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  • Writer's pictureRJ Smith

The Best Things About Life In Paris

Gustave Cailleotte, "Rue de Paris, Temps de Pluie" (1877)

I brought that negative energy in my last post. But it's not all bad. Here are the seven best things about life in Paris.

1. Size

The beauty of city life is to be able to have a variety of experiences in the space of one day, to indulge the instant impulse. Paris's 2.1 million residents are crammed into just 41 square miles. So you can cycle everywhere. And if something’s happening across town you can be there in no time. This is probably why Paris is so social compared to London and Sydney. The 'Anglo-Saxon' cities are too big and too hard to get around for people to be bothered most of the time.

2. Liveliness

Other towns have residential and commercial zones, the population commuting from one to the other and then back again. But Paris is designed exclusively for living. So wherever you go and no matter at what time you get the sense of life unfolding. Whether it's a couple having a glass of wine on a balcony or a group of friends singing cheesy songs, Paris is living. Paris is life.

3. Architecture

There is a reason this city holds a special place in the consciousness of all humanity. Paris is—especially since les travaux haussmanniens (Haussman's renovation)—a standing monument to the capacity of human beings to achieve an ornate and harmonious aesthetic to define their living space. To walk around Paris is to walk through a vast museum or work of art both traditional and timeless, consistent yet endlessly surprising.

4. Seasons

I have finally come to terms with the European winter. In fact (although do not ask me again in April) I think I actually like it now. It’s not Siberia. If you wear proper clothes you’re not going to freeze. And when you leave the house nature reminds you you’re alive. It’s autumn here now. The chestnut tree leaves glow like neon red at dawn and dusk. It is not the sense of an ending but of beginning, renewal.

5. Transport

I have hinted at my thoughts on the Paris métro in Birthday and elsewhere. But the service is quick, regular, runs until 2am every night and is far cheaper than the London Tube. It's also much closer to street level than in other cities so you can dip in and out fast to air the stench of shiss out of your clothes.

6. Women

What can I say. They look good. Excellent personalities too I'm told and occasionally very friendly.

7. Book Stores

The French, like all cultural groups, are parochial in many ways. But they are open minded about art generally and literature particularly. I walked into a store the other day and found a whole section devoted to John Fante. The French are not good with numbers, but they get what's good with letters, an art form buoyed by the national commitment to going to the local libraire of the kind you'll find seemingly on every street in Paris.


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