I’ve been to Paris four times in my life, and every time I go, it feels different. Every time I go, I feel overwhelmed. The city is bigger than I ever remember. It makes me uncomfortable. Does anyone else feel like this? Or is this one of those “unpopular opinions” that everyone is always posting on Instagram. Aside from the two day trip to Paris when I was 12 and the 4 hours of running around the city when I was on the last leg of my honeymoon to the South of France, we’ve always scheduled Paris to be the longest leg of our trips.
I spend the first day feeling completely ready to leave. It’s always more crowded than I remember. The last time we arrived, it was 80 degrees outside in October and completely drowning in tourists. We’d been on a train for so many hours that I can’t remember how long it took to get from Bath to Paris with a 9-month-old who would not sit still for the Love of God. She still doesn’t sit still. We made it to Paris right at the perfect time of day, with the sun setting over the river, and yet, it was hot. We love to travel in the offseason, and I remember thinking that this isn’t what the offseason should feel like. It should have been cooler and emptier. I wanted to go back to Bath, back to the Lake District, back to Scotland. I wanted to be back in a place that was easier to navigate as someone who hates crowds, and I wanted to go back towards the cold front. I was annoyed about the wall placed around the base of the Eiffel Tower. I felt gross and sticky from wearing the wrong wardrobe on a trip that was supposed to take place in fall weather.
The simplicity of a fresh, buttery croissant touching the tip of my tongue from a bakery set out of the way of the crowds changes my mind about Paris every single time. I am, very suddenly, transported into the Paris I remember. It’s enchanting, and even the crowds don’t bother me anymore. I find that I don’t want to leave. We wander the emptier streets eating ham and butter on baguettes. We try hard not to and fail miserably at eating way too many sweets. We spend hours sitting in parks and ducking in and out of grocery stores and the boulangerie to get cheese and fruit and wine to eat with our bread.
The city’s architecture, the grey rooftops, the ornate bridges, the way the sun sets over the Seine, scenes of friends playing chess together in tree-lined parks, teenagers kicking a ball around are all things that make me want to pull out my camera, make me want to remember that place forever.
On our way to our next destination on this most recent trip, we took a taxi to the airport at sunrise. The way the city caught the light was magic. Sun glinted off the gold accents of the bridges. We sat in miserable traffic, staring out at the city, trying to soak in the very last bits of Paris, and I almost didn’t care that we missed our train to Nice.
Paris changes always. Or maybe I’m changing. Maybe I see it differently every time I go because I’m a different person every time I go. At the end of every trip to Paris, after the walking and the subway rides and the eating way too much. After the shopping and finding new corners to enjoy, I come to the same conclusion. I decide that Paris is actually always a good idea.