My Paris Dérive
It had been more than 20 years since I visited the City of Light. My previous trip stemmed from a business engagement and lasted only 36 hours. I was there one week before Christmas and spent much of the time simply walking, taking in its majesty. I planned this recent trip a year ago, to attend the wedding of wonderful clients.
This time, I was there with my boyfriend, with six days to explore. It’s understandable why tourists can feel compelled to plot their time visiting the symphony of museums, monuments and parks, scheduling reservations to absorb the enormity of culinary delights. We certainly engaged in our share of these experiences, reveling in Paris’ glorious architectural beauty. But we set out to embrace what the French call dérive, a concept of drifting through the city streets.
After a trip to the Musee D’Orsay, we walked along the Seine, slipping into hidden shops and cafés and relied on the Metro to extend our exploration far beyond where our legs could carry us. We stayed in the 8th Arrondisement and ventured to neighborhoods miles away in distance and personality. Le Marais was one of my favorites. A bit Bohemian with an artsy flair filled with small designer shops and delectable outdoor markets and food stands from all over the world. Opposite in character but equally alluring was the Luxembourg Garden, 56 acres of gloriously maintained gardens and paths surrounding the Luxumbourg Palace, a former royal residence and current home of the Senate. Breathtakingly beautiful.
The French people were welcoming and friendly, happy to engage with my broken and limited French. I was surprised by the numbers who still smoke. Part of their culture. One that is easy to lose yourself in. In the busyness of today’s lifestyle, they seize the beauty of the moment, of savoring the present. Chattering cafes and brasseries filled with people drinking the pleasures of friendship and fraternity. It was this laissez-faire attitude that cast the most lasting impression. A place where I long to return.