Eurotrip Day 56 – 58: Perfect Days

A succession of perfect days.
Days when the skies are clear and sun is shining.
Days when sunshine stretches long into the evening.
Days when I feel happy and reinvigorated.
Days when I’m at peace with the world.
Days when I feel like I can live like this forever.
Days when I don’t want to leave.
Days when I’m in Paris.

I’m sitting on the grass in the cool shade of trees, writing this note and listening to some soul music.

There’s a pond in front of me. Its water is light green, calm and reflective. A duck is frolicking in the water. Bushes stand at the edge of the pond, backed by tall man-made stone landscaping.

A red cable bridge connects one end of the pond to the other.

Many people are around me, but there's plenty of space for everyone. Some people are lying on the grass. Some are walking on the path. Some are sitting on the benches. Some come as individuals, others come as groups, talking, strolling, resting, eating, drinking, smoking, relaxing.

I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember in Paris. The weather has been just perfect every single day for the past week, and I’m taking advantage of it. Visiting parks, lazing around, lying on the grass, listening to music, getting some sun and also getting some shut-eye.

The parks I’ve visited: Promenade Plantee, Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin du Luxembourg, Bois de Boulogne, Parc Montsouris, and now, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. And countless other leafy spots around the city, small gardens, the banks of the Seine, the expansive grounds around and opposite the Eiffel Tower. Enjoying the luxury of time, and relaxing to my heart’s content in each of them. Not so much travelling anymore, but rejuvenation and relaxation.

Paris is just wonderful.

All the negative stereotypes I’ve clung to have vanished, totally. I’m at peace with this city. I love Paris. I could live here. I now know why there is such a romantic, charming, beautiful image associated with the word “Paris”. It is indeed a beautiful name for an equally beautiful city.

A stroll down the River Seine at sunset. Drooping willows hang over the river. Eiffel Tower against a backdrop of orange and blue.

The tulips and many other flowers I can’t name, in full bloom, in parks all over. People sitting on the grass, or lazing on the deck chairs.

Sunshine and blue skies. Warm temperatures and soft breezes.

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous city.

But this city isn’t only about beauty, serenity and romance. Like any other metropolis, it's rough, dirty and haphazard at times.

Youth selling contraband Marlboros in the shadow of the elevated tracks of the metro at Barbes Rochechouart.

Buskers hopping from train to train on the metro, playing their instruments, and earning a living from goodwill.

Gypsies trying to trick tourists into a scam, their opening line: "you speak English?" I always avoid making eye contact with them.

Lots of people hawking keychains with miniature versions of the Eiffel Tower accosting you in the vicinity of the world’s most famous landmark.

The RER stations underground, smelling like a public toilet that hasn’t been cleaned for weeks, and at times resembling one too, with weird damp patches dripping water, and a maze of connecting tunnels littered with all sorts of trash.

Homeless people, sleeping wherever they can, in makeshift beds of blankets and cardboard, picking out whatever valuable trash they can find from rubbish bins.

And also:

A stylish young woman, in sunglasses, scarf and coat, sweeping past, baguette clutched in one hand, answering a mobile phone in another.

An old man, wearing a beret, shuffling slowly across the street.

A businessman with a copy of the Le Monde newspaper rolled neatly in his coat pocket, looking as anonymous as any other businessman.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists, recognisable by their clothes and foreign faces. Constantly hearing English everywhere I go, spoken and answered.

Youth skateboarding or biking along the dedicated cycling lanes.

The Velib bike rental system with kiosks all around the city.

The distinctive Parisian buildings, off-white in colour and topped with blue rooftops, with their tiny balconies hanging outside the windows.

Cafes, with their tiny tables and chairs placed along the sides of the sidewalks, charging whatever exorbitant prices they can get away with.

My favourite beer, Kronenbourg.

People jumping over turnstiles, entering buses through back doors and finding all sorts of innovative ways to avoid paying the expensive fare for public transport.

A crucial lack of public toilets. Fast food restaurants like McDonalds and Quick, a local chain, requiring you to input a code on your receipt to be able to use the washroom.

Random markets popping up in neighbourhoods, with vendors hawking anything from cheap books to socks to antiques to fruits and vegetables.

Makeshift stands selling bouquets of fresh flowers on the corner of the street.

And more…

That’s Paris. Charming and beguiling, disordered and beautiful at the same time. A great city.