“you belong to me and all paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and pencil.” hemingway
i came to paris from bombay about a year ago. my first night, two men from a pizzeria near my soon-to-be apartment helped me find my way around the city, and almost immediately, i felt safe.
our paris was at night, for that is when we saw the city. The bibliothéque françois mitterrand, on the banks of the seine, was a short walk from the apartment and we often walked there in search of food, alcohol and sometimes just to see the lights from the city dancing on the water. we befriended the algerian men who ran the pizzeria and saw them often, for the pizzeria was the only place in the neighbourhood that was open until 2am. they would correct our french and teach us arabic, while we would coach them in english. we became well verses in the closing times of all the essential shops and transport systems, and how to navigate the city intoxicated.
parisian attractions are even more wonderful when you have a bottle of wine in your hand. i remember a recent summer night when i was at the notre dame after midnight. we sat on the floor in a circle and looked up at the cathedral. the square was empty. a man was playing guitar in the spanish style and the music resonated everywhere making it seem almost magical.
paris has been my home for some time now and I have grown to love and hate it. the weather can be horrible and sometimes, its almost impossible to get things done because your french may not be so good, but nevertheless, the city is beautiful and filled with artists of every kind. and quite honestly, it becomes impossible to eat any other kind of bread after your palette has been refined by the fine taste of the baguette. you stop thinking of wine as alcohol and consume it like it was juice, and you even miss being constantly surrounded cigarette smoke. and soon, you begin to realize that you have a secret that connects you to millions of other parisians. a secret that you cannot know until you live here.