Dear Paris: A Love Letter to the City I Finally Adore

Dear Paris,

I have a confession. I didn’t love you at first. And I’m not really sure why.

An empty street in Paris

Maybe it’s because I associated you with loneliness, as I spent my first three Parisian summers wandering the cobblestone streets by myself. Or maybe it’s because I thought you were cold and uptight, that your citizens were too effortlessly perfect. Maybe it’s because everyone else seems to love you, and I didn’t want to form a part of the swooning, Eiffel Tower-adoring masses.

Street art in Paris

But now, I know that I love you. We’ve been through a lot together, Paris. I’ve watched you move through each season. I’ve seen you without your make-up on, so to speak.

I arrived in the fall, when the markets proudly displayed whole mallard ducks and chestnuts fresh from the tree. I was there during the grey, drizzly days of winter, when I tucked into a plate of Japanese curry with kimchi on the Rue Saint-Anne. I was there when snow dusted the roofs of Montmartre, when spring came seemingly overnight and the pollarded trees budded green. I was there in summer when I downed cheap cider on the banks of the Seine until three in the morning, the glass bottle cold against my fingers. I was there on the 90-degree days, when I laid on the grass at Parc Buttes Chaumont with friends, munching on chips and squinting under the summer sun.

Espresso and a cookie

I was there when the bakers put crowned cakes in the windows. I was there for Labor Day when lily of the valley was sold on every corner, the flowers like delicate, white bells. I was there for Gay Pride, when young people draped in rainbow flags celebrated in the streets, when the banners proclaimed “LA REPUBLIQUE A DIT OUI”, when pink balloons drifted in the air, bright against the robin-egg blue sky.

And the people who say you’re dead, that the artists and writers are gone and you’re just a monument to the past?

A iron bridge in Canal Saint-Martin, Paris

They don’t see the Senegalese women on the metro, walking tall in Kente cloth, squabbling in their singsong French. They don’t know where to find the best challah in Le Marais, golden and braided in the window. They don’t know how to make quiche lorraine by scratch, or how you should leave in the pits for the best apricot jam. They don’t know how many meanings “sympa” can have, or what the inside of a studio apartment in La Goutte d’Or look like or what the best route is from Montmartre to the river. They don’t know you like I do.

You’re alive, they just don’t know where to look.

Street art in Paris

Dear Paris, thank you for the beautiful memories.

Thank you for the night I sang Jacques Brel in the street with two French boys under the moonlight.

Thank you for the moment I watched candles light a friend’s face on her 24th birthday.

Thank you for the dim sum breakfasts when I was hungover, all the way out in the 14th.

Thank you for red wine pre-drinking sessions on the RER, for the smile on my little sister’s face when she tasted her first tarte au citron.

Thank you for leafy, refreshing salade verte, thank you for salted butter caramel crepes, thank you for blue-tinged logs of chevre with the piece of straw inside.

Thank you for teaching me your language and showing me your streets and giving me a home.

Dear Paris, I think I finally love you. Thank you for a wonderful year together. And may the last three weeks together be the best yet.

Love always,

Ashley

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

43 thoughts on “Dear Paris: A Love Letter to the City I Finally Adore”

  1. I love those birthday and dim sum memories! You know I went through the same exact thing — can’t wait to see you next week and explore even more.

  2. I’m so glad that you fell in love with Paris – even if it wasn’t on first or even second glance! When I arrived for my first summer in Paris, it took me a couple of days to really feel comfortable in the city. I remember feeling overwhelmed: The scope of everything was bigger than anything I was used to and there were just so many people!

    But once I got used to it, it didn’t take me long to fall for this city. I think my time there was imperative for me in the beginning of my young adult years and I’m sure and I’m sure it will have lasting effects on you too! :) If there’s one city that is worth falling in love with then it’s Paris!

    xx
    Melanie

  3. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful place. You’re totally right: Paris has so much more depth and diversity than the stereotype or guidebooks give it credit for. Love the image of the Senegalese women… reminds me of so many delightful afternoons spent at the park beside Algerian nannies who quickly became my friends. Even if you leave Paris, it will never leave you. Enjoy your last 3 weeks!

    • That’s a great way to put it- it really does have so much depth and diversity! It’s a living, breathing, multi-cultural metropolis with plenty of faults- but that’s what makes it a great city.

  4. So sweet! This is why I love slow traveling. Sometimes the first impressions don’t win you over, but giving a place time enough to win you over has it’s own special benefits. I have a love story series about Thailand and Hong Kong – they’re so fun to write!

  5. I hope this is the beginning of a series of anthropomorphized city love letters. You can write about casually dating London and banging Ibiza and rebounding with Milan. And maybe that awkward “just friends” with Berlin because he’s smart but there’s just no spark. Etc, etc. It’s gonna be great.

  6. Ashley,
    I was so touched by your love letter to Paris. It was so sincere
    and tender, expressing your true feelings. Lots of love and honesty.

    Love,
    Gamma

  7. Hi Ashley, That was a wonderful letter to Paris. I could feel myself there with you. You are a gifted writer…

    Love Daddy

  8. The best part about this post for me was when you talk about singing the Jacques Brel song in the night time with those two french boys. Which song were you singing? I don’t think you realize just how many times I’ve fantasized about doing that very thing.

  9. Ashley,

    I’ve just discovered your blog and must tell you that I’m entranced! Your writing is so natural and readable–I love your vivid language and colorful descriptions. And your adventures: wonderful!

    After studying in Norway, trapeezing through Europe and getting my masters in the UK, I’m back in the states and missing travel/Europe terribly. This blog really made my day!

    Love from MN, Emily

  10. I have lived in Paris’ suburbs for 7 years and visited Paris every weekend . I think it’ s an awesome city due to its many historical remains ( my favourites are les Invalides and the Louvre museum surroundings ). Agree with you about the expensive cost of life and often poor hygiene ( garbage and dog poops in the streets )

  11. Hi Ashley!
    I love that you wrote about you not loving Paris at first sight. I actually went through the same thing! I went to Paris and everyone was telling me I was going to love it, that it was beautiful and amazing and I went with REALLY high expectations, only to get there and be disappointed day after day of the week I was there. I believe that to love Paris I would have to live there in order to understand the city and appreciate it by its beauty on the simple things of daily life. Still, I want to go back and change my mind about Paris, because I don’t want to feel like I’m the only person in the world who says “Paris was ok”. Thanks for this post! :)

  12. Ashley,

    Wow! I thought I might cry. I have the same love/hate but mostly love for France (and perhaps Marseille, where I am right now). Lovely letter.

    Thank you for this!

  13. Love how you’ve poured so much of your soul in this post! I think the idea of Paris is what everyone is in love with but to live there and become part of the Parisienne life and culture must have been an experience!! Paris does appear cold at first and given everything you’ve heard about the French it can be daunting! I can’t wait to go to Paris, someday, experience its charm and share my Parisienne story!
    http://www.yellow-postcard.com

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