“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
– Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Cliché enough, Paris is a dream realized for numerous people, of which I have never been an exception. When I read this famous quote from Hemingway for the first time, as a child I imagined nothing but the scents of Paris. Taking his words literally, I envisioned the city to be exceptionally delicious. Would it smell like the most tender and juicy goose liver? Freshly made chocolate whose lovely scent lingers on in the last bit of warm vapor? Or the charming scents of fruits that rise from bubbling champagne?
Later on the city has taken on a much more romantic tone, which I imagined to smell like the richest blooming red roses. Then finally at the age of eleven, I came to the real Paris for the first time. Stepping off the coach and rubbering my shoulders with others’, I ran into a Paris filled with crowds and traffic. I understand neither the flowing French around me nor the extremely convoluted layout of roads. The intensive package tour exhausted both my parents and I, struggling to force our sore feet on and to memorize the numerous monuments we saw. The dreamlike city vanished in the face of fatigue.
Thus with the luxury of a one-month stay this time, I determined to find a Paris that conforms more or less with my earliest fantasies; or one that exceeds my wildest dreams. Tender breeze of a pleasant summer night embraced me the first moment I stepped out of the Charles de Gaulle Airport. As I traveled through the twists and turns of the Parisian roads, a strong sense of déjà-vus came alive. All those elegant light brown rooftops against the azure sky looked so familiar as if I have seen them for a thousand times before. “Home away from home,” I said to myself, “et Paris j’arrive !”
My host family is in a tranquil neighborhood in the second arrondissement, minutes away from le Centre Pompidou and the Seine. Opening the door, a cute black cat greeted me with clear elegance and suppressed curiosity. A lovely start of my Parisian life, I thought. Pondering the limited amount of French that still remains in my memory after a month of summer vacation, I stammered to my host mother, “Bon..bonsoir ?” She gave out an encouraging smile, though the next minute her cheerfully flowing French quenched my growing pomposity. As I finally lay down on my bed, looking at the darkening sky outside, my Parisian life started!
Since the program at la Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne (CCFS) do not begin until July 4th, I have the leisure to roam around Paris for almost a week. I started to immerse myself into the francophone atmosphere all around. There were times when I successfully “became” as a local, while other times I sneaked back into the familiar American space at Starbucks. Yet as I sat on the bench in Jardin du Luxembourg, amid numerous French people, I began to feel the everyday Parisian life creeping upon me. This time, and for the first time, I am not a hasty passer-by who would no doubt missed much beauty of Paris. I would not turn off my ears to the melodious French as a lazy traveler.
La vie est belle. Encore plus belle quand elle se passe doucement.