The following is a piece about my trip to Paris two years ago. It’s for a contest being held by Tripbase.
A dream vacation, for me, is more than just a vacation… it’s more than a getaway; it transcends these things and becomes something far more fantastic. It means returning home a changed person. It means taking something away from your time spent; returning feeling mentally and emotionally richer than when you left.
This place starts to feel more than a holiday destination, and your accommodation becomes more than just a room with a bed and shower… you find yourself saying to fellow travelers, not “Let’s go back to the hotel,” but “Let’s go home.” You return from your trip, knowing that you are changed for the better due to your time spent, and thinking, hoping, that maybe, just maybe the city is slightly better off for the time you spent there because now, you are each part of one another’s histories. The city belongs to you, and you in turn, belong to the city, quite like the Little Prince and his rose, who have tamed one another.
I am lucky enough to have had this experience. For five of the best, most enriching weeks of my life, I called Paris home. Paris is so much more than just a city, every second is an overloaded, super-saturated sensory experience that stays with you for the remainder of your days. It lingers, its scent hanging on your skin, gently, yet perpetually reminding you of its existence.
Every day, I walked the streets, never without my Paris-Pratique, a small map-book of central Paris. I spent my time getting lost, finding museums, old buildings, and beautiful parks, eventually regaining my sense of direction, and returning home again.
Paris’s charm is invisible, nestled within its sights, its sounds, its inhabitants, its visitors, and every aspect of its existence. Although this charm is, in essence, invisible, and inherently part of every piece of the puzzle that combine to form Paris, it is simultaneously far from imperceptible… in fact, this charisma… this magic, is impossible to overlook.
The patisseries call melodiously to passers-by, the pastries like sirens whose sweet songs seduce fishermen to watery graves. These sugary confections lure innocents inside the shops, to an inescapable fate which means delight for the taste buds, and dismay for the hips.
I daily frequented the boulangeries, picking up warm baguettes to accompany meals made with the freshest and finest ingredients from local markets. Oh, the markets! Overflowing with fruits, vegetables, fish, and more varieties of cheese than you could ever possibly imagine to exist.
Walking the streets was an attack on the senses, and one to which I surrendered willingly and completely. The streets are lined with crowded cafés, where thin, elegant women chat with charming, well-dressed men, and smoke their cigarettes, while obedient dogs sit patiently at their sides. After the cafés were shops stuffed with cheap souvenirs and curios. And after that were the wine shops, each displaying fine French wines that I loved to browse, carefully selecting the perfect Chardonnay to accompany a homemade meal cooked with purchases from the local market.
I could talk about the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, or any of the countless museums displaying famous artwork that stirs the emotions… but I won’t. It’s too easy. The thing about Paris was that it was the little details that won me over. For instance, riding the metro was an experience I began to love. Even at rush hour, when riding the metro meant you’d play a game of sardines and end up nose deep in a stranger’s armpit. Yes, in an odd way, I even grew to love this, because it was undeniably Parisian in its own right. Everyday, I got to walk down the Rue de Rivoli, Rue de la Roquette, or Rue Saint-Antoine to the Place de la Bastille; and everyday, I felt like I was going home.
I went for a vacation, and Paris, the city of lights, the city of love, it pulled at my heartstrings and has never let go. A “dream holiday” should end, in one manner or another, with you falling in love.