“Oh, but Paris isn’t for changing planes, it’s … it’s for changing your outlook, for… for throwing open the windows and letting in… letting in la vie en rose,” Sabrina says in the 1954 Audrey Hepburn film when her love interest remarks he’s only been to Paris while changing planes. The quote stuck with me the first time I saw the movie, as a young teenager who dreamed of life with tons of perspective and little expectation. Paris wasn’t always the dream in and of itself; there were lots of places I imagined could change my outlook. But I did promise myself sometime, somewhere, I’d run off to Paris when I was young for a day or a week or however long it took to open the windows. This July, I fulfilled that promise.
I arrived in Paris on July 15, thinking I would avoid the hassle of a crowded city on their independence day. When I got off my train, on foot and completely unsure of how to get around in a large city with no direction, I was surprised to find the city almost silent on a Sunday morning at six a.m. after a celebration. My first view right out of the train station was Notre Dame, and almost no one in sight. However, unpredictable, I happened to be in the city when France was competing (and won) in the final match of the World Cup. While my plans for the first day were completely thrown out the window due to a metro too crowded to walk in and blocked off roads, I ended up sight-seeing and watching the city explode in joy. I’ve never experienced anything as I walked from one cafe to the next, seeing people genuinely so excited by every move of the match. Afterwards, there were so many flags and many loud renditions of the national anthem. Although my body was exhausted, I kept walking around and taking it in.
My second day in France took more structure, although most of my day was spent walking. I walked to the Louvre, although I didn’t attempt to make my way inside due to the crowds, and inside of the Musee l’orangerie. I ate bread, fruit and cheese for most of my meals in parks and by the Seine. I took the city by my own directions written the morning before leaving, and got lost almost every time. But I never felt quite so satisfied with my ability to see so much of a city in such a short amount of time.
People told me not to over romanticize Paris and I did not, however the city fooled me. It is a city of endless exploration and is exceedingly lovely. I could not have possibly over romanticized it even if I tried. It is just that wonderful. As I walked by the Seine, and as the city turned gold, the water becomes a vibrant mirror. The hassle of an everyday city becomes a fairytale. I finally found a place to sit and watch the water fold over itself, and people picnic, relax, and converse by its side. I randomly ended up talking to a few tourists who asked me to take their picture. “Has Paris always been your dream?” one of them asked me. It had not been, nor had I dreamed of Paris in particular but I had dreamed of that moment even if I hadn’t realized it. I had longed to be young in a city coated in gold where everything seemed to be bursting with the very core of what it means to be living. No answers were found to big questions, or bucket list items crossed off. But I felt satisfied, simply by the fact I will probably always be searching for answers in a city like Paris.
I highly recommend a good Paris trip for every young woman, not just for changing planes. Don’t go for a big spectacle, just for a few days. Just go and write and feel twenty. You need a Sabrina moment to let the windows in, and just live. You can’t over romanticize it if you try.