I dashed back and forth around Paris and felt I was going around the world. I was out and about in all weathers, came home at all hours, was in the pits of all theatres.
– George Sand
Passing through Paris en route to Africa is at once homecoming and rediscovering this awesome city with new eyes (and lens). I made my first pilgrimage back in my freshman summer. Like first love, all memories were etched in a receded sacred corner of the heart: wandering the streets, ploughing through museums, getting lost, gorging on pain au chocolat, watching the French watching others, eating moules frites/mussels with fries until the wee hours…
Prime colors, bursting energy and creativity, eccentricity of the French… There are so many things to like about Paris. The fresh baguette alone justifies a short stay or permanent return, without mentioning the dazzling assortment of decadent pastries, smelly cheeses, and very drinkable French bubbles! Plus all the cafes and Museums where one can while away a lifetime!
Lockdown has been hard for everyone, no doubt. The new normal – mandatory masks indoors and in crowded places, outdoor gym, haphazard social distancing – thankfully also results in a less polluted capital city crisscrossed by bikes and scooters…
Summer is in full swing, Covid or not! Paris is deserted, a haven for walkers and photographers! I methodically explore the districts and travel down a memory lane, walking from the Louvre, through the Tuileries garden, to Concord, along the Champs Élysées, ending in the Arc de Triumph in twilight, and trace my way back to the IM Pei’s masterful pyramid in dark. It is nothing short of magical!
Then there is the immense pleasure in discovering new sites and buildings. Bibliotheque Francois Mitterand has become an impromptu plein-air dance theatre with near-perfect wood floors and glistening glass windows. One could walk from Bois de Vincennes in the east all the way to vibrant Bastille through an elevated car-free green corridor, in time to sip a refreshing beer at one of the hip micro-brasseries in Rue du Lapp or Rue de la Roquette…
Just when you think you’ve walked and shot enough, there’s always a surprise just around the corner: an irresistible stranger with a brilliant smile; a Banksyian clin-oeil garbage bin with a Louis Vuitton logo; a sociological study of self absorption through ubiquitous selfies; lovers exchanging tender looks; a mysterious hand… and just un certain regard/a certain look… Bien sûr, plenty of political statements on Parisian walls. Me-too, too, has arrived in the capital!
Paris is my second home where I went to grad school and where my extended family lives. Grandma fled the civil war in China in the 1930s and walked to Cambodia (!) and remarried. My half aunts and uncles escaped to Paris during the Khmer Rouge genocide, and the rest is history…! For three weeks, my half cousins host me with unreserved generosity in a suburban home where great wines, fabulous chef meals, and sparkling conversations flow nonstop flow. It’s August and we, too, make an excursion à la mer… Sorely missed is the matriarch of the family, my late Aunt, who unfortunately passed suddenly two years ago.
Oui, la vie passe, beaucoup trop vite… Profitons-en!