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The Persuasion of Paris

Where Thought and Time Are One

Photo Credit: N. Sommer

Paris is often equated with this time of year. It is a city synonymous with visions of long walks along the Seine and warm brasseries on nearly every street. To close one’s eyes and know that the cobblestones will describe the movement around and the pace of each person and the warmth of a restaurant’s thick velvets will also keep words spoken closely held. It is a city of lights, but discreet in its illumination. It is a city almost binary in its character, both a center for world leaders and at the same time a peaceful retreat. It is a city that persuades rather than confronts its inhabitants. It is a city where thought and time cooperate rather than compete, and patience often more productive than haste.

Paris is a city where life tends to be focused on daily needs and a predictable routine. Laws are written about treasured foods with the same care as any other legislation, and bread and pastries displayed like artwork hung in galleries. Great importance is placed on immediate quality more than long term quantity. Long baguettes with dustings of flour jutting out of crisp brown bags are bought to be consumed whole within hours, and flowers placed in vases just long enough until the next vibrant bunch. Artisans thrive as this city allows for creativity and the time needed to perfect a craft. Prized champagne is sold in small portions allowing for a change of mood, and well thought out pairings of cheese a fair thought to end an evening.
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This is a city of brightness, rather than pastels. It is eye-catching without needing to flaunt, and interesting without needing to explain why. Buildings do not compete to be the tallest, but rather readily blend into one another, distinguishing each from the other seemingly by flower choice in window boxes above or a curved iron balcony overlooking a street view. Bread is plain and butter unsalted, while shoes are flat and yet graceful. The great landmarks of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame do not lend itself from every corner as in the case of other city skylines, but rather show themselves at their best when sight is suddenly unobstructed through a narrow street passage.

In an era in which we are told to ensure that we should plan for the just in case, it is sometimes pleasant to remember to enjoy the here and now. Paris is charming rather than confrontational. It peacefully persuades us to enjoy each day. Architecture seems as much function as form, and a trip up to its highest peaks for views seems as equally optional as enjoying the grounds below. Perfecting a skill by hand is as prized as learning from a book, and respect is felt towards each other’s specialties and interests. Paris is the present in a city incarnate. It is a soft-spoken reminder that spring will come shadow or not, election day will arrive with choices narrowed on a ballot, and the menu planned never as important as the words spoken in conversation during the meal.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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