“There is but one Paris and however hard living may be here, and if it became worse and harder even – the French air clears up the brain and does good – a world of good.”
– Vincent Van Gogh
Paris Stories Part 3
Last week in Paris I walked for hours each day in lovely September weather. Around every corner another beautiful church, or building, or view of the River Seine came into view. Since I was last there eighteen years ago Paris has changed into a more cosmopolitan city. In the historic center of Paris there were:
Less car horns honking and more bike paths.
Less dog poop on the sidewalks – actually no dog poop at all.
More ethnic and vegetarian restaurants.
More locals of all ages spoke English – willingly.
Better customer service in shops.(There was no repeat of the daily scene at the boulangerie in 2001 where the young woman behind the counter refused to sell me the bread until I pronounced “une baguette au sésame” perfectly.)
The historic center of Paris, virtually untouched since WW2, is it’s own best museum. No contemporary architecture reminds the visitor that time has moved on – except for a few controversial high rise buildings outside the center which now mar the perfect Parisian skyline.
The city of Paris has become too expensive to live in. There was no more dog poop because all the old women with their little dogs had been pushed out. Now the sidewalks were covered with tourists in Paris for a few hours, or days, or maybe a week. Those new ethnic restaurants replaced many traditional brassieres. There were more souvenir shops and chain stores. There was far more security around – well everything.
How can Paris grow under its current restraints and still maintain its magnificence? The City of Light still shown brightly, but there was a kind of silent soul sadness that lingered in the air, like the historic city center was covered with a bell jar.
I looked up the definition of bell jar and it seems to fit my feelings about Paris perfectly: “A cylindrical glass vessel with a rounded top and an open base, used to protect and display fragile objects or to establish a vacuum or a controlled atmosphere in scientific experiments.”