Written by Fiyin Durojaiye for Glam Africa Magazine’s Spring 2021 Edition
I arrived in Paris in the middle of a pandemic for my study abroad, shortly after the entire city went into lockdown. With all odds against me, I was certain I was going to be another victim of the Paris syndrome, high expectations and great disappointments. Little did I know that these were about to be some of the best months of my life. I may not have had the fancy dining, museum visits or moulin rouge nights that come to mind when you think of Paris, but living through Paris in a pandemic made me realise that there is so much more to the city than tourist attractions and Michelin-star restaurants. I got to truly appreciate Paris for its beauty and magical ambiance. They say you either love it or hate it, and after six months of living in Paris, I think I am even more obsessed than when I first arrived; like getting to know the personality of a beautiful face.
What is it I love so much about Paris? After many months in Paris, truth be told, the Eiffel Tower and French accents do not have the enchanting effect they once did, back when I would visit Paris as a tourist. Now, it’s about what the French would call ‘les petit plaisirs’ – the simple pleasures. I love walking the streets of Paris for hours and hours with nowhere to go, down grand boulevards and narrow medieval streets, soaking in the beautiful scenery and admiring the intricate architectural details. I love wandering the cobblestone alleys of Bastille where I live, lined with cafés, trendy boutiques, old bookstores and countless florists, occasionally treating myself to the most beautiful fresh flowers. I love making unexpected discoveries on my endless flânes, be it Château Rouge beneath Montmartre, which is the mini Africa in Paris, or Meïso, the flottaison centre where I once spent an hour just floating on water. I love hopping on scooters, going at full speed, with the wind blowing through my hair, allowing myself to get lost in a whirlwind of emotions. I love picture perfect pleasures like picnics by the Seine, with strawberries and a rosé in hand, observing the majestic historical buildings reflected on the water. I love sitting in the parks, surrounded by good company, taking all the time we need to relax and watch the world go by, worries far away.
I love the food. The boulangeries, crêperies and pâtisseries, that appear at every turn. A sweet tooth’s heaven. The truffles filled with crème ganache and the pain au chocolat with a little too much chocolate. The double-decker macarons at Ladurée that literally melt in your mouth, and the ice cream-stuffed ones at Amorino that are not talked about enough. I love buying the freshly-baked baguettes that you learn to love in Paris, and choosing from the endless options of cheese and ham for my croque monsieurs that I do not go a week without. I love the escargots, raclettes and foie gras, the Neapolitan pizzerias never too far away. Even the supermarket food tastes incredible. And then there’s the wine. Oh, the wine! The quality, the range, the price, from the vineyards of Burgundy, Beaujolais and Bordeaux.
I love the effort that Parisians put into making it look like non at all. The perfectly messy bobs and elegantly coiffed afros that inspired me to wear my natural hair out more. I love the use of minimal makeup with no acrylics in sight, to give a flawless but natural look, and the embracing of imperfections and appreciation of authenticity that made me ditch the makeup stores and nail boutiques (this my bank account was grateful for). I love the simple yet extremely chic outfits sighted on the streets, the neutral palettes in summer and soft pastels in spring. The expression of personality through couture, subtle, yet striking. I love the attention to detail in the fashion stores, be it les grands magasins or the trendy boutiques, each one spectacular in their own unique way. I particularly love shopping at Christmas, the breathtaking lights on the Champs Elysées or the oversized dazzling Christmas trees in Galeries Lafayette. It has a certain je ne sais quoi. There’s no other way to describe it.
Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking there is nothing truly special about Paris. After all London has parks and Christmas lights too. In all honesty, I do not know what it is about Paris that makes it so magical. Perhaps it’s this thing I once heard about “the ability to see beauty in everything except home”. But the feeling I get in Paris, I do not get elsewhere. It’s a feeling that you have to be in Paris to fully comprehend – the feeling of relaxed rhythms, of history, culture, art and relishing the fine things. Paris has taught me to take the small things seriously and the serious things lightly. Paris has taught me that there is more to life than virtue and diligence. Paris has taught me that life is to be lived and enjoyed to its fullest. Or as the French would say, joie de vivre.