It all started with the metro. The DC area's public transportation shortcomings gave me a big reason to miss Paris and its non-strike period rail/bus/tram efficiencies. Now another aspect of my stateside life is leaving much to be desired, and making me miss the City of Lights even more. It all started when I sold my car before leaving for Paris last February and decided not to buy a replacement upon my return to DC. Living life without a car in a city where everything you need is a short walk away and where even a sometimes unreliable metro system is a far better option than downtown gridlock is easy enough. And it's even easier on the budget. But there's one enormous, unmistakable, disappointing difference between being sans car in Paris and sans car in my Northern Virginia neighborhood: scenery.
Walking around Paris offers a feast for the eyes. Imposing palaces, soaring bridges, grand boulevards and ornamental churches; most people who visit can't believe how beautiful everything is. More than one well-traveled person has told me he/she thinks Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, and they just might be right. Walking around Arlington, Virginia is another story. No palaces or cathedrals here. Just endless blocks of federal buildings, high-rise condos and CVS Pharmacies. Sure, we have some cute colonial-style homes and a fair number of parks and trails, but no one would ever call this area beautiful. My eyes miss beautiful.
On the bright side, there are other benefits to walking besides aesthetics that are in plentiful supply on both sides of the Atlantic. Fresh air, building muscle tone, and weight maintenance are just some of the positive side-effects of life without wheels. Not to mention that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you do something nice for the environment. But these details do little to console me or heal my longing for the streets of Paris. I prefer to take my fresh air, exercise and do-good behavior with a side of gorgeous.