Hey. Let’s not make this awkward. I know it’s been a while since we last spoke. That’s probably my fault. We used to be such good friends.
I remember my mother telling me all about you when I was young. Tales of your beauty and wonder soothed me to sleep for years. We ate croissants and smelly cheese so that she could reminisce. One week my mother decided to surprise you with an unplanned visit, my sister and I in tow. We weren’t sure if you’d be happy to see us. And judging by how much it rained, you weren’t. But we still loved you. Our mother made us order baguettes, milk and cheese in French from the old man in the supermarket. We trembled and mumbled but by the end of the weekend we boldly asked for a “chocolat chaud” and a “pain au chocolat”. Finally we were putting our years of lessons at the Alliance Francaise to good use.
That first visit left a good taste in my mouth, both literally and figuratively. Not to be nostalgic, but you and I were on good terms then, Paris. There were other visits after that. I’m sure you remember. That time I visited with my school mates on an exchange and roamed your streets making eyes at French boys and dreaming of falling in love. My first visit to Galeries Lafayette was an absolute revelation. I could not comprehend the French attitude to clothes. Quality over quantity was such a bizarre concept to me at the time, I was mesmerized. You and your people dazzled me with your elegant, understated style. I adored you then.
Remember when I tried my hand at photography and had a photo exhibited in the Sorbonne? I could not have been more in love with you. Seeing my photo (of my sister) on display in such an iconic spot is something I’ve never forgotten. Thank you for that memory. It was sunny that visit, as if you knew how important that trip was to me. I still take photos, in case you ever wonder about me.
But then, after that trip and many other short ones in between, I kind of gave up on you. I guess it all got too familiar. I took you for granted. Honestly, I was kind of over you. The Eiffel Tower and the long lines at the Louvre held no appeal anymore. I’d stopped appreciating the little things and only saw a big busy city where a coffee cost €6. I had moved on to newer and more exciting parts of the world. Exotic, faraway lands were what I craved. If it wasn’t long-haul I didn’t want to know. We didn’t fit anymore.
In 2015 I visited for work. I wasn’t really looking forward to it, but I decided to give you a chance. I didn’t tell you I was visiting, I just turned up. I wanted to see how I felt without any pressure. So I took my time. I watched them prepare the Dior flower mountain without even knowing what I was seeing. People spoke to me in French thinking I was one of yours. Men asked me to join them for a glass of wine (I politely declined). But slowly, I realised that I was walking your streets with a smile on my face. Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t quite over you.
And just after that visit, you were attacked. Someone hurt you and your people. And the world watched on from a distance. People told me I shouldn’t be upset or outraged, that I should think of all the other places in the world that had bad things happen to them. But I know you, I have history with you – it was personal. Honestly, it reminded me of how much I cared about you.
A couple of months ago you invited me over. I think you wanted to show me that you were OK, that what had happened to you over the past year hadn’t broken you, that there was still so much life and beauty in you to be seen, explored and enjoyed. You knew I didn’t want to see the usual tourist attractions, you knew you had to show me the other side of you, the side that only a few choose to see. So you opened up. I wandered between the vibrant art installations of Nuit Blanche and was amazed (and a little confused) by what I was seeing. I followed trails of street art, architecture and abandoned train lines. I stood on the roof of musée du quai Branly, watching the lights of the Eiffel Tower sparkle through the night and wondering how I had ever decided that you were boring (sorry).
So I guess I’m writing to tell you that I get it now. There is so much more to you than the side that most people see. But you never changed, it was me. I just wasn’t looking at you in the right way. All I needed to do was change my perspective. I’m sorry I took you for granted, Paris. But if it helps, I’ve never been more in love with you in my life.
See you soon, Paris.
All my love,
P.S: I made this video from my latest trip. I wanted to show people the other side of you, the “Unexpected Paris”.
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