The City of Light Won’t Let Me Sleep

Here, the sun sets at 9:30 or 10PM. While this may be charming and romantic, lighting up the beautiful crenellations and elegant statuettes on the Haussmanian boulevards, some nights it is simply impractical. Clear, glowing light at 10PM is not conducive for sleep!

The longer that I stay here, I feel less like a tourist and more like a foreigner. It’s interesting how, after weeks of the same routine and commute, I can feel so accustomed to and yet still so new to this city. I may be staying in the same city, but every time I walk off of my well-worn path, I feel completely new once more.

One of my favorite things about working in the bookstore of Galerie Maeght is the getting to meet tourists. Not all tourists are bad, but the worst are worst in the most bizarre ways, and the best share a pure kindness and enthusiasm that fully brightens my day. Travelers here will find things to deeply adore about this city and things to fully despise, and if they are American, they will generally tell me about it as I am bagging up their greeting cards or rolling up their posters. I am starting to see both sides, now.

Certainly the worst of this city is that it is, at its foundation, still a city. We as Americans heavily romanticize Paris, but the subways still smell like pee, people still are rude in the street and in stores, and the heat is still unbearable on tree-less streets. My own pet peeve is that the style of gardening here, in both formal gardens and in parks, is one that glorifies orderly rows of the same trees and flowers. I miss the wild, shady trees and rolling hills of home, and there’s very little cool shade to escape under here. I am a sweat monster. Not all Parisians are rude and hate Americans. I have, however, met a number of Parisians who were rude to me and did not care to hear my American-accented French. This city is expensive. This city is crowded. It’s a city.

But the best can often be truly lovely. The above photo was taken at 10PM, as I was taking a leisurely wander home from dinner. I stumbled on this square and this bubbling fountain as the sky created a vault of blues, pinks and purples. Everything glowed. The beauty here is striking and often unexpected: you’ll turn a corner and be faced with the intricate floral ironwork of the gates to a private residence, or find that the bakery you frequent by your work is the best in Paris. I’ll find myself spending whole days in museums or wandering aimlessly through unknown streets and through unknown shops.

As I spend more time here, I find myself zigzagging less between highs and lows, and I find that I am truly getting more of a cultural insight into this country. When we travel somewhere for a short period of time, we only see those highs and those lows, but a longer stay gives a deeper insight into daily life and the kinds of people you can find. This is a distinct change from the type of travel I am normally accustomed to, and I like it. I hope I have the chance to stay in a country like this again.

I will be thankful for sunset at a reasonable hour when I get home, though.