Being in Paris is a dream.
Everything moves slow in the City of Lights. You don't take coffee to go, meals are relaxed and enjoyable.
Everything is a ritual. You go to the market, the poissonnerie, the butcher — leaving each stop with something new in your basket.
Everything is a process. You tear open the sugar packet, pour the sugar. Spoon in, stir, spoon out. (Only an American would drink sugar in her coffee and order a cappuccino after 11 a.m., so I make no claims to blending in.) Sip slowly, don't gulp it down.
Picnics on Sunday with rosé and family and friends. The kids playing chase and hunting down lost balls while the adults open a third bottle of wine and pour it freely into plastic cups.
As an outsider looking in, being in Paris made me realize just how fast life moves at home. It's always work, then traffic; dinner (maybe with a friend if you can both squeeze it in), then off to bed.
Always sacrificing. Sacrificing time with friends and family to get more work done, sacrificing productivity and deadlines to spend days with others. There's never enough time to read in the park on a sunny day, or take a coffee break that's more than a five minute trip to the office kitchen.
I'd been dreaming of Paris for as long as I could remember. Some people go in the hopes of finding an epic romance, or experiencing one with a current love, but I just went to find myself. And it wasn't what I expected.
Paris wasn't late nights spent wandering the streets after too much wine, or meeting strangers that turn into friends. Instead, it was lazy days spent watching the clouds move past the Eiffel Tower as the sun sank below the horizon. It was meandering through old streets, feeling both at home and very far away from it at the same time.
You'll find Paris in the couple on the balcony across the street, who are too engrossed in each other to even notice the Eiffel Tower lighting up the night sky behind them — they have their own passion for that. You'll find it in the song that comes on as you sit and stare across the rooftops, being reminded of the book you read as it played on repeat and the boy who introduced you to both.
Like anyone who travels to find themselves, I left Paris feeling both at peace and deeply dissatisfied. You don't find answers down side streets or in quaint shops, or among the cracks in the sidewalk — as though you could just absorb them by stepping on enough pavement and cobblestones. Wherever you go, there you are. And your problems go too.
But though you won't likely find the answers you want, you will find that everything you need will come to you in its own time. So for now, there's nothing to do but bike your way through the gardens of Versailles after stopping for your third leisurely cappuccino of the day. And when you get home, you can order your own Nespresso — because if you can't be French, at least you can bring some of the rituals of Paris into your own life.