Paris from the Eyes of an Aussie

Steve, an Australian native, is a Parisian veteran, having visited Paris over 70 times. He first discovered Paris at the age of 30, since then he just keeps coming back for more!

Paris Dreamer

My biggest dream as small boy growing up on the coast of Southern Australia was to one-day visit Paris, the ‘City of Light’. I remember well when my dream came true, the first of what has become, to date, about sixty or so subsequent visits to Paris. It was September 1985 and I was backpacking solo, arriving to a golden autumn Paris morning from an overnight flight from Boston. Jet-lagged and tired, I nevertheless walked the length and breadth of Paris, backpack and all, from the Gare du Nord, along the Rue Sebastopol to the Seine. I crossed over the Seine at the Louvre to the Left Bank and wandered through the Latin Quarter, marveling at the sights, the even buildings, the wide boulevards, the plane trees, the footpath cafes and the shop windows. Oh, and I noticed that there were lots and lots of pretty young women, all elegantly dressed and walking with the ease and style of fashion models! It was, for me, a dream come true. Ever since, I travel to Paris to walk its streets whenever I can. These days the backpack has long gone and I do a rather better job of dressing like a Parisian which, of course, is a vital element in acting like a local.

Ile de la Cité − The Sleepy village in the heart of Paris

Paris 'headquarters' for me is Notre Dame Cathedral, where I often visit if I’m in town on a Sunday morning. I like to arrive at the cathedral from the Right Bank and walk by the bird and flower market on the Ile de la Cite, then around the corner, where suddenly the full majesty of this great Gothic masterpiece is revealed. To enter and sit quietly through mass with other global pilgrims, listening to the magnificent organ and choir, absorbing the resonances of these ancient stones, is a joy.

Close by Notre Dame, still on the Ile de la Cite, at the Western end, towards the Pont Neuf, is another of my favorite places, Place Dauphine. Here, almost traffic-free, is a beautifully enclosed triangular ‘square’, instantly conjuring an image of village life in France, with a pétanque pitch in the middle, shaded by trees and cafes around the edges and the regular signs of small-town life. It is truly remarkable to find this peaceful spot, an oasis, relatively free of tourists, right in the heart of Paris.

Palais-Royal: Pleasure Garden of the 18th Century

These days, when time allows, and even if I am going to business meetings, I like to walk through old Paris, particularly the 1st and 2nd arrondissements on the Right Bank close by the Louvre. Unlike the grand boulevards of Haussmann’s era, these medieval streets and laneways wind around, and at historic places such as the Palais-Royal. With its exquisite proportions and pretty enclosed garden, you can almost sniff the scents and mysteries of old Paris, the era of pomp and pageantry, before kings and queens lost their heads in revolutions. The covered galleries and short-cuts up stone steps and through back alleys only serve to fuel the intrigue.

Gallic cuisine − a true love affaire with Le Terroir

Finally, what would any love of Paris be without reference to food, not only in the great restaurants and bistros, but also in its natural state, in the many markets that pop-up daily, like mirrors of village life, all over town? I love it that, for the French, including the true Parisians, the connection with terroir and the countryside is visceral and profound. Haven’t you noticed the regularity with which French Presidents are seen patting cows at country shows?

As a consequence, even with modern, homogenized lifestyles, it is still both possible and necessary to discover and enjoy in Paris the simple pleasures of an authentic tomato, or a peach, or strawberries in season. From my very first visit to Paris, I have caused laughter among friends and family, with my obsession with photographing fruit and vegetable stalls and magnificent seafood displays. Food as living art for the French - and for me - is a visual and sensual pleasure. Such temporal and seasonal metaphors are what Paris constantly proposes: life is to be enjoyed, and the memory of time and place, of tastes and pleasure, of shared experience, matters and endures.

If you'd like to experience the best of Paris, the local way like Steve does, discover our selection of Local Tours in Paris.

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