Who's Your City?, by Richard Florida
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Archive for the ‘Paris’ Category

Paris, France

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Leaving France and coming to NYC to live by myself in an unknown place, was one of the hardest and most exciting thing to do. I would be lying if I said that I do not miss my home city and my home country. In France, I live in Paris, in the 15th district between Montparnasse, the biggest tower in Paris, and the Eiffel Tower. I live in a neighborhood consisting of a number of elementary and high schools. Consequently, the average population I see walking down the streets is very young: mostly teenagers walking in groups or younger children attended by their parents or baby-sitters. The neighborhood is very child-friendly with a great number of parks where kids can play and have a good time after school, even in the early winter when the weather is still nice. In high school I also used to hang out with my friends on benches surrounded by a couple of trees here and there.

Older people can also be observed going to the market a few blocks away from my apartment. The market is always very lively on a Wednesday morning when sellers are screaming to inform customers of a promotion of meat, fish, vegetables or fruits. Around 4 or 5pm, café terraces will be filled with teenagers coming out of school, later replaced by young adults, workers and business people in the afternoon and at night for their afternoon meeting or to have a drink after work.

The metro in Paris is also a good place to observe people. There are always a lot of interaction around 4pm, between the entertainers playing an instrument, giving a speech, telling a story or creating a show for the public to enjoy in exchange for money, and the children chatting on their way home. If you want a calm and silent environment, the Parisian subway in the late afternoon is probably not the right place to go.

The plazas, café terraces and old ornamentally decorated architecture of the main streets give a sense of unity, almost like an art piece, to Paris. There is a real feeling of romanticism combined with a certain nostalgia and ‘love of the past’. Because of this unity, it only makes it more striking when a new modern building comes to disrupt the façade of a street. In this sense, French people can arguably be called conservative as they complain about the destruction of old buildings as they are replaced by new, modern ones; but in my opinion French people are only being loyal to their roots and to their culture as well as have a sense of esthetic pleasure. Even if Paris is old, it is still chic, classy and attractive and it is this very durability of the Parisian scene that I love about Paris. Even the bridges over the Seine are real works of art, not only because of the sculptures created on their sides but also the lights which are strategically positioned to showca se them in all their beauty at night.

Streets are never straight in Paris and even after 18 years I still get lost. However, getting lost does not mean ending up no where, but to another hidden nice bar, café or simply a small plaza illuminated by small lamp posts. Not only are they snaking around buildings, the streets of Paris are also very small. Knowing that even if you are at the beginning of a street you can get to the end only by walking there, and knowing that you just have to pay attention and make sure a car is not coming by to cross a street (without having to follow the traffic lights) give a welcoming feeling to this city. In a way, Paris is a city of pedestrians. It is a city which values human emotions and history. Even the streets all have names, every name having its own story. In the left façade of my apartment, the windows gave on the roofs of Paris and further away, the Eiffel Tower. On the right façade, the windows gave on Montparnasse and if you looked closely enough, the domes of variou s churches. I used to gaze out the window for minutes or even hours without getting bored.

Sent by Thanaïs from Paris, France