Paris, the city of lights. Some claims it as one of the world’s most romantic cities. Exactly a year ago, I had the great pleasure of stopping in on this enchanting city during a layover en route to Taiwan. Since I had been to Paris before, I avoided all touristy activities and simply took in the city for what it was.
The weather was surprisingly cold for May and a bit gray. It was a weekday, so not too many people were out. A friend who was living in Paris at the time wandered around the city with me. The walk up to La Republique revealed a breathtaking view of the city, even with a bit of the wintry weather. Sacred Coeur could be seen from afar. The city was quiet. I remember the fresh spring grass under my bare feet as I walked down the hill in the park. It was lovely.
The walk took us along Canal St. Martin. The austere of 19th century Parisian architecture reminded me why this was the city beloved by so many. The sidewalks of the Canal were sprinkled with kids playing with moms, dads, nannies. Traffic of the city began picking up as people were returning after a day’s work. Tiny European cars were snaking in and out of the streets. Still overwhelmed by the city after a year in a village, I had trouble crossing the streets. I enjoyed the contrast of traffic with the calm Canal and later the River Seine.
I spent the large part of my few days in Paris alone, and wandered the city rather aimlessly, without a map, letting feelings taking me wherever. The sun came out on the last day. I did a lot of people watching. Bought books at a few used book stores and the vendors by La Seine. Drank a coffee here, had a tea there. No particular direction. I wandered into a lovely café in the 2nd arrondissement and had a nice light lunch with a glass of wine and the latest issue of Vogue. A neighborhood café so charming and small that the darling middle age owner told me she couldn’t take my 50 euro bill. For a moment, I forgot I was in Paris and felt like the many times in Cameroon when vendors don’t have change for large bills.
The wandering continued after I refueled. I have no idea where I was, but I enjoyed being a complete stranger in a city and walking without any attention given to me. My last stop was the Centre Pompidou by the apartment that I was staying. The Sun was out and there were all kinds of people about – tourists, locals, musicians, skateboarders, readers, lovers – heaven for people watcher like myself. An ice cream in hand, I took in every last moment before heading to the airport to continue my voyage.