Cassie and I met when we were five years old when we were randomly assigned as piano lesson partners. Through the grueling classes, recitals and practicing (much more on her end than mine, she was WAY better than me) we formed a friendship that will last a lifetime. I’m so lucky to have her as a friend even if she can outplay me on the ivories any day.
“In Paris, the past is always with you; you look at it, walk over it, sit on it. I’ve always been a bit of an old-fashioned girl. I feel good in old places.” – Lunch in Paris
Old things have always struck a chord with me. I would much rather watch an old film curled up on the couch than hit up a movie theater to see the latest thing getting blown up. My views on love and relationships are also traditional and would make any feminist drop dead at its mention; staying at home cleaning, cooking, and doing laundry with three kids on my arm is a life for me. And over the years, my fashionable necklaces and earrings and have been replaced with strings and studs of pearls.
So it was no wonder when I entered high school that I would choose an old love language to study: French–oh la la! Throughout my years of studies, I would snap pictures of anything I saw that looked like it would belong in Paris, though I’d never been. I found myself quickly whipping out my phone to take various shots of different designs of the Eiffel Tower. I was obsessed with Paris pictures and paraphernalia until the city actually became real to me.
Exactly a year ago to date, my French-loving heart boarded a flight to European soil. As our cab neared Paris jurisdiction, I knew I never wanted to leave. Not because it was a dream come true (though it was) and not because its sights were magical (though they were)—it was because it was old.
As I took a seat in a classic French cafe and ate my crispy Croquet-Monseiur, I noticed something. Parisians walked slower. They talked slower. They took forty-five minutes to finish a meal. Then they stayed an extra hour after that meal. And in between that time (other than smoke a few), they did nothing. I felt like I was transported back in time where there were no iPods and Pads and there was all the time in the world to get from one place to another. And they actually used that time.
America is faster. We have drive-thrus. We sit and talk over one another in large groups. We take too many pictures instead of enjoy the moment that’s in front of us. We rush from point A to point B and in our hurry we pick up a speeding ticket—and wouldn’t you know—we arrived at our destination early after all. I decided that neither lifestyle was better than the other. All I knew was that it was a change I hadn’t yet experienced–and I liked it.
New skyscrapers turned into age-old buildings and cathedrals made out of ancient stone. Buildings that took a year to assemble were substituted with historical sights like L’Arc de Triomphe and La Notre Dame. I found Jardin du Luxembourg surrounded by a palace, while Millennium Park was amidst noisy city streets. Old bookstores that have been passed down from generations tell stories that you wouldn’t even be able to find in a novel at Barnes and Noble. Massive, outdoor malls stood small next to the built-in-1616 Champs-Elysees. The vintage stores that I saw in America quickly turned current when I stepped into a true vintage shop in Paris.
Though I had never been there before, walking around the Paris streets and seeing these sights made me feel not only at home, but humbled. The history is so rich and powerful that I immediately felt smaller than everything. Paris is humbling not because of its size or expensive taste, but because people have the everyday opportunity to look at, walk, and sit on its history. Paris’ past is so embedded into the city that it is impossible to separate the two. A walk around Paris gets you modest—a walk around New York gets you sore feet.
Which is why, when I stood teary-eyed and awe-struck in front of my long-awaited Eiffel Tower, the last thing I thought to do was snap a picture.