Before I left for Paris more than one year ago, I made a list of things I would miss about my life here in Arizona. Now, more than a month since my return home, I’ve found there are things about Paris that I miss dearly and desperately. Some of them are gems that make the city unique. Others are mundane things that were part of my daily life. No matter the case, I long for them all now:
1. Fresh food that is full of flavor (because it probably came from the local farmer’s market just hours before)
The first thing I noticed when I got home was how lackluster all of the fruits and vegetables were in the grocery stores. They tasted like they’d had all the flavor sucked out of them. Then I noticed the breads I was eating tasted like big loaves of sugar. Bleck. You just can’t beat locally raised, freshly harvested food.
2. A bakery on every block
Bakeries are as French as handle-bar mustaches and self-rolled cigarettes. The smell of fresh dough wafts through the alleyways every morning as the little boulangeries prepare for the city’s most fundamental daily tradition: the buying and eating of bread. Meanwhile, the pastries are being frosted and adorned, and the viennoiseries are being filled with chocolate, raisins, butter. How I miss this daily ceremony, observing it, smelling it and tasting it.
3. Green spaces around every corner
Though I’d say Paris is in need of more green space, it certainly has readily accessible gardens and parks in abundance compared to Tucson. Every neighborhood has its little (or big!) outdoor sanctuary, where the gates are open, the trees are tall and the pathways are calling to be strolled upon.
4. Beauty for beauty’s sake
The French have a profound respect for beauty. So much so that they strive to cultivate beauty in every building, every patch of dirt, every ensemble. I miss this intentional aesthetic, this sense of presentation and pride in the human capacity for art, whether it be in trimming of a rose garden, in the ceiling of a cathedral, or in the glint of a woman’s lipstick.
5. Sunday, a true day of rest
The distinguishing feature of a Sunday in Paris is something my camera cannot capture: silence. A penetrating silence that rises and sets with the sun. On a Sunday in Paris, you can guarantee that 85 percent of all businesses and institutions are closed. At first, this bothered me, because I needed to DO things, dammit. But Sunday is the antithesis of doing in Paris. It is a day of calm, when one may get out of bed a little later in the morning, enjoy a pleasant brunch with loved ones, take a stroll through the garden, drink two glasses of wine at dinner instead of one. This couldn’t be more different than a Sunday in the U.S., where everything runs business-as-usual—fast, loud, busy. Too busy.
6. Things—demonstrations, protests, festivals—happening! All the time!
Something is always happening in Paris. A girl is never bored.
7. The lights shimmering in the Seine at night
I know I’ve used this photo time and time again, but that’s merely because I find what it captures so breathtaking. Paris at night is a magical place. It glows.
8. High heels
There is a way of dressing here in Tucson. It is called “Tucson Casual.” After a year in Paris, where dressing up is the norm, I find that I prefer a pair of heels and a splash of lipstick over a pair of sandals and a glob of sunscreen. Tucson Casual isn’t me anymore, and yet, when I reach for my heels, I recoil, knowing that wherever I go I will feel over-dressed.
Call me snobby. I can take it.
9. The changing of seasons
When the leaves in Paris started to turn from green to orange yellow red, I behaved like a child who has just seen snow for the first time. I had never experienced this natural phenomenon, even in my hometown in the mountains of northern Arizona. Being able to see and feel the world shifting from one season to another is a wonderful feeling that brings a person down to Earth. It reminds you that you’re spinning.
10. The social custom of saying “hello,” “good morning” and “good evening” to everyone you meet
In France, and in most of Europe, hello and goodbye are required upon any one-on-one encounter with a person, whether you know them or not. When you enter a store, you say hello. When you pass someone in the hallway, you say hello. When you see a neighbor down by the mailboxes, you say hello. If you don’t, it is terribly rude.
Although this custom was a little daunting at first (who do I greet and who do I ignore?), it soon became a pleasant part of everyday life. Every time I exchanged hello’s with someone, often a stranger, I felt we had exchanged a gesture of mutual human compassion. Sometimes acknowledgement is all a person needs to feel special.
These are only a few of the things I miss about Paris, a city that has become closer to my heart with each day spent away from her. Of course, I only realized how much I treasured her after I’d left her behind. I guess I’ll have to go back so that I can let her know, won’t I?
What customs and details do you miss about your own travels? How do you cope with the nostalgia? Share your stories in the comments below!
Smiles and all the best,