Why do Americans love Paris? Having left New York to live here I think beyond the “oh la la” cliches and postcard images of ‘ze Eiffel tower’ the reasoning has more to do with how we feel once we arrive to the city of lights.
Paris is a city where you can be a bit self-indulgent with both your appetite and your time. When it comes to food, French cuisine in general is rich, and maybe not the healthiest, but usually delicious. Regardless of my intended diet, I find it very hard to turn down a fresh croissant, pain au chocolat, demi-baguette, pain au sucre or any of the many delicious options patisseries and boulangeries offer. Each neighborhood has so many shops to choose from and each item is guaranteed to be delicious: it’s a win-win. Really, there isn’t a pastry I haven’t automatically fallen in love with. Paired with fresh squeezed orange juice or fresh fruit from a little vendor and the day is off to a good start. At the end of the day French wine, from the cheap stuff at Monoprix to the special-occasion bottles, can be paired with a range of cheeses and often shared with friends during an apero (pre-dinner drink) that can last through the evening. Food and wine are there to be savored whether alone or with friends. There is never much rush which makes everything taste and feel better. The French don’t just eat to survive, they eat to enjoy.
Americans have a mentality of efficiency where overworking and multitasking is often celebrated and encouraged. Parisiens would much rather take a swim in the Seine then be caught eating a breakfast sandwich on the metro while sending an email and/or applying mascara. Want to spot an American tourist in Paris? Look for the people carrying Starbucks coffees! To the French, coffee or un cafe is more than a drink, it’s a moment to be coupled with small talk, a book that probably will never get finished and/or a newspaper. There is less planning and more living in the moment. More stopping to smell the proverbial roses, more eye-roll inducing PDA, more sitting along the river and just watching the boats pass by. While walking down the street you get the sense that Paris is the city for daydreamers. The city plan is filled with nonsensical rues, avenues ,alleyways and passages that happen to be extremely picturesque. The churches, statues, monuments, vertical gardens, cobblestones and farmer’s markets are all for the taking (of pictures). Trying to navigate my way around the city has led to countless photos of it’s breathtaking scenery. Try asking a Parisian for directions and you will get a lot of sighing, long pauses and most likely pointed in the wrong direction. But that’s the beauty of it: you get to figure it out on your own at your own pace.
It is truly hard to rush here, even when you are in a rush no one else seems to be. There is an appreciation for life and the moments we are living here that is hard to find elsewhere. London-too loud. Berlin- too busy. Barcelona- too much. New York- too many options. Paris is for those who simply just want to be. Those who want to taste and see beautiful things (while walking over dog poop in the streets). New York doesn’t slow down for anyone. Paris does not speed up for anyone. This could be infuriating at times but when thought of as an advantage you realize how lucky you are to be in such a beautiful place- gray skies contrasted with golden monuments, sparkling towers, vast gardens, colorful fruits, little scooters zipping by and a language that make even the roughest sentences sound like a song.