Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Miss Paris, Part Two

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.


Andi said...

Tanya, I am with you. I miss Paris so much, I actually yearn for it. When I was working in Switzerland and living in FR behind Geneva we were 5 hours away - we would hop in the car nearly every other weekend and drive there. My mother-in-law lived there so we had a crash pad. We even drove up one Saturday had an early dinner and drove back the same day just because Paris is so, well Paris. Now that I am back in the U.S. we have been going back at least once a year. But with the Euro pricing and other reasons, we didnot getback this year and I am dying. Planning next trip in May/June but that is a LONG time a way. Paris is magical, nothing like it in the world, and I am happy to see someone else out there that misses it too!

Tanya said...

Andi: "Yearn" is the perfect word to describe the feeling of missing Paris! Thank you for putting it so well.

May/June does seem like a long ways away, but I'm glad you even have a game plan in place for getting back. I need to get cracking on that myself.

Greg Wesson said...

I am one of those people who thinks that Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, if not the most beautiful. I only qualify it because I haven't seen everywhere yet.

That being said, it is a little unfair to compare Northern Virginia to Paris proper. Paris itself is beautiful, but outside the city in the suburbs, things get distinctly drab, and in many neighbourhoods downright scary.

I know that Washington, D.C. has it's fair share of scary places, but the area around the Capitol and National Mall surely is one of the prettiest collections of buildings in the world.

Tanya said...

Greg: You're right, it's definitely not a fair comparison. And yes, there are tons of cringe-inspiring neighborhoods that surround Paris. Just thinking about the areas you pass through on the autoroute on the way to Charles de Gaulle airport is scary!

Hmmm...must do post about the beautiful aspects of DC.