Among Paris

One of the things I’ll remember most about my time in Paris is the people. Although difficult to describe, what I loved about this trip was the nearness — to the sights and sounds and smells of Paris, yes, but mostly to the people, and to the language. Not only is it not something I’m sure I can describe, it’s also not something I realized I missed.

I’ll never be an insider in France — not even if I lived there twenty years, I don’t think. It’s something not just about being foreign, but about being American. Even with my outsider status, though, I felt among Paris, among its people. It’s difficult not to; they live in the city, on it, all over it — on the sidewalks, in the cafés on every corner, in and around the magnificent parks and public spaces, walking, always talking, drinking espresso and eating a snack or resting for a moment in a chair in the Jardin du Luxembourg or the Tuileries, reading a magazine, taking a nap. I found a quote from Mark Twain, who wrote that Paris street life is “so frisky, so affable, so fearfully and wonderfully Frenchy! … Two hundred people sat at little tables on the sidewalk, sipping wine and coffee; the streets were thronged with light vehicles and joyous pleasure-seekers; there was music in the air, life and action all about us.”*

As an outsider it is easy to mingle with Parisians, because Parisians are everywhere. But I am likewise everywhere noticing them, which simultaneously puts me both intimately within and forever beyond their ordinary life.

in the Luxembourg Gardens

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along the Bd. Saint-Germain

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in the Jardin des Tuileries

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*Jill Jonnes quotes Twain on p. 41 of her book, Eiffel’s Tower: the thrilling story behind Paris’s beloved monument and the extraordinary world’s fair that introduced it.

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5 Responses to Among Paris

  1. Abby says:

    I know exactly what you mean. I think of the Parisian way of life – and living – with the US where people tend to be in their cars, in shopping malls and their palatial homes. Japanese life also centered around being outside and with the people (often tightly packed). Homes are small and limited. Most of the daily life takes place outside and among others.

  2. randasfans says:

    It’s something I really valued when I lived there, and something I appreciated anew when visiting last week — that and being able to drink coffee from a cup and saucer that, rather than being discarded, had to be washed instead.

  3. Pingback: Out on the Surface of Life | Randa's Fans

  4. Pingback: Death at the Château Bremont | billgillislive

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