When people think of the epicentre of culture (western culture anyway) they tend to think of one place more than any other. When people are talking of places they want to visit eventually, it might not top their list but it's on there and they always wind their way to that city eventually. Sure people might long for hot sandy beaches, turquoise water and dark skinned men with their white teeth flashing against their tans. Or they might want the hustle and bustle of an Asian city, steaming and savoury dishes, fluffy hot rice, tucked in to corners temples and remnants of their greatness. But eventually, if it's not at the top of their lists, people will say "and of course there's Paris".
Why? What do we love so much about the City of Light. Perhaps its the food? There are definitely people who would quite contentedly eat their way through Paris, with a Guide Michelin in hand they would go to a three or four starred restaurant for every meal, they would go to the open air markets devotedly, they would go to as many caves as possible, getting in a wine tasting every day if they could. They would delight in the little boulangerie right outside their hotel, where they would get their morning croissants- made not 15 minutes ago as Madame assured them- and sit at a little table out front and order a cafe au lait with their croissants.
Some people go for the culture. Paris is FULL of museums, churches relics of history war memorials etc. To go through the Louvre and give the art work the attention it deserves would take months. And then there's the light and airy and entirely beautiful musee d'Orsay, an old train station converted in to a shrine for slightly more modern artists. My favourite museum of them all though, had to be the Rodin museum. In his old, large and very beautiful house and throughout his gardens there is an impressive amount of statuary. There is also, if my memory serves me, a small outdoor cafe on the property, so that you can take a little refreshment and contemplate Rodin's genius at the same time.
Others still go for the fashion. That indescribable way that french women have of dressing that many others try to replicate but can never duplicate. The priviledge of shopping in the homeland of some of fashion's greatest names. A chance to get a little preview of whats to come (France is roughly a year ahead of us fashion-wise).
And lastly, I suspect that some people go simply to absorb and enjoy a little bit of frenchness. The french have something that a lot of the rest of the world doesn't understand, they have joie de vivre. Joie de vivre isn't quite as simple as enjoying life. It takes a little more conscious thought. It actually involves trying to make life pleasurable. So for example, when you're in France you may notice an astounding absence of gaudy mansions, hummers, SUVs etc. Instead what you're likely to see is tiny appartments, itty bitty houses with front gardens that are an absolute riot of flowers and lots of mopeds. This is no because the French earn less, but rather because they'ld rather spend their money on other things. The French spend a much higher amount of money, proportionally on food, vacations and other little pleasurable things. The French are much more likely to value a good restaurant meal over more gas for a hummer.
Anyway, I'm not going to lecture, the whole point of this was a brief bit of nostalgia and longing for my favourite place in the world.