the scene.
21. Laughing at the French waiter poking at a terrified cat who wouldn't come down off the awning. It just sat there meowing loudly until he finally persuaded (or taught it) how to climb down the tree nearby.
22. Sitting at Luxembourg Gardens (again) and simply soaking in the restfulness of Paris.
23. Paris may be romantic, and it is the City of Lights, but more than anything it is the city where I felt and saw, a vibrant pulse of friendship I've never seen in another big city. The millions of heartbeats meeting for espresso and drinks, getting together to play music along the Seine, sitting together in the many gardens of the city, and always talking. It was rare to see two or more people together on their phones, they were almost always engaged in vibrant conversation.
Paris is lovely for many reasons, but seeing how she values her friends was my favorite. One of the nights we sat on the green just below the Eiffel when a party of friends gathered for a birthday, and the beauty of the scene just about knocked me over. The birthday girl was in a wheelchair, while people mingled around her: kissing her, presenting gifts, singing songs (someone else playing guitar nearby did the honor for the actual song) and making sure the food was set up. I suppose what touched me deeply about the scene was not anything physical, there wasn't anything special in the way of food or decor, but the intangible feeling that carried itself across the lawn to me of love.
Friendship had brought them together, and there's nothing else that will ever change a travel experience more than connecting with a culture through a mutual joy.