THOUGH I LOVE Paris now, I will admit that the expectations I had built up in my mind before visting were not met upon arrival. In most photos and movies, Paris appears to be a perfect romantic and magical place, with only well-dressed people roaming the streets and lush green trees lining pathways so quiet that you can hear the birds chirp. However, I found when I got there that, much like any big city, the air had a certain smell at times that I did not particularly enjoy, and the streets were crowded with tourists wearing New Balance tennis shoes and college baseball hats. Bulky winter jackets and DSLR cameras seemed to mar each chance that I had to enjoy the awe-inspiring architecture, and I was frustrated that I simply could not see the magic of Paris – that is, until I abandoned all expectations and opened my eyes.
After days of seemingly mandatory sightseeing and stopping by all of the must-sees (think: Shakespeare and Co., Sacré-Cœur, the Louvre, etc.), I decided that I had had enough of what I negatively referred to as Disney World. For our last two days, we made it a point to explore Paris as if we were actual Parisians – not by ignoring the popular sights (because they are truly incredible, and popular for a reason), but by treating them as a backdrop to our adventure, instead of as the main focus. With this approach I felt much more relaxed, and our best days were spent enjoying panoramic city views from a quiet and less well-known park (Parc de Belleville), and indulging in picnics lavished with chocolates and fresh market produce. I love Paris now that we have made it our own, and have seen its magic in a way that can’t be duplicated by another mind or any movie.
Traveler’s note: Christoph and I stayed at the cozy Hotel Istria, which was located in a central, yet quiet area. We highly recommend it.