I went back. The last place I visited when I left the UK, the first one to visit after such a long spell stuck in the island. My third visit.
It was a last minute thing, planned before I could even know it, and it was the best decision I've made this year (and I've made MANY decisions this year, of all years).
There's something magical about that city. Forgive the banality, because everyone thinks Paris is romantic, magic, blablabla, but that city fascinates me in a way New York used to before I left Brazil (and found out that no, people don't live like they're permanently inside Central Perk - as in the iconic cafe from Friends, not the pArk - or do they?). But it should be mostly because Paris is simply NOT London. It's absolutely the opposite. People there seem to live smaller but better lives. You grow up in your arrondissement going to the same cafes, butchers, fishmongers, cheese shop, book shop, whatever the local business is, but which nevertheless is LOCAL. You don't see the tiresome, ultra boring chains like Starbucks or Boots or Tesco - the law doesn't even allow them to open branches inside the city. There's the love of all things that matter in life constantly present: they cherish their food, their drink, their artists, their social circles in which no one ever cares much what you do in life, as long as it is meaningful to you.
Meaningful. The idea I get everytime I go to Paris is that this is it, life happens only once, and you better make the most of it while you can.
On my second day I finally went to Shakeaspeare and Company, the legendary bookstore for expats with only books in English. The place is just heaven. Books pile up from top to bottom on every inch of its old but increadibly cozy shop floor, spread in two floor. Among infinite shelves, beds complete with duvets and pillows wait for the next reader to curl up with a book. The beds are in fact there for the staff, peniless writers (most of them Americans trying to emulate the Hemingway experience) who work shifts of 2 hours at the shop in exchange of shelter in the most inspiring workplace imaginable. That said, the shop is constantly crowded, so I'm sure the resident writers must struggle a bit to produce anything, what with the lack of space and silence. But there are always the cafes nearby, with their characteristically small tables, great food, and clouds of smoke, providing that longed-for Hemingway-nian atmosphere.
I would love to be able to spend sometime there as a writer in residence. It's so impossibly romantic and unnatainable that it should be worth the lack of proper food, sleep, or any living arrangements, for that matter.
Who knows. Paris inspires people to try romantic things...