Paris est une fête

Paris Ferris WheelA moveable feast, as Hemingway wrote in his memoir of Paris in the 1920’s. That title, ‘Paris est une fête’ in French, has topped the best-seller lists here since the November attacks.

I returned to Paris for a few days following a long absence and found it to be just as I’d remembered, despite a great many changes. Let me share a few impressions.

Paris is a feast for all the senses. Perhaps the most alive city in the world, its every patch of sidewalk is taken up by people and pigeons, scooters and cars, street cleaners and sidewalk cafés. It is a city in perpetual motion, yet in which time somehow seems to stand still.

There is always something happening on a Paris street. Banal things, extraordinary things. Scenes that play out before your eyes as you sit and sip your drink. A backdrop of light and noise that never rests, only lulls for a moment.

Amid the relentless flow of traffic, it is a surprising oasis of peace and tranquility in the intense green of a city square. It’s that pâtisserie shop window with its perfect array of bijoux sweets, just next to the fromagerie that wafts raw-milk cheese to your nostrils. And the urinal smell that pervades every dark corner.

Paris is the fresh mound of dog shit that you are about to step in. It is the homeless man sitting by the curb who smiles when you give him a coin. It is a couple in a passionate embrace by the steps down to the Métro.

It is, encore et toujours, a city of tourists. Where the French seem to be making more of an effort to speak their language.

Paris is protests. The ‘Nuit Debout’ events going on at Place de la République right now are the latest in the series of demonstrations that sprout in the spring. Or perhaps the start of a new world order. In Paris, anything is possible.

Paris is sirens. The ‘pin-pon’ of police cars, CRS and emergency vehicles has always been part of its soundscape. Perhaps with a slightly more worrisome edge of late.

It is a city of strong smells and postcard moments, beauty and the beast. Anger and love. What you experience of Paris may not always be pleasant but it will be memorable.

Paris is a moment in time that stays with you forever.

Quel est ton souvenir de Paris?