Joie de Vivre

“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.”-Thomas Jefferson

As I type this, I am sitting in Les Deux Magots in the Latin Quarter of Paris.  It is a café that Hemingway and his friends would congregate in almost a century ago. This isn’t my first time here.  It continues to inspire me.  At this café sat the likes of Hemingway, Picasso, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Satre, Julia Child, James Joyce, and Oscar Wilde. I am in Paris for the 7thtime, and each time I can’t help but feel the essence of the city.  I am in an atmosphere that artists have gravitated towards for decades. There’s no surprise why Paris became an epicenter for writers and artists.  It makes one simply want to wander, dream, and create.

I can’t put my finger on why Paris exudes this romanticism.  I have yet to have a traditional “romantic weekend” in the City of Lights.  In the past “romance” for me equated with being attached to your love interest via kissing and holding hands.  The image of the love locks on the Pont de Artes bridge in Paris was romance for me.  Initials joined together, with keys thrown into the Seine binding one’s love forever. Romance needed a partner.

The older I get, my definition of romance is changing.  I realize you can have a romantic week in Paris alone.  What is romantic now is this sense of wanting to linger in a particular spot for hours. Romance is a state.  Generally, for me this had to be somewhere that must be exquisitely magical…the perfect cafe with the right amalgamation of atmosphere, people, background noise, and soothing music.  Yet in Paris, I have found numerous places where I have literally said aloud, “I can live here.”

The past several days the places I could linger in for hours have been The Shakespeare Bookstore, Salvador Dali Museum, Saint Chapelle, cafés in the Latin Quarter or Montmarte, anywhere overlooking the Eiffel Tower or Seine River, the back gardens of the Notre Dame, even the Jardin de Tuleries.  Everywhere you look, a romantic scene is taking place.  The mere act of strolling around the city seems to wind my sentimentality up like a music box. It’s as if I am remembering something I didn’t know I forgot.

As I leisurely walk the streets of architecture perfection, I can’t help but churn the boxes of my memory. Every moment I have experienced in life becomes appreciated: moments of depression, longing, joy, excitement, curiosity, love, and regret.  All are welcome.  People save money and wait their entire lives to come to a city like Paris, and this has become my annual excursion via the Eurostar. I can’t help but live in a state of gratitude when I am here.  How can you not?  Romance is appreciation of the present moment.  It’s mindfulness. A mind full of now-ness.

They say the French exude a joie de vivre, which translated means exuberant enjoyment of life.  This is hard to explain and solely should be experienced. It means embracing each aspect of your day.  Slow down the meal, glass of wine, or coffee you are drinking.  Taste the burst of flavors in the exquisite food you are biting into.  Enjoy the moments with those that are in your company.  Read tangible books.  Support local bookstores.  Don’t count each calorie, with the nibble of croissants or macaroons.  Maybe even splurge and have a cigarette.

Look at the city with a soft gaze, as if you are seeing an old lover who only visits you in your dreams.  Hum as you walk the streets living in this sense of wonder and passion.  Paris will never be an unrequited love.  It’s always there to love you back.  Open your heart and breathe in the romance this town has to offer. Don’t have expectations of how it must be.  Allow Paris to unfold and envelop you with it’s embrace.

Frida Kahlo once said to “take a lover that looks at you like magic.” Paris deserves the title of the city of romance. I think we can mutually gaze into each other’s eyes with mindfulness, mystery, and magic.

Below are some of the quotes I have collected about this love:

You can’t escape the past in Paris, and yet what’s so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn’t seem to burden. -Allen Ginsberg

When good Americans die, they go to Paris. -Oscar Wilde

Paris is a place in which we can forget ourselves, reinvent, expunge the dead weight of our past. -Michael Simkins

The whole of Paris is a vast university of Art, Literature and Music… it is worth anyone’s while to dally here for years. Paris is a seminar, a post-graduate course in everything. -James Thurber

 

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. -Ernest Hemingway

“You know, I sometimes think, how is anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city. You can’t. Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights. I mean come on, there’s nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you can see these lights, the cafés, people drinking and singing. For all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe.” – Midnight in Paris

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