Memories of Paris

I hope my readers will forgive the interruption in the The Artist’s Way series and allow me a moment’s reflection on Paris.

champs_1996539c

Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe

In no way do I want to diminish the horror of terror attacks in other countries but, perhaps selfishly, this one hit me especially hard. I worked for a French company (here in the U.S.) for fifteen years and have many friends and fond memories from that time of my life. I had the opportunity to travel to Paris once on a business trip and was able to take an extra personal day to explore the city. Memories of that trip have been flooding back to me these last few days, and I wanted to share those recollections here.

I wandered the streets of Paris alone for hours, and I felt safe. I paused in my wanderings at one of the city’s ubiquitous street-side cafés, ordered a “van blanc, sil vous plais,” and gazed out at the Pont Neuf over the Seine. I am sure my self-satisfied grin marked me as the tourist I was. It was one of those rare moments in my life when I felt completely in the moment as I contemplated my impressions of the City of Love:

— Paris is a city of more than 2.5 million people, but it feels like a small town.
— It vibrates with a joyous energy–Joie de vivre?
— It is easy to get around, even for a neophyte like me.
— The people were friendly and patient with my bumbling use of the few French words I know.

Notre Dame

Cathedral of Notre Dame

The most profound impression I recall from my brief sojourn in Paris came when I walked through the doors of Notre Dame Cathedral. I approached it purely as a tourist attraction and was caught off guard by what I encountered there. It is not the grandeur of this 12th century church, or the religion that it represents, that had a lasting effect. What impacted me most was the sense of connection I felt with the generations of souls, centuries of prayers that seemed to linger within that sacred space. Here is a place that, like it’s people, has survived wars, famine, plague, and persecution–a people who I’m sure at times thought the world was coming to an end. And I thought, “We’re still here.”

We are still here. It gave me hope then as it still gives me hope today.

Vive la France!