I walked through the doors of the Notre Dame at 18 35 on the 3rd of March, 2018. The bells of the cathedral had just stopped ringing and mass had begun. The energy was electrifying, the lighting brilliant and the singing coupled with the music breathtaking. I took small steps as the setting sank in, the hair on my body standing and Christianity slowly breathing a new meaning. A new thought of the power of the church through the Middle Ages. Surely a stunning creation of mankind and yet one that could convert each to the cause so easily. As I walked out I was speechless, I could not remember the last time I was blown away by such magnificence created by mankind.
Paris, a city of districts(arrondissements), a city of preferences and one that cannot be described in any sense that is generic. It will surely have something for each one while its expanse means that one needs to find what one is looking for. If it is museums you need not look far, neither for the Eiffel or the stunning architecture of the city but it is in the undiscovered that one can really thrive. Paris commands time and yet it is seldom that one can give it the time it deserves. Walking down from Miller’s glorified Boulevard Rochechouart towards Boulevard de la Villette, I took to a turn up a street at Metropolitain La Chapelle. The placard on the wall said Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis. I looked up at the street and every shop was either Tamil or Sri Lankan. I settled down for lunch and wine. The food was like it was from home and I surely felt that was I surrounded by some strange creation. No burning south Indian sun but the Chennai parotha and a perfect vindaloo left me to wonder how Parisian was all of it. It turns out, that is the essence of Paris, the blend of the old with all that is new. To explore the districts, the streets away from the flamboyant alleys clothed in Chanel, Yves St Lauren, Dior among all the other designer shops that line the pavements around the Opera Garnier where people dress as if every street is a ramp, is the other side of Paris. A blend that makes Paris what it is today, long after the days of the American writers glorified the potential of Parisian nightlife. When something is lost, there is always something gained and as Paris turns into a melting pot of cultures the romance of the old Paris found is less rampant.
The districts of Montmartre and Montparnasse were my favorite although they thrive in contrasting styles. Montmartre, translating to the hill of the martyrs, is filled with narrow winding streets that continuously seem to rise and fall, Moulin Rouge seems a focal point as well as the Metropolitain Abbesses just five minutes away. In the day at times one can mistake it for one of the dead districts of Paris but at night it awakens as if it were all that Paris had congregated too. The contrast stunning, the energy lively. Sacré-Cœur stands right above as if to add everlasting grandeur to a district that could never die. Montparnasse on the other hand finds its pulse in everyday life, with cafés that were graced by all the artists of the ages lining the Boulevard Montparnasse. There is a feel of a counter culture as one walks up to Metropolitain Edgar Quinet, but the long avenues and constant bustle gives Montparnasse a feel of everlasting energy. One could imagine Sartre drinking his first coffee of the morning there and ending the night after an entire day of work with a pastis in any of those cafes. The artistic feel is open and driven.
Paris is a question of taste. So, if you have no time, read about the different arrondissements and find what you desire. The tourist spots are all very well documented and I wanted to focus on these two districts since they brought with them a special energy that I cherished.
I lived in Montmartre at 10 Rue 3 des Freres. I couldn’t dream of a more beautiful spot, maybe you would prefer to look out at the Eiffel Tower each morning or the Sacré-Cœur or the Champs- Élysées. Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, so don’t miss on what would make it more special. Spend as long as you can sinking into the world’s most beautiful construct, for Paris is not a museum but a style of life.