I am a man who fled density for beaches and yet all I crave is collision and serendipity. After almost two years post New York City trauma, referring to the general daily living in NYC, it’s the craziness of urbanism that I miss the most — something Los Angeles, is still learning to create. After heading back to Europe for the first time in over six years, and experiencing Paris for the first time (actually my second but the first was spent taking antibiotics and curled up on a Montmartre couch), I tasted what I miss so much about a city; a city done right. Paris is the 21st century city of dreams — refreshingly new age with utmost respect and admiration for its cultural past.
Look no further than the every day. People walk to their local brasserie or cafe and sit for an espresso, a beer or some general people watching. Amidst the perfect ratio of mid-rise density, the corner cut architecture of Paris, similar to Barcelona and many other major European cities, creates inviting alcoves that welcome you to the curb side to sit and relax. The cafes are rows of tightly packed tables and chairs and onesies and twosies taking in the day. The unique aspect here however is that the chairs face outward, meaning everyone faces the street level, not back into the cafe or at their counterpart. That’s a truly mesmerizing concept. The cafe life is built purely to enjoy and imbibe WHILE watching the world of Paris tick on — at the street.
How about the way they get around? Let’s look at the vast spectrum of speed and effort. You have endless options at your fingertips. You have a highly reliable and clean public metro which swings and dances its way through all the Arrondisements. You have streets stable enough to handle automobile flow. You have two wheel options aplenty — motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, bikes and the like. Then you have your own two peds, just enough to traverse the cobblestone alleys. The beauty of traversing Paris is that you have all of these options with the seamless continuity of long distance to last mile.
Then you have the spine of the city, the Siene. There’s truly nothing like the Siene in the summer. With near 10pm (or 22:00) sunsets and warm evenings, the Siene lights up with action. The curation of the Siene is too perfect. You have pedestrian paths mixed with car-free bike lanes, flanked by restaurants and bars, all dashingly touching the river’s walls. Subtle but important, the rest of the city sits well above the Siene’s viewpoint so you can peer down and see all of the bustling activity and it invites you to come down and experience it yourself.
Finally, Paris never shed it’s obsession for makers. Fashion reigns king in the city and it fits perfectly into place alongside it’s history of literature, sculpture, painters and poets. The establishments that cry of quaintness in Le Marais that merge endless bookshelves with coffee or Saint Germain’s retro coffee table bookstores that radiate with aromatics and then art galleries staffed with lovely and knowledgable french intellects. It’s all so heartwarming to see the appreciation of art and intellect in the city of romance.
Oh Paris, you are wonderful!