At the risk of sounding green, I have always envied “smilers”. You know, the people you see walking along the street smiling to themselves for no apparent reason; those, always happy people. Countless times I’ve had to administer a mental slap on the wrist as I look at them with nonsensical cynicism and wonder, “What are they so happy about?”
When I am in Paris, I am one of those people.
I walk the city hour upon hour, day after day, with a dotty smile that bursts from ear to ear. And it’s not even a smile of exuberance. It’s a smile of complete equanimity. There’s no question when it comes to the fact that I am a calmer, more inspired, version of myself in Paris. Particularly when I am there on my own.
I have visited the city over a handful of times now. I’ve eaten escargot under the Eiffel Tower, walked up and down the Champs Elysse people-watching and circled the Arc de Triopmphe in admiration. But perhaps the most treasured time was when – in desperate need of some “Heidi” time – I rented a small apartment in the 6th arrondissement (Saint-Germain-des-Prés), with the plain intention to live like a Parisian…
/ I cooked.
Wandering the food markets aimlessly, I sourced the most delicious fresh produce, all of which was tastefully laid out and packaged. I’m not known for my culinary prowess, but I went back to the small kitchen in my apartment armed with baguettes, flavorsome cheeses and the ingredients that would aid my attempts at Boeuf Bourguignon and Choucroute Garnie. While the dishes may have been in vain, the experience was quintessentially French.
/ I sketched.
My aptness for drawing is somewhat scant, but I invested in a sketchbook and trotted off to the Jardin du Luxembourg to draw trees and drink wine. One special summers day, I was joined by an old French man who was also flying solo in the park; he spoke in his beguiling accent of his life as a painter travelling around the world. It was a special “French” moment I will never forget.
/ I listened to music.
Rushing one morning across Pont Marie, I came across the most charming French band singing old American songs. I am a sucker for a bit of Brown Eyed Girl, and had a fleeting moment where I continued to rush across the bridge with a sense of longing to stop and listen, all before suddenly realizing – I’m on holiday in Paris – I had all the time in the world. It’s frightening to think that our lives become so attune to maintaining a schedule and surrendering to our daily toil that taking time to enjoy a treasured moment often becomes trivial. So, I took a seat on the edge of that bridge and sat for the next two hours listening to their songs in sheer delight.
This is what Paris does. It provokes you to take the time to just be. It beckons to cultivate a side of you that has been ignored, a side that is yearning for expression and art.
Leaving always conjures a hint melancholy, wondering when I will next be lured back to the city I love so very much.