Each time I go to Paris – five or six times now – the experience is different, even though the city remains pretty much the same. On arrival I notice… The lack of homogenous high streets. How boxy the trains are on the Metro. The colourful shiny riveted-on plastic bucket seats on the platform. Tourists, hawkers and buskers outside Sacre Coeur; while at the still centre, the altar glows peaceful as a nativity scene. City cemeteries with their own route maps to the dead rich and dead famous. Historic, grandiose architecture up above; streets lined with mopeds, bicycles, windmills and people below. Boutique shops. Crabby hotels. Swarms of tourists. Les cafés. Gauloises. Drains. Panorama. Abundant life.
But, in reality and selfishly, this is all just backdrop for some of the stories of my life. Paris is where I spent my 21st birthday with four friends, drinking tequila slammers in honour of Betty Blue, my favourite film at the time. Paris is a competition win, when we won free tickets in The Great British Airways Seat Giveaway (when every BA seat was given away one St George’s Day); on the same trip, I came down with chicken pox. It is where my best friend and I killed an evening between trains from London to Venice, and again on the way back at dawn between Munich and London. And this year, it was the first-ever Content Strategy conference, and a photographic outing (see next post ‘Unexpected Paris‘) with TTV Pete (pictured above).
Looking back I realise I’ve always been there with a precious person or people, and that’s what makes the city great and good and interesting and memorable for me. Those friends/lovers are as much a part of the fabric of Paris as the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame. And the two can’t be separated. In other places, it’s the people I meet there; in Paris, it’s the people who’ve come with me.