Wednesday, May 23, 2007
05.22.07 Some new, Some old
As you may know, I studied architecture in Versailles, just outside of Paris, for one year in 1995-96. I have also been back to Paris several times since then, but is has been 8 years since I was here last. Some things have changed, some have not.
I was a bit surprised and sad to see a Starbucks on every corner (just about). I don’t know why this was a surprise to me. I guess that I associate Paris with the place that I developed my life-long addiction to coffee, and it saddens me to see coffee in Paris Americanized like everything else. For me, Paris is the quintessential café city, and it doesn’t need Starbucks. I am even sadder to report that I stopped at one for a chocolate donut this morning. … oops. It was a moment of weakness after an all night international flight.
The other obvious new thing in the past 8 years is the changes in technology. I have already sent emails, posted on my blog, and I made a cell phone call from the Pont des Arts to my wife back in suburban Chicago that was clear as a bell. Ironically, the connection cell connection from Paris 4000 miles away was far better than when I try to call home from the college that I work at just 22 miles from my house. The last time I was here it was a telephone card and a payphone….those days are happily gone.
Paris still smells the same. It is hard to describe, but it is a uniquely Paris mixture of diesel fuel pollution, cigarette smoke, and a hint of urine. Strangely enough I love the smell of Paris.
I guess a number of other things make this still the same old Paris. There is still dog poop on the sidewalk, my favorite tourist trap…. the hordes of tourists are still here, and the city is as alive and vibrant as ever. The other thing that hasn’t changed is that Paris still has some of the best urban spaces in the world. As I walked around the city today, It felt great to revisit some of my old favorite places. It is good to be back in Paris!