I’ve been frighteningly lazy about journaling/blogging my experiences in Paris. This is perhaps because I’ve just been too enthralled in living the experiences themselves. The romanticism of the ubiquitous Hausmann (-ian?) buildings, the fashionable temperament of Parisian citizens, and the resounding history of Paris’s monuments have enraptured me in a way utterly unfamiliar yet comfortable. Each street and neighborhood spins a narrative all its own, and in a city saturated with stories, it’s no surprise that popular American writers such as Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison at one point all found this place as a home away from home.
This contrasts sharply then with my recent trip to London. In my ascent to the status of “world-traveler” it is unavoidable that I travel to as many places in Europe as possible. When a friend invited me to join him to the center of modern tyranny and oppression (no offense London), I jumped at the opportunity. I had heard wonderful things about London. A female friend of mine who had fallen in love there seemed to wish nothing else but to return. A friend of mine with a transnational identity said that (gasp) he liked London more than Paris. Another friend of mine, who I accompanied, just loved their accent.
So whether London was the entrance to worldliness, a love story, a party, or an accent, I was excited to go.
I soon was equally excited to leave.
Now don’t get me wrong. London had a bustling air about it reminiscent to the stirring streets of New York. Tourists from around the world lined its center taking pictures. The homogenous buildings of Paris had given way to a characteristic architectural melange that suited the city just fine. It was nice to have less language barriers (but apparently my American accent complicates just a few too many words for the British oral melody), and as I sat outside Buckingham Palace waiting to meet to the Queen, I couldn’t help but feel the air of London’s magnitude.
It is perhaps this magnitude that inspired my friend who enjoyed London. But what larger cities sometimes do is keep one from feeling intimacy with its surroundings. And though Paris is a big city, it still, because of it’s romantic narrative, allows me to feel like a character in its story. I can buy a scarf and eat a baguette, and suddenly I am a Parisian. I can play a role in its underpinnings. I can become not only Aaron but Monsieur. I can join the leagues of expatriates who found intellectual and literary muses while sitting along the Seine.
It’s not that London was terrible. But I felt oddly indifferent to it. I had no place in it. I was just—as everyone else was—a tourist. Granted I’ve been in Paris for three months, learning about it in class, and touring it. But as my friend said:
Why is three months not enough and four days too much?
I leave the answer to you. London was a wonderful city. The origin of industrialization, naval force, capitalism, and hell, Harry Potter. But I think I’ve found the story of Paris just a little more engaging.