It’s been two years since Norway stole my heart. True, I’ve always been intrigued by my heritage, but seeing the country for the first time—walking the same streets my grandparents must have tread upon, visiting the same Viking ship museum my dad visited as a child on a field trip in the 1950s, and putting a physical place to the culinary traditions my grandparents carried with them when they left Norway—brought it to life for me like never before.
Just a short time in Oslo was enough to inspire me to declare to my husband, “I want to move to Norway.” I can’t wait to return, whenever that might be. But I still love Paris.
Just as I fell in love with Norway in less than 24 hours, two nights in Paris earlier this month—bookending the rest of our European road trip—were enough to rekindle my adoration of the city. Since visiting for the first time in 2001, I’ve returned more often than I’ve visited most cities in my own country. But as I experienced during those two nights, the enchantment is still there, and perhaps in different ways than it ever has been before.
I can thank Hemingway for at least part of the wonder. Afraid of running out of books to read during the aforementioned trip to Norway, I bought a copy of his A Movable Feast from a bookstore in Bergen. Hemingway’s experiences in Paris in the 1920s gave me a new perspective on the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, especially his time spent at Cafe de Flore, Les Deux Magots, and Brasserie Lipp (that’s it peeking out from behind Cafe de Flore in the photo above). So even though I stayed in the 6th arrondissement while visiting in 2006, when I returned there a nearly two weeks ago to eat at Le Relais de l’Entrecôte, I saw the area in a whole new light.
In addition, having just spent several nights in Berlin, where–as someone accurately pointed out–the city is still trying to find its identity after nearly all of it was destroyed during World War II, I couldn’t help but see the picturesque buildings of Paris in the context of the history of the 20th century. While many cities were ravaged, Paris was preserved, and its iconic architecture survived.
Other sources of the wonder are the sheer beauty and vitality of the city. After experiencing the raw, buzzing energy of the metro at rush hour–its trains screeching through the tunnels, carrying passengers stacked vertically next to and up against each other–emerging into the heart of the 6th is magical. Contrasted with the stuffy, loud, cramped, and fluorescently-lit metro, the open air and natural light of a busy Parisian boulevard makes the overcast May afternoon sky seem to smile and transforms the metallic sound of cars into a song.
All these photos are from our last night in Paris, and from the little sliver of the city we visited that night. What a beautiful way to remember Paris …
… until next time.