It always happens. Towards the end of every TV, radio or newspaper interview, I am asked, "If you could vacation in only one place in the world, where would it be?" And I disappoint the questioner by responding not with an exotic or colorful choice--like New Guinea or Montevideo--but simply with the city of Paris. And while the deflated interviewer changes the subject, I go babbling on about how Paris never fails to enchant.
Let me count the ways.
It's true--I can never get enough of the City of Light. To me, Paris is on the frontier, the leading edge, of every touristic activity. It rules the roost in cuisine--who could deny that?--but also in art and museums, in concerts, dance and opera, in political discourse and intellectual debate (scan the newspaper headlines if you doubt that), in monuments and history (from the Pantheon to the Tomb of Napoleon), in fashion and shopping, in its cafes and bars (where you can sit the entire afternoon over a single glass of wine, and not be asked to move on), in the availability of its civic services (get sick and a roaming ambulance with a doctor on board will almost instantly be at your side), in its luscious-looking open-air markets, in the excitement of its student life, in literature and economics (its resident novelists, philosophers. scientists and scholars are legendary)--and in every other field and endeavor i can name. Return to it for the second time or even the fiftieth--and it still seems new.
How can you best experience Paris? Though commercial tours abound, Paris is primarily a walking city, to be explored on your own, often wandering at random. Here, after all, is a metropolis so built to human scale, so lovely in its architectural design, so lined with small shops with their dynamic proprietors, that there is never an uninteresting block in it. Let me repeat: you can walk its ancient streets for hours and you will never be uninterested. Try this alternative approach to Paris--the kind enjoyed on your own two feet--and see whether I am right or wrong.
Photo by Markel Redondo