Seasonal affective disorder seemed to have affected Paris during this extended winter. Consistently low temperatures in March and an abundance of rain seem to wash away smiles and suspend joy. Its an affliction that seems to hit not just the inhabitants, but the city as a whole. The resounding image of winter in Paris is a frowning girl in a cafe, adorned by a cigarette and the fluffiest down coat ever.
Yet with one glorious day, all memories of the frozen wasteland were eradicated as we skipped straight from winter to spring. Saturday evening was cold and rainy, Sunday morning I left the house in shorts and t-shirt. It was if a fire alarm woke a sleeping beast, the sun brought every resident and visitor of the city out of their houses, out of their coats, and coaxed smiles from the icy visages.
The true lively and exuberant character of Paris emerges with the pleasant weather. Happiness no longer hides under long sleeves, it is allowed to run free. People flock to the parks, the sides of the Seine, outdoor cafes and every single bench in every corner of the city.
My buddy Daniel was in town for the weekend, a friend from Washington who is no stranger to the instantaneous delight of a sunny day after a period of cold. In short, we know how to take advantage of the day. Sun, Velib and Food are all you need in a simple recipe to perfectly enjoy Paris.
As any should, the day began with a few espressos, followed by a bike ride. The plan was to head to Jardin de Luxembourg for a picnic. As we rode we passed the Bastille Market. Instantly abandoning our plans to search for a grocery store, we frolicked the haven of fresh fruits, cheeses, grilled meats and more. Every arrondissement has a open air equivalent to a farmer’s market, Bastille’s is one of the biggest. Its only open Sunday and Thursday morning, so as evidenced by the sun, luck was on our side.
A picturesque ride through the Maris, past Notre Dame and through the Latin quarter brought finally to Luxembourg. The scene was shocking. Every bit of grass in Paris had been closed for its ‘winter rest’ up until this day, now there wasn’t an unoccupied chair or spot of grass to be found. But again, chance was on our side so we found a beautiful spot by the rolling hills and a statue of a stag.
The fruit was as sweet as the sun as we treated ourselves to melon, grapefruit juice, endless strawberries and grilled pork. Around us were only smiles and laughter.
After some napping, people-watching and more feasting it was time for Daniel to see more of the city. We hopped on bikes and took a grand tour of the city, hitting Montparnasse, Invalides, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, The Grand and Petit Palais, Concorde, the Seine, the Louvre, and through the Latin quarter to one of my favorite churches, St. Sulpice. It ha a big place in front with a lion fountain, and is ornate like a Roman church yet without appearing indulgent.
After such exploration, another picnic was warranted so we headed to the banks of the Seine for the sunset, more feasting and friends. French and Americans came together, united by love of life, food and bikes. The evening colors were striking as they could be, that crispness of the sky reminiscent of abrupt and fantastic change from cold to warm, from dark to light.
The next day was more of the same, biking everywhere, sitting in parks to picnic when we deserved to rest and sharing smiles everywhere.
Once again, indulgent Paris won me over. But it was a different grain of hedonism, one encouraged by the sun, the fresh air and bikes. Little money was spent, and it was a testament to the multitude of ways to find joy. Fancy and delicious food can be a treat, but there are times where nothing feels better than a cold drink of water and a fresh melon after a bike ride along the river.
I’m down to two and a half weeks in Paris, and the outbreak of spring/summer was the perfect start to a grand sendoff. Time to enjoy every moment. And study of course. Keep on adventuring.