Tucked away in a north-eastern corner of Paris, three metro lines away from me and one a somewhat suburban line (M7bis) itself, lies a deceptively large park by the name of Buttes-Chaumont.
The park, as several online sources had informed me, is unlike your normal Parisian landscape of flattened terrain with wonderfully organized geometry in terms of paths, flower placement, and pond insertions. It is free of the dozens of Renaissance-styled statues and large pots of flowers, and has no palace attached at any end. (Only in Paris does that actually make a park unique, goodness.) Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont instead consists of a multitude of rather steep inclines and curving pathways, most paved, with a splattering of slightly more modern playgrounds and food stands. The trees grow at their leisure and, at least at this time of year, I saw only a single bed of flowers. Instead this park relies on the beauty of a more natural space. Granted, smack in the middle is a manmade pond surrounding what I can only describe as a miniature mountain or cliff, obviously carved out by men but still a delightfully haphazard shape to look at. The only real pillars to be seen here are holding up a small rotunda on top of that hill, where visitors crowd around to take shots of the beautiful surroundings and city stretching out below.
I had meant to visit this park a bit earlier, but as it is a good 40 minutes from me I just hadn’t gotten around to it until today. I went with a friend as neither of us had any other particularly pressing plans for the day, and we enjoyed strolling about for a good hour or two. We arrived a bit past four, and given the nature of winter, managed to be there during sunset, which produced the loveliest warm glow brushing over the tops of the trees and hills in the park and on the buildings of the surrounding city. I went a bit mad with my camera as a result, all the while cursing myself for not bringing a larger lens to zoom in on the Sacré Coeur in the distance (that I hadn’t known was going to be visible.)
It was in general just an incredibly peaceful afternoon. I was relishing the dogs running loose chasing one another (or being chased by their owners) and seeing a bit of wide open space, not to mention tree-filled space. It made me feel like I could breathe a bit more. I’ve quite missed nature, living smack in the middle of Paris as I do. As beautiful as the elegant white limestone buildings are that surround my daily life (and even the neat and tidy gardens I have access to so easily), they are no substitute for trees and sky. The more I’ve lived in large cities during my travels, the more I’ve learned that I’m not really a city person–I love to spend time in them and have so much available to do and see, but at the end of the day I get tired of all the people and noise and lights. I’ll probably end up living in more cities in the next few years, it seems the jobs I’m always looking into are based in large metropolises, so I’ll do my best to settle in regardless.
To be quite honest, although I doubt it’s shown on the blog given how I’m always posting about the amazing places I’m going and all the fascinating things I’m getting to see, I haven’t really fallen in love with Paris. I’ve enjoyed the people I’ve met thoroughly and adore being with them, and I quite like teaching, and I’ve had the most amazing access to museums and sites, but I’ve yet to feel truly at home here–and I think a good deal of that has to do with the fact that I realized before coming over that cities like Paris aren’t where I’m meant to be. There are several other factors playing into this having to do with work and life goals, etc, but that’s a noticeable one by itself. A few days ago, however, I realized what an absolute brat I’ve been for making that such a huge consideration. I chose to live IN Paris originally because I knew I was here for only 8 months and wanted to make the best of everything Paris had to offer. I’ve actually been doing a pretty good job at that I think, but always with that little voice in the back of my head throwing out negative thoughts here and there. It’s time that stops, however, and I learn to let go and just enjoy this life(style) for the short time that I’m going to live it. Embrace it while you can Becky, because goodness knows you’ll probably never get the opportunity to live here again!
I’ve been putting a lot of energy into that kind of positive thinking this week since making that decision, noting that I am so lucky as to be able to take my morning jog in the Jardins des Tuileries in front of the Louvre, and that I can see the Sacré Coeur aglow from my miniature balcony at night. But today I didn’t have to really do anything at all–Paris won me over all on its own.
I think we all know where to find me in the future.