Bonjour Paris, nice to meet you!
You still have the fresh taste of Champagne in your mouth when the plane lands at Charles De Gaulle. That young flight attendant with the red cheeks that lavished you with attention for the whole flight finally opens the door and whispers, “Bienvenue à Paris” before a flood of light forces you to put on your sunglasses…
And once you finally realize that you have just landed in France’s capital, the first question you think about is places to see in Paris...
The first thing you notice once outside the airport is the perfume of France… and you still can’t place it. You have travelled a lot: You remember the hot humidity of Florida, the bittersweet fragrance that wafts through the streets of India and the petals of hawthorn that dance in the skies of the north.
And when the fresh air fills your lungs, suddenly you are struck by the desire to know, to explore and to hear that elegant melody that is the French language. Because, now that you think of it, the reason why you don’t recognize the aroma of this capital is that until now you have only heard about it.
Lights and colours on the lovely Champs Elysees
You have just left your bags in your apartment facing the Arch of Triumph and now you want to start discovering places to see in Paris.
They have told you about the market on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, which during Christmas time shines with green, red and blue lights and is filled with artisans selling their wares.
Now that you are here, the thought of it gives you a sense of warmth – maybe because you are holding a glass of vin chaude that protects you from the cold chill of winter, maybe because in a crowd of travellers you have finally found the place you have been looking forward to for months.
But “he who hesitates is lost” as you have heard so many times. And the truth is that in Paris there is so much to see that it is difficult to decide what to focus on. The signs at the stations, with their Liberty style declaring the importance of beauty, invite you to look at the large map of what was once called the Ville Lumière, or “City of Light”. Like all the great cities of the world, Paris is divided into quarters, called arrondissements here, each with its own identity and, once again, an unmistakable aroma.
An arrondissement full of history: the sixteenth
There is the sixteenth district or arrondissment, for example, famous throughout Europe for the Haussmann buildings whose luxury still recalls the Second Empire or the time between 1848 and 1852 when the city underwent an important modernization project.
Where once there were ancient streets so picturesque and typical of the French capital, today lie long, straight streets flanked by green spaces and haute couture boutiques. Right in the heart of the park Bois de Bologne, the Louis Vuitton Foundation (Fondation d’entreprise Louis Vuitton) recently opened its doors. The truth is, you can’t do anything but see it with your own eyes, because right in the middle of the gardens, among the grand oaks and hundred-year trees, you see a metal iceberg designed by Frank Gehry, who was also the architect of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Glass, wood and steel filter the quiet nature and the trees with an angular softness in a celebration of contemporary art, where works of art have a leisurely conversation with the surrounding architecture.
If you are passionate about architecture, read this article on an unusual itinerary in Paris!
A city which tastes of a marketplace
Art excites the spirit, makes your heart beat faster and at the same time makes you want to talk about it. Don’t pay attention to anyone telling you to stay in the east part of the city. Jump on the first bus you see and head towards the Bastille in the far western part of the capital!
The framework of the very unique market is made of iron frame in honour of one of Paris’ most famous symbols: The Eiffel Tower. La tour Eiffel is of course named after its architect, Gustave Eiffel, who had a penchant for using this particular metal.
Here, a bit away from the city centre and the more touristy areas, you will enjoy the air of a real marketplace, where the fruit doesn’t look so much like jewellery but the fine products of nature.
Paris, fusion of art, stories and perfumes
And again, your sense of smell conquers the rest: The freshly picked apples, the oranges ready for juicing, and over there some oysters right out of the water that colour the air with a pale aphrodisiac veil.
The food, colours and aromas give you a good appetite!
Paris, fusion of art, stories and perfumes
Then you will want to stop in at some old café, perhaps to sample an excellent cheese like the Saint Nectaire du auvergine that melts in your mouth and catches fire on contact with a bold, fruity red wine.
In that moment, relaxing at the table, you will understand that Paris is the most eternal of cities. And that its fragrance is a mixture of culture, history and almost undefinable excitement.
You will feel sure of one thing in the end: that you regret not having visited Paris before now. And in a timeless city, although you know you will eventually need to fly back home, you will feel like you have all the time in the world.