Paris was a photograph come to life. Narrow cobblestone streets were lined with bistros and cafes, overlooked by tall 19th century apartments with windows fronted by wrought iron balustrades, intersected by canals and river walks, while the Eiffel Tower and the Arc d’Triumph stood sentry over the city.
At street level, Paris was a bustling and multi-ethnic place. The main attractions overflowed with gawking tourists clutching selfie sticks and street vendors selling kitschy, miniature light-up Eiffel Towers.
Contrary to what I had been lead to believe, Parisians were helpful when I was lost and patient when I stumbled over simple French words. Almost everyone I met spoke some English. I regretted not studying French in school. It was a beautiful, musical language. In contrast, English sounded choppy and more guttural, like German.
On the subway, I observed impeccably dressed young Parisians going about their daily lives. The women were almost entirely brunette with unstyled hair, wearing very little makeup except lipstick. Silhouettes were more classic and formal than California, although black leather jackets and white sneakers are apparently a global trend. The guys wore slim fitting streetwear and bomber jackets or fitted suits in contrasting colors, skinny ties and always a nice pair of boots.
In the many parks around the city, Parisians enjoyed sitting and watching the world flow by, feeling the sun on their face. Their appreciation for life and the present moment was tangible. Maybe when you walk and take public transportation everywhere instead of driving a car, you are more likely to stop and savor the moment on the way from point A to point B?
Stolen kisses and couples whispering their love seemed to be everywhere —on the subway, sitting along the canal at a bistro, walking through the park…Paris was filled with romance.
Although I was traveling solo and still adjusting to the independence, it was impossible to feel lonely in a place so full of life and human interaction.