Qu’il ne nous donne rien et qu’il nous promet tout?
At the very mention of Paris, the city of love, of art, of fine dining, we all gush at the prospect of a movie style moment that will alter our lives forever; embracing beneath the Eiffel Tower, the Hunchback ringing his bells at the Notre Dame, the grandeur of the Moulin Rouge, or a mime divulging his whole life with one hand gesture… simply beautiful…
One can understand why each of us is lured into the fantasy that Paris appears to offer us. The capital has been the muse for countless love poems, eccentric novels, artistic movements and Hollywood blockbusters. As around 27 million tourists a year roam the streets, many leave the city knowing only the information that was offered to them on city tours or in guide books. If anything, those who arrive home with the typical photograph of a staged giggle at the foot of the Eiffel Tower should feel utterly dissatisfied. In fact, a large proportion of people do.
Scientifically referred to as the Parisian Syndrome, many visitors seek medical advice after being severely disappointed that this city does not live up to the hyperbolic attention it receives. (More information on the Parisian Syndrome can be found athttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/6197921.stm). So we are left to question, ‘does Paris promise so much to us and yet delivers very little?’ I discovered the answer on my 5th visit to the city. Now no longer a typical tourist of the French capital I discovered that beneath the disappointment that the Parisian dream is actually non-existent, lies something much greater; the Parisian reality. What we each seem to forget is that interesting lives exist beneath this façade, lives that can disclose the true beauty of this city.
Early each morning the bustle of workers grab a smoothly brewed coffee and head to their averagely paid jobs. Tourists circulate the famous monuments; the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre. Yet the Parisians continue with their daily rituals; a quick phone call to their mothers, a brief lunch with a colleague, a five minute wait for the metro. At the commencement of the working day they make their way to perhaps the artist square near the Sacré Coeur and sip a hot chocolate. Lighting their seventh cigarette of the day they retell anecdotes with their companions, wrap a silk scarf around their neck in the chill of the evening and yawn from the effort of the day.
Amidst the scene of a passionate fling, the real Parisian woman will button up her blouse and head home alone for glass of wine. At the famous gallery housing the paintings of the greats a man will pass by the window on his way to collect his son from school. As a rich twenty-something roams the Champs Élysée flashing the cash, a grandmother will purchase a cheap pair of socks because her feet get cold at night.
If there was ever a reason to visit this city, the tourist attractions ought to be bottom of the list. Paris is a way of life, it’s a culture that we all dream to be a part of and yet when we arrive in Paris we linger around the Eiffel Tower with all the other thousands of Europeans and Americans. If you want to experience this city for it’s true worth, forget that you are a tourist and embrace the seemingly mundane aspects of Paris, aspects that are the secret foundation to why this city charms us all.
You can check out the original published article here.