Paris was never high on my list. While I share all the romantic connotations and pop culture references, the love of bread, cheese and wine, I wasn't really that drawn to it. But now that we're here, I feel like I had it all wrong. I'm instantly in love. It could be homesickness, the simple sight of words I recognize an instant comfort. Canada, of course, is bilingual so we are taught to speak French in school, until we're old enough to drop it like a tamale chaud. All of our products are packaged in very verbose boxes, each language given equal billing. While it's easy to ignore, it has a way of burrowing in. And now that we've returned to the Latin alphabet, I feel at home. I find myself quietly muttering every sign, putting on a full-blown Celine Dion like some kind of maniac in the streets. But it feels right.
Unlike other big cities we've visited (Sydney, Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai) Paris doesn't benefit from perpetual summer. It's instantly more familiar to me, like Toronto or New York or Montreal. At this particular line of latitude, the thrill of summer is laced with pollen. Produce stands are like altars, people beaten down by winter flocking to them for salvation. Sidewalks have seen a thing or two, like ice and sleet and slip-and-fall injuries. Brickwork is imperfect, with mould or bits eroded by weather.
Places with winter share a certain emotional constitution which colours the lives of its inhabitants. There's a base-level cynicism I find critical to survival. We're skeptical of the sunshiney temperament of Australians and think Californians are cute little dummies. We squint at Brazilians who don bikinis year-round, wondering how they find time for anything but blasting their abs.
It goes like this: If you've never survived a power-outage when it's 30 below, your opinions kind of don't super matter.
Winter people are an industrious lot. In those dark days of February, sometimes we'll bake a loaf of something on a Tuesday, just to warm the house and our bellies. We hunker down for several months and introspect. As much as we detest the weather, winter is part of us. Certain cultures don't understand that. But after just a few days, I understand Paris, and I know it gets me, too.
In the first two days I saw my first for-reals chevron floors and that beautiful Tower. Bigger and more beautiful than I thought it would be. I woke up this morning with a good-and-true chill in my knuckles. A feeling I didn't realize I was nostalgic for. A perfect start to Paris.
LOCATION: Paris, France
DATE AND TIME: Thursday, July 11, 2013 10:00PM Central European Summer Time/Thursday, July 11, 2013 4:00PM EST