Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Tale of Several Cities


I feel like a mother who is convinced that her child is the best, most perfect child, no matter how accomplished and good and attractive the other children might be.  Rome is extraordinary and Amsterdam, where we just spent five days, is charming and comfortable, but I miss Paris even after only three weeks away. 


With the weather going bad and rain forecast for the next several days we decided a couple of days ago that our planned stay at a friend's apartment on the Normandy coast was no longer a good idea, particularly as there was work being done on the roof, and I found my heart leaping at the idea of going back to Paris for the last week of our "vacation". 

Unfortunately it's the week of the French Open (known as Roland Garros here after the name of the stadium) and there is not a hotel room to be had in all of Paris.  I know, I tried them all.  Luckily some friends were able to accommodate us and after a flurry of emails we're heading "home" to Paris tomorrow.

I liked Rome more this trip than I ever had before, but still don't love it.  In trying to understand why I prefer Paris to Rome I came up with the Order and Control Theory.  Rome is wild and uncontrolled.  Its streets wander around and bend back on themselves, major arteries are narrow lanes, buildings are painted bright if fading colors, its inhabitants shout and argue, it's dirty and dilapidated and gorgeous and ancient.  It's not me.  I'm a control freak.  I'm drawn to the rational, the straight-lined, the broad streets and Haussmannian architecture, the cut stone and painted plaster walls, the order of Paris.  And even when they argue, Parisians are polite: "Madame, you are an idiot!" "No monsieur, it is you who are the jackass!"

But my theory fails to explain Amsterdam.  It is, god knows, orderly.  It's clean, it's rational, its residents don't scream at each other (although those gutteral sounds aren't very pleasing to the ear at any level), the preferred method of transport over the pretty bridges are bicycles, there are tons of cultural resources (we went to four museums and one concert), but it's dull nonetheless.


And I haven't mentioned Antwerp, where we are at the moment, which has many of the virtues of Amsterdam but none of louche attractions of Rome.  What none of them have, to my mind, is the rational yet sexy glamour of Paris, the expectation that you will always find something exciting to do or see and that walking in the streets will, for the most part, be a never-ending pleasure.  I find my reaction to most places is simple: it's fine, but it's not Paris.

My child is the best.

7 comments:

patrick said...

I;ve been missing your postings...Paris makes everybody happy. Mazeltov!

-Patrick

Nadege said...

Copenhagen is an amazing city too.
Could it be that you love Paris more is because there were less tourists when you were there? I love and hate Paris at he same time. I would think that Lyon, Bordeaux... are really wonderful and in 10 mn, you can be out in the countryside. I envy your life and traveling. That will be me in 13 years, when I am retired.

Lisa said...

Shelli,
You said so well what so many of us feel about Paris, but can't put in words.
A bientôt...

Evelyn said...

I agree with Lisa:) Paris has magic for me, part of it is the language but also is a sense of elegance that is in the people and surroundings.

I'm glad you found a place to stay, maybe the Roland Garros crowd will make parting easier, but I somehow doubt it.

Alisa said...

love this post - feel exactly the same. Traveled about, want to do more, and still come to feeling...It's not Paris. xoxoxo

baresytapas said...

I entered this site by chance, but I found very interesting. A greeting to all the people who visit this page.

Carolyn said...

I just discovered your blog; don't know why it took so long!

Great post - look forward to reading more.

Cheers from Paris.

Carolyn
My Sydney Paris Life