I grew up with photo albums and books about France, especially Paris. When I did not have anything to do, I was looking at these albums and was dreaming about every street of the city. And I continued to do so, for a very long time.
My first official date with France was at Evian, where I arrived via Switzerland for a one-day trip. Was a nice landscape, but at the time I did not see too much the difference with my French-speaking Swiss kingdom. My first official France-only trip was to come later on and was a little disappointment. No, it was not a bad witch that put a spell on the city but it was rather my fault of knowing too much about it. What I saw was exactly what I knew from my mother’s books. I felt like coming home in my ‘quartier’ after a long trip abroad during which nothing changed. My mother of blessed memory, for whom France really meant a lot intellectually, went in one of the countries of her dreams long after me and returned a couple of times after, but I never asked her how did she feel when she was for the first time in France. I am almost sure that she was happy.
I always tried to keep my critical thinking and had my ups and downs in my relationship with France. But I know that I need to come back regularly not only because I know the language as my own, but I because I share part of the cultural heritage and know so much about its history.
Especially when I go to Paris, it is hard to behave as a tourist and therefore to make travel recommendations. Every time I am there, I have a full social agenda and I should adapt fast to the rhythm of the city. I need to be in time for meetings and find gorgeous coffees. The subway moves fast, but it’s always packed with people, but unless you use the cab, there it is no other way to find your way from a destination to another.
For those visiting Paris as tourists, there should be a strict schedule if one wants to get the best of the city: one museum or two the day, with a lot of walking, a stop in a park or an evening at a brasserie. In my case, it should also be a stop at a bookstore and maybe an evening at a theatre. For the sake of diversity, some years ago I spent one full day at Disneyland.
Looking for something out of the travel guide? Visit any chocolaterie and you will be surprised how people talk with so much passion about chocolate as some about precious diamonds. Did anyone notice that most hair parlours look like art galleries? These are one of the many reasons I can’t stay away of France for too long: very often it helps me to see the beauty in everyday life. It works pretty well for a little while.
Happy Bastille Day!