I always loved that line from the movie Sabrina. I think I can officially call myself a Francophile now. I’ve always liked the idea of Paris but didn’t realize how much I would LOVE it.
I think I LOVE it more than any other country I’ve been to (Italy you’re a VERY close second).
They dance in the streets. They do dinner at the 21st hour. They linger at Bistro cafes. And they have joie de vivre so down pat. I’m proud to say that I tried to take in as much of that spirit as possible while I was there.
But seriously, the past five days in Paris have made my heart skip a beat. I just arrived in Lyon and while the city looks interesting, I can’t stop imagining the streets of Paris and sitting along the Seine. I guess this happens in every city, but it drives me nuts when I talk to local Parisians and they say, “eh, c’est comme ci comme ca.”
I love that no matter where you walk in the city, there is something interesting to see or do. I can see how some people may think that the Parisians are rude, but for the most part, I don’t seem them any different than New Yorkers. They just aren’t as loud or as gruff as New Yorkers and Parisians just know they live in fabulousness.
I tried so much to use my french everywhere I went, but I just couldn’t speak it. I think I can understand more than I can speak but it’s just as frustrating. Of the five days there, I met up with a friend who lives in Paris for a couple of those days. Hanging out with her reminded me how fun it is to hang out in a city with girlfriends again.
Meeting local Parisians was interesting as well. Half the time, I don’t even realize when they are talking to me (because I don’t understand what they are saying) and sometimes they are so direct that their approach is a bit offputting. I don’t know if there is such thing as “moderate” in Paris. You are either ALL in or ALL out. It takes a bit of getting used to.
I was along the river Seine monday afternoon, enjoying a book and watching the sun cascade over the bridges. I walked towards the Pont Neuf bridge and came across Paris Plages – a summer event that occurs annually where the city creates mini beaches, volleyball courts, basketball courts and spaces for dancing and tai-chi everyday during the summer. It looks like such a fun way to enjoy Paris in the summer but unfortunately for me, three of the four days were shrouded in clouds and some rain.
As I was walking, classic swing music started getting louder in the distance and as I came closer, there were literally 20-30 people just dancing, jiving and doing disco in the streets. There was a variety of people dancing, teens, singles and old couples. It was so fun to watch that I spent about half an hour sitting on the curbside watching them dance. Just watching them dance was a blissful activity.
At some point, a Parisian gentleman (who will remain unnamed) started to speak to me. He must have heard me laughing to myself watching people dance in the streets. We started talking and in a conversation reminiscent of my time in Hawaii, we start revealing a bit of our life stories to each other (though not as in depth). He is half French/half Italian and has a very interesting job that takes him on travels all throughout Europe.
We continue to talk and start walking along around Paris together – he shows me the George Pompidou (I for some reason could not find it on the map) and head back towards the Seine as I am eager to see more of the nightlife along the river in Paris. He mentions that to the east of Pont Neuf, there are multiple points along the river where people get together and dance in the streets to either Salsa, Hip Hop or Tango.
After watching multiple groups dance in the streets, I agree to go with him on an evening ride through Paris on a Vespa. Of course, two questions pop in my head:
1. Is this a good idea?
2. You’re in Paris and you only live once…why not have some fun?
He was a true gentleman and took the time to show me how to ride on the Vespa, how to lean your body in and out of braking, where to hold onto to be safe and how to use my helmet. At a certain point in the night, he also taught me how to drive it.
We dash around Paris seeing all that the City of lights had to offer with the first stop being the Tour Eiffel at night where we could watch it sparkle and glow at the top of the hour. I highly recommend that everyone visit it at night. The tower is a completely new experience at night and devastatingly breathtaking. I couldn’t contain my giddiness when we got to the Eiffel Tower at night. Like a cliche American, I whipped out my iPhone and started taking pictures of it with a million different angles. Then he said, “I know where we can go to get a better view.”
We headed up towards Trocadero where you can get another great view of the tower. He was right. The view of the tower was breathtaking and the sparkles were captivating.
In the background behind us, music started to play as another group of people started dancing again in the streets.
“Do you want to dance?”
“Me? Here? Now? Outside?”
“Don’t worry. It’s normal here. No one will care whether or not you are a good or bad dancer. You can’t care about what poeple think. Just do what makes you happy” he said in his conjoined Franco-Italian Anglo accent.
“Um. I don’t know how to dance to this.”
He asks for my hands and starts to move. I am pretty sure I gave him the most awkward confused look. He laughs and starts rocking back and forth. Before you know it, my arm is over my head and he is twirling me and dipping me in the street.
With the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Under the Stars.
With Music in the Streets.
I know. It’s almost ridiculous right?
I don’t know about you people, but I’m pretty sure at that moment, I thought my life was turning into a cheesy Netflix Rom Com. American Girl meets Parisian Guy. They dance in the streets and he whisks her away on his Vespa.
You can’t make this shit up people. This kind of stuff apparently actually happens in Paris.
After being tremendously awkward and uncomfortable dancing in the streets (and taking 100 pictures of the Tour Eiffel) he offers to take me to see several more landmarks lit up at night including the Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, L’Opera, the Champs-Elyses and the mini model of the statue of liberty.
We zip around the streets of Paris – half of me is remains cautious and the other half of me is having the time of my life. When else will I get to do this? (And apparently, I look pretty good on a Vespa :))
Like a gentleman, he helps me off the Vespa, thanks me for the evening and at that point, he lingers more to talk. There are jokes and banter about American ways vs. Parisian ways, very forward remarks about being “beautiful” and several jokes about marriage. “Ha!” I think in my mind, the French men are exactly how they are typically described in the books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen. He’s blunt, over the top and brings on overwhelming charm. I laugh off his jokes and remind him of my situation.
After another half hour, we finally part with plans to meet up again the following evening. He ends the conversation with a french phrase, “Rien n’arrive pour rien.”
My goodness. Now this evening just turned into a Lifetime TV movie.
I text my sister and brother in law to let them know I am home in my flat and tell them the story to which my Brother in Law responds, “well, that’s Paris…be safe but go have fun. You deserve it.”
So after a great afternoon hanging out with a girlfriend in Paris I meet up with him again Tuesday evening. This time we head out to another park in in the 20th Arr which is an aglomeration of art, water, theatre, outdoor cinema and museums (Park Viellette).
Before that park however, we stop by another cute garden in the city and walk together admiring greenery and ducks. Somewhere down the line, our walk and talk turns into a self defense lesson where I pester him to teach me what he knows about military style self defense from his work and moves to make when you are being attacked since I am traveling quite a bit these days.
It was almost like a bad Karate Kid moment, but in the park next to the Pond, he proceeds to show me six moves – three that will disable attackers (assuming I do it right) by shocking their nerves and three moves to help me break away from an attacker. Needless to say, I’m sure he didn’t mind me using him as the practice dummy. And somewhere down the line, I got picked up and flipped over his shoulder – guess I there’s more I need to know.
We proceed to the Park Viellette and walk around and talk some more and even find a playground that we end up playing in, spinning in and talking in. Despite his broken English and my broken French, we are able to maintain a somewhat entertaining conversation with the frequent peppering of his “Comment dit On”, my “Qu’est que c’est” and the help of Google Translator. It’s like watching a bad game show guessing game of words.
After a freezing ride through the city on the Vespa I get one last glance of all the sights on my last night in Paris.
In our last conversation before he deaprts, he tells me, “I don’t know why I met you or why we were supposed to meet.”
“Thank you for showing me the city. I had a good time.”
“But I’ll miss you when you leave.”
I tell him, “But we just met. We’re still strangers. But, I will miss all of Paris and what’s here.”
“Will I see you next time?
“Puet-etre. I don’t know when I’ll be in Paris again.”
On my train ride this morning to Lyon, I had grand ideas of blogging and planning out Lyon. But with late nights and lack of sleep, I can’t get all of Paris off my mind. Instead, I’m listening to the Beatles on a record player in my artsy flat in Lyon waiting for the rain to let up.
Everything happens for a reason.