Things I learned from a weeklong stay in Paris

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About Life:

  • It is an altogether different experience of a city when you explore it with the mindset of a temporary resident rather than that of a visitor. We appreciated the homely environment of living in a rented apartment in the city, cooking meals, walking down two flights of steps and out the door- no ornate hotel lobbies to cross, no fuss.

    View from the top of the Arc de Triomphe

    L’Étoile- the Star at Arc de Triomphe, the center of the city- a short walk from the apartment

  • Our actual material needs are limited- I felt happy and closer as a family in that tiny apartment.
  • Most locals are appreciative of your efforts to learn to speak their language and engage with them. Bonjour (Good day), Je né parle pas bien français (I don’t speak French very well) and Merci beaucoup (Thank you very much) never failed to break the ice.
  • People will step up to protect you- case in point being the lady at the information counter in a Metro station who told off the man who was forcibly ‘helping’ us buy tickets from the automated machine. “He is a bad boy, don’t talk to him”, she said endearingly, in broken English.
  • Being mindful and respectful of time- we found out the hard way when, hoping to pack in more sightseeing, we reached a museum only to find out that they strictly close off entry 45 minutes before closing time. Also, whether it is a high-end designer store that promptly closes at 6 PM or the neighborhood grocery shop that will not let you in before the opening time of 8:30 AM, or the cabbie that left after we were a few minutes late coming down from our apartment- one has to set time limits for oneself and for others- I guess it is one of the ways to ensure that meaningful life exists within and outside of work.
  • Something that strikes a chord universally is a tribute to the soldiers.

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    Commemorative flame to France’s Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe

About the Arts:

  • You think of music differently when you unexpectedly encounter a small group playing classical music in a Metro station. Compliment that with the magic of hearing the harp being played by a gentleman outside the Sacré-Coeur or the delight of procuring last-minute tickets to a program by the Orchestre de Paris.
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    Metro station near Opéra de la Bastille

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    Sacré-Coeur

  • Seeing the diverse historical movements in art displayed in the museums, notably the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée National d’Art Moderne at the Centre Pompidou and realizing what the immense influence of the arts is in our lives- what it means exactly to break tradition and forge new paths in life.
  • Seeing Monet’s Water Lilies exhibited at the Musée de l’Orangerie– and marveling at how the obsession with a single subject can mould one’s life.
  • Appreciating the rich architecture of the buildings and the beautiful stained glass windows reliving the glory of the days past.
    Sainte-Chapelle

    Sainte-Chapelle

    Château de Versailles

    Château de Versailles

  • This quote by Rabindranath Tagore exhibited at the Centre Pompidou.

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    Centre Georges Pompidou

About Food:

  • Good quality ingredients, a slowing down of the pace of life and enjoying meals as a social event make for satiety and contentment.
  • Some great conversations can be had with fellow diners whilst sitting adjacent in restaurants. You realize how much commonality the human experience has in spite of all the cultural differences.
  • Artisanal dark chocolate is a heavenly thing.

    The Notre-Dame Cathedral replicated in chocolate

    The Notre-Dame Cathedral replicated in chocolate at La Maison du Chocolat

  • Our general perception about personal space and time is overrated, especially in the context of sitting out on a sunny Sunday afternoon at a curbside table in a crowded café overlooking the Eiffel Tower.IMG_20141019_134111

Finally,the magic is in the details:

  • Some things defy explanation but are joyful for that very reason- for example, what is the box doing up in that tree?

    Jardin des Tuileries

    Jardin des Tuileries

  • Good thoughtful dressing matters, case in point being the well dressed cab drivers and the regular person who was so well put-together : minimalistic, classic and stylish (I especially loved the abundance of scarves- my favorite accessory).
  • Cute ballet flats don’t cut the deal when traipsing on cobblestone streets for hours- good walking shoes are a must.
  • Love makes the world crazy and ritualistic – all the locks here bespoke that.IMG_20141020_192758In all, we had a delightful glimpse of life in Paris.
    Until the next trip, Au revoir !