Cobblestone roads. Ornate facades. Bridges crisscrossing the river Seine. Warm breezes carrying a myriad of different smells. Heavy grey skies over a sea of lights. Stone walls and secluded parks. A treasure around every corner and the air dripping with history.
Paris. The city of lights. It did not capture my heart the first time I laid eyes on it, nor even the second time. It worked its way in slowly, taking me from wonder to wonder, sight to sight, every turn more marvelous than the last until it was the city I loved so much I could get lost in it. I threw myself into its waiting arms and never looked back, leaving my small-town-girl self sitting on the curb.
Paris was the first city I visited outside of the United States; it was only the second real city I ever really been to. It was the first city I learned my way around, the first place I mastered a subway system, the first time I felt comfortable simply wandering around the vastness of civilization. During a study abroad I spent six months living two hours away by train and visited the city nearly as many times in as many months. Each time I lost myself in the maze of streets, finding something new and reappearing close to the city’s beloved landmarks. I marveled in the weave of the streets, the beauty of even the most mundane of buildings, the pace of life that was simultaneously slow and fast. If I close my eyes I can still see the streets I would take, feel the cobbles beneath my shoes and hear the rustle of traffic. The paths between the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, the Louvre and L’Arc de Triomphe have been committed to memory, glorious routes for my most beautiful daydreams.
My heart yearns to return, to travel those streets once again, perhaps in a slow-paced search for the boulangerie that won the award for best baguette in all of Paris or for that tiny café near L’Arc de Triomphe where I had the best chocolat chaud of my life. Thinking about it fills me with longing, like the way a good friend is missed after years apart. Perhaps one day, when time allows and the opportunity is right I will return. Until then, Paris is kept alongside my fondest memories, my beautiful escape into a maze of mystery.