Utterly startled, I suddenly darted my head and ears up like a rabbit. I was standing shoulder to shoulder aboard Le Metro, and while cramming onto the subway car, unbeknownst to me this morning, I’d been tailgated by a tattered Frenchman bearing an accordion. Without warning the accordion inhaled and then bellowed out a chord as he began to serenade us with old French classics. Phew! I thought for a second there something had gotten caught in the doors behind me, impatient as they are. Another “quelle surprise” in Paris!
It has been one month today since the hustle and bustle of packing up my Silicon Valley apartment, and it is just over one more month before I return. Living and working in Europe, I am refinding my French (petit à petit), and rediscovering all of the marvels of the culture here. When I first visited Europe in 1999, I spent a year living in Belgium (and traveling), and it taught me as much about my home country as it did about abroad. This trip with my girlfriend Linh has afforded me the chance to really soak up the culture again, discover the city life in grand Paris from a petit flat, and appreciate a different lifestyle by trying it on.
Life in Paris is pretty sweet, taking life one café or glass of wine at a time, not really feeling the time crunch of a vacation. On more than one occasion already I have walked up to a famous sight only to find a big queue, and turned right back around and said, "let’s come back another day." A luxury tourists generally cannot afford. I’ve been to Paris enough already anyway to be seeing a lot of the big sights for the second time, and some of the things that didn’t previously make it onto the list are stunning discoveries, like Monet’s Nympheas (Water Lilies) in Musée l’Orangerie – A smaller museum I hadn’t taken note of before that is tucked into the southwest corner of the Jardin Tuilleries park. It features two large oval rooms each dedicated to a cycle of 4 very long paintings lining its walls, done by Claude Monet in the last 30 years of his life.
A few more memorable Paris highlights so far:
- One that keeps coming up: seeing the Seine river and the Notre Dame Cathedral all lit up at night truly evokes the essence of the city of lights. Luckily we live at Place Maubert, so we literally see the Notre Dame down the street every time we go out.
- Morning runs along the Seine’s left bank. Of course the buildings are great, but so is the crisp October air and bright fall-colored leaves shining in the sun.
- “Goutez, goutez!” the merchant said, telling us to taste his fresh strawberries at the farmer's market that pops up 3 times a week in the Place Maubert – this location has blown away our expectations! It simply has everything, from ethnic to organics: it has shops of all kinds lest we are between market days.
- Getting a biscuit or chocolate with my café
- Walking everywhere
- Wearing a scarf (Of course that’s not really part of my fashion of functional habits in California)