Where The Magic Happens (#WTMH) is a series of lifestyle articles about cities and places around the global that imbue a sense of magic and mystic, seen through the eyes of ACU|BIEN people: staff contributor, readers, associates and specially invited guests. As personal life journeys, they give voice to how ACU|BIENers see the world in which they life, travel and work, tracing their footsteps, hops, skips and jumps, and building a travelograph of the Caribbean peoples’ on-going voyages around the world.
PARIS – Seductive and resilient – famed for being one of the most passionate and romantic cities in the world with a treasury trove of history and culture that is so rich, Paris is almost a caricature of itself. Culturally, she chimes an ouverture so influential in recent history, the outcome is a conveyor belt of visitors who practically trip over each other to stand and gaup in awe at the grandeur of the city’s luxuriant monuments, sculptures and artefacts – and now, I too had become an actor-player in this great and magical Can-Can hustle.
Vive La France | First Encounters
Few global cities, if any, have made greater contribution to the world’s lexicon of art, history, entertainment and fashion as this European mecca. ‘Gay Paree’ remains as diverse as ever in its vivacity as its populace. The melting pot of nationalities, artisans and visionaries is embedded in Parisian life and have helped to create one of the richest and most refined urban centres, certainly in the Western Hemisphere. So prominent is the allure of Paris’ heritage, one loses all sense of time and space as you wander through its intricate maze of winding alleyways whose walls are cloaked in tales and history. I had only just arrived and immediately sensed my rendezvous in Paris was not going to be a dull affair.
My excitement of Paris and its promises was promptly interrupted as I journey by train into the heart of romance. Around me, the city-scape was grim and vividly disheveled, not the welcome one expects from a capital city where strangers fall in love, and lovers rekindle their amour. Then again, Paris is always on the precipice of change, in part due to its magnetic character and its perpetual dalliance as a destination for migrant flows – and more recently, the city strains under the affects of financial and social uncertainty with France as a key European state. And so, my first hours in Paris were sobering, if not overwhelming, as I realised that to gleam the city as a possible metropolis #wherethemagichappens (#WTMH) I must abandon my self-conjured vision of Paris, open my mind and soften my heart to the ‘Real Paris’ before me.
An aura that is surreal envelops Paris and no single perspective captures what lies within the gem that was Napoleon’s realm. As one of the most photographed cities the world over, no picture truly capsulates the Paris enigma – it MUST be experienced. There is an allure to everything about the city. BUT be warned, sometimes it is a bumpy ride. Nothing says welcome to the Real Paris as cramped spaces, the lack of air conditioning in the summer months, and the occasional pungent whiff Eau de Urine L’homme.
A Speaking City | Taking it all in
Yet, Paris’ charm and charisma lovingly caresses you as you stroll along Champs-Elysèes. The city comes alive as you submerge yourself in the pandemonium that is Le Marais, an historic district replete with buildings of architectural importance. As you navigate the slender lanes and passageways you feel “Frenchier” with each passing moment. Remarkable for a city that was practically burnt to the ground during the French Revolution, it has retained so much of its ancient glory you are in constant reverence of her splendour and intricacies.
Walking through quaint boroughs often in disrepair, the walls spoke with wisdom and power as the pride of the French become eminent all around. The recent global crisis has taken its hold on Europe, and France and the French are feeling the pain. Already known to be a pricey destination, the financial environment has placed the angst back in the good ole French motif as they return to their addiction to protesting and striking at every opportunity. In fact, my party was close to not making our flight due to a flight controllers strike, and no sooner had we landed the union of train operators took up the batton in protest. Vive la révolution!
The brusque arrondissements of Paris make the majestic arrogance even more so, and somewhere into Day 3 I began to genuinely appreciate the elements at play. The joie de vivre is in fact the feisty nature of Parisians against a backdrop of spectacular proportion. Without a doubt there are many reasons to bite the bullet and tackle the mania. Paris has a large concentration of France’s finest landmarks, museums, performance spaces and theatres.
Love Seduction + Goodbyes
Fashion, art and culture are the top reasons for most visits to Paris and the city does not disappoint. If shopping is your thing, then brace yourself. From Les Galleries Lafayette to every luxury designer known to planet earth one needs an endless resource of funds if you are looking to get your Devil Wears Prada on! She is an expert seductress – the wine, the fabulous restaurants, the iconic Moulin Rouge. Paris is a temptress at the top of her profession.
Although chaotic, you cannot leave Paris without a visit to Le Louvre. It is so singularly famed it was a great way to spend Day 6 in the city. Home to Venus de milo, David and Mona Lisa the more one browsed the more well-known array of installations the more one becomes captivated by the lessor known relics of the past. It’s amazing to witness the unfolding of romance through the streets of Paris – I was practically touch with passion! The day time in Paris seem equally as short as the night time is long – and fabulous. Drinks are your friends and as dinner is being prepared table-side at the wonderful La Coupole, I began to get a knack for what life in Paris was all about.
By Day 7 you long for normalcy – the walking, the drinking and the late nights catches up with you as you as you sit awaiting departure. The nostalgia of braving this wild but charismatic city filled my senses. The photos on my memory card are evidence of this mystery of a place, but the true story of the chaos, the wonder and grandeur of the city of love remains a feeling, not an image. It remains a thought toying with your mind and edging you to return to the magnificence and spectacle this is Paris, Ile de France.