i’ve never been a die-hard romantic (okay, perhaps deep down inside) and being the skeptic that i am, i always smiled off those grand, overarching statements that paris — PARIS — was the most romantic city in the world. i think a good friend of mine (a guy) even went so far as to say that it was the perfect city — as long as you had a girl’s hand to hold.
after three days in paris though, i must confess that this city truly captivated my heart. the funny thing is, it did so in a way that i find it hard to explain — it’s just that je ne sais quoi feeling you get as you walk along the seine or its many neighborhoods. with some cities, you can pinpoint the vibrancy of the culture, the pace of life, the way it magnifies certain aspects of society, but with paris, it was just the ambiance that captured you as you walked along its cobblestone streets, occasionally catching that waft of baked bread and pastries from nearby boulangeries.
of course, it helped that parisians knew how to eat, and food was an affair the french did not take lightly. literally. decked out in buttery goodness, the selection and variety reminded my friend and i of the saying that “if it flies, swims, or walks, you’ll find it in cantonese cuisine.” except, just like paris had done to me (and many others), the food had a way of bewitching you. if ever there was a way to a person’s heart through food, the way the cuisine engaged all the senses would have led you to believe that that food would have to be french.
perhaps a large part of this infatuation has to do with our first day in paris, where the skies went from brilliant blue to being swept up in sepia, followed by that blend between snow and hail, and finally giving way to a twilight that was only made more surreal by the city’s warm, yellow lights against the reflections of the recent hail/fall.
fluorescent lighting may be more energy efficient, but i had almost forgotten how calming and warm those yellow lights could be. it was as if the whole city was an exhibit within a larger museum and some curator had carefully arranged its placement to tell its visual story.
of course, the city had its share of great museums. while we were only able to visit la musee d’orsay and the louvre this time around, i can see why paris has become — and remained — this cultural and artistic hub. while the grandeur, elegance and sheer volume of the collections of the louvre were somewhat akin to a combination of the old getty museum in malibu, california, the british museum, and the metropolitan all rolled up in one, the simplistic elegance of the orsay was probably my favorite, especially for the impressionist in me. and to see it in paris, the birthplace of degas and home to the likes of monet, was certainly a highlight.
and while paris may arguably be the most romantic city in the world, i was glad to have been able to explore it with an old friend. and the memories and parisian adventures for those few days was also a reminder that some of the greatest romances need not be romantic ones, but a story of great friendships as well.