In some cities one leaves a part of their heart behind. You know it when that part of you calls you to revisit them now and then. Of those cities Paris calls me back the most often. This is not only because it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world though. Every time Paris calls me back, it is an invitation to discover a part of it that I have previously not paid attention to.
The sweet part of going back to your old city is that you know your way around it. It is not like going to a new city as you don’t need to do the usual tourist stuff unless you choose to. On the other hand, revisiting the classics is still fun as you have changed in the meantime, which allows you to look at them with new eyes, paying attention to other details.
While I got on the train to Paris and started listening to the song Je reviens, I realized that with each visit Paris speaks to different parts of me. For example, the first time I went to Paris with my parents, I did not particularly think it was a romantic city. Later, when I settled down in Paris as a student, I did not experience much romanticism either. I was rather busy with living and studying abroad. I invested more time in my books and friends than the beautiful surroundings. Only when I handed in my master’s thesis did my eyes actually fully open up to the immense beauty of Paris. Only then did I really have time to sit down on the banks of the Seine in the September sun to just look around aimlessly and to purely enjoy it. It was a pity that I was about to leave this city in a month as I would complete my studies.
Luckily, I have gone back to Paris several times since then, appreciating it more each time. When I went back with my new love (who has become my husband), I finally found Paris the romantic city. Then, the French sociologists entered my life, and I was happy to get lost in the Parisian bookshops looking for their books when I went there for my research.
This time around, I was dreaming of getting inspired in the famous writer’s cafés. As I was already familiar with the charming Café Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore due to their proximity to my university, I headed to discover the writer’s cafés around Montparnasse immediately upon my arrival in Paris. Unfortunately, I realized right away by looking at the menus and the clientele that these had become restaurants for the well-off (elderly) Parisians instead of writers with limited means. To compensate for the disappointment with the writer’s cafés, I visited the souls of intellectuals and writers at the Père-Lachaise Cemetery. Thankfully, they were lying there peacefully in a cosmopolitan place, in good company of people from all professions, nationalities, and religions.
I did not have many plans besides that, so the rest of the time I just turned on my tourist eyes and started observing. I walked for many hours until my feet started to hurt. One of the best things about Paris is that there are zillions of cafés to take a nice coffee break. Not to forget the delicious food, of course, but that is difficult to miss even for a first timer in Paris. Back in Rotterdam, I can’t wait to go back again to rediscover it after savoring another moelleux au chocolat.