Thursday, February 25, 2010

The special city of Paris

Almost a week in Paris has passed partly working, partly on vacation.
Having not been to Paris since about the age of 14 this was really the
first time to really explore and get to know the city. And what a city
it is.

Much of what makes it great is the same as anywhere in France: the
patisseries with their wonderful dessert;, the boulangeries with
wonderful breads and kind, personal, owners; crepes (pancakes)
available everywhere; coffee available even more 'everywhere'; the
(sometimes very thick)hot chocolates; the plat du jour (dish of the
day) and set menus; and, due to even the French going smoke-free, the
outside heating areas in front of every cafe whose tables are in the
highest demand.

Then there are some things unique to Paris, a city barely touched
architecturally in hundreds of years: the small streets; uniformly 6
storey buildings with shutters; the numerous squares; the hilly windy
backstreets of montmatre; the incredible mansions of Marie; the
impressively long queues for falaffels outside the jewish bakeries;
the boulevards; and of course the major sites: Eiffel, Notre, L'Arc,
L'Ouvre et al. All incredibly amazing structures.

Then there was the surprise packages: the amazing morocan tagines
(stews), the literary walking tour of the places where many of the
world's great writers, poets and thinkers found inspiration, and the
crazy business district (La Defense) which is 10km west of the city
and houses the only tall buildings in the city -an area that seems to
have been in the 70s like Beijing is now: a playground for architects.

Apart from the prices, which seem to be around 20% more than even
London (maybe that is because of the bad exchange rate), there aren't
too many faults with the city. But I did find some in my short stay. I
did feel somewhat unsafe walking around the ethnic neighbourhoods at
night, and I was getting bored of the uniformity in the buildings. But
at the end of the day, the vibe, different to London generated by the
many many independent cafes and bakeries etc was fantastic.

I didn't get as much of a sense of history or diversity,or of the
centre of things and future of things, as I do in London; or of
excitement and intrigue from the nooks, crannies and corners of
alleys, pubs and historical buildings that I get in London. But then
Paris has something, something special that means I can now understand
just why it has the reputation it has.

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