When I leave Paris for extended periods of time, I’m sometimes overcome with a panicky feeling that I’m losing touch, losing ground, floating into a France-less obscurity, and that when I return, I won’t recognize the city anymore. Or worse, that it won’t recognize me.
But as soon as I come back—as I have now, for three weeks—I realize the futility of such thinking. If there is any city that is adamant about retaining its traditions, its quirks, its pace and its “sameness,” it is Paris. So I’m happy to report that the French are more or less wearing the same thing (black), eating the same things (steak frites, baguettes, macarons), waiting for the same thing (retirement) and complaining about the same things (everything).
On a recent stroll down the street where I used to live, I spotted the same old wine guy, cheerfully delivering bottles from door to door. He looked just the same as he had two years ago, when he helped me lug a box of champagne to my apartment for my 25th birthday soirée.
When I spent a few weeks in Paris last winter, I was shocked and delighted to discover that my old friend, a particularly scruffy “dog on wheels,” was still kicking around my old neighborhood, rolling harness and all.
And then, of course, we have the tastes, smells and sights that are unmistakably Parisian, and that I can’t imagine will disappear anytime soon: the haunting glow of the Pantheon at night, the salty-sour taste of Poilâne bread, and the steely-smoky smell of rain in November, when the city is teetering on the brink of winter.
Whereas some cities seem to be in a constant state of restlessness, of searching, of shifting, I often think that Paris remains relevant by virtue of its consistency and self-assuredness. It is what it is—take it or leave it.
Of course, there is a “scene” here that moves, evolves, innovates and reinvents. But perhaps more importantly, there is a counter-scene, an anti-scene, an old-school adherence to the things that make Paris Paris. And both young and old, foreigners and French, residents and tourists can probably agree: We like it that way.
Written by Tory Hoen for the HiP Paris Blog. All photos taken by Nichole Robertson of the wonderful Blog Little Brown Pen. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.