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. Many of these more casual restaurants closely resembling one another, fitted with sleek black interiors and thick red velvet curtains to insulate against the cold and keep the conversations close. It is a city of lights, but discreet in its illumination. The clear skies in darkness meld the stars into the city’s lights forming the backdrop to make one’s way. 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 instead of compete, and patience often more productive than haste.
Paris is a city where life tends to be focused on daily needs and a predicable routine. Laws are written about treasured foods with the same care as any other legislation, and bread and pastries displayed like art work 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. Its eponymous 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.
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 pretty. Ballets and operas are performed in grand buildings next to well-maintained cobblestone streets worn smooth on top from use. Paris is a city of simplicity and practicality, and it is those qualities that make it unique. 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 others 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.