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The 'Grande Dame' by James Williams


Should the need ever arise for a global capital, Paris would reign supreme. Perhaps no other city on earth can claim to be the center of culture, style, food and literally a lifestyle like Paris can. All of us that visit long to blend in, become "a local", and enjoy the days and nights in true Parisian fashion. One visit is never enough and each departure from the great city marks the hope for another taste later.

For the past 10 years, since my own first taste, I have been visiting Paris. As a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, our cultural ties to the country and city span almost 300 years. Upon my first trip to Paris, it all seems to "make sense" - our architectural influence, food, and lifestyle. Now, every dime I save I plan to use toward a trip to Paris and try to remember that each time I leave, I can always hopefully come back to enjoy it all over again.

So the song goes, "I love Paris in the Springtime", it seems that it would be a cliché, but truly it is not. Visiting Paris in the spring and early summer months can truly be a treat for the senses. Rarely have I seen in any other city such a display for people watching. As the locals and visitors alike bask in the sun in some of the most beautiful parks in the world among such famous buildings, aromas of beautifully colored flowers, shade offering trees and cafes along the walk provide a mix of joy that can be compared to no other city.

Picking a favorite place in Paris is quite challenging and the thought of having to do so would almost evoke a feeling of betrayal to the others. As time goes on, I find that there are neighborhoods that I haven't visited in years that have a new appeal to me while some are always my favorites. Still, there are many neighborhoods that require exploring and with that always come pleasant surprises.

Marais is one of my favorite areas of Paris. I love to stay on the Right Bank usually somewhere close to that part of Paris as I find it to be filled with fun people all of the time. The activity, much like most of Paris, is constant so at anytime you can have free entertainment, right from your comfortable seat at a local café. The Marais is filled with quaint streets comprised of unique shops and brasseries. Because of this, it is a haven for all ages with every possible need being satisfied right in that very neighborhood.

If staying in the Marais or close to, you are literally within walking distance of all major places of interest. A pleasant stroll takes you through near by Beaubourg around the Georges Pompidou Center and Les Halles. What a lively location! Throngs of artists can be found here from performance artists to painters entertaining all who make passage through this area. At night, you'll never go hungry and be in need of a place to drink and most of the restaurants and bars stay open very late. The crowd is mixed as with most of Paris so you are bound to find a place to fit in.

Le Louvre is breathtaking, even if you don't make it in. This massive former palace offers one of my favorite spots for pictures. A brief walk through and you will find the Tuileries Gardens. Take a moment to get an ice cream and enjoy your walk through the gardens. When you think you've had enough, head out of the gardens and onto Rue Rivoli. Take one of the many cross streets to Rue Honoree. Some of the most fashionable areas of Paris are right here and taking it all in can be overwhelming. If you have time, a quick drink in The Ritz is always a fun thing to say you've done. Some of the most fashionable shopping in the world can be found here. Don't miss the short walk to the Opera House located not too far away.

The Left Bank, including the energetic areas of Saint-Germain-des-Pres and The Latin Quarter are truly some exciting highlights that should not be missed. Take the Metro there from the Right Bank which is just a short trip away and experience the way Parisians travel when they are not walking through their charming streets. In the Latin Quarter, you will find an endless array of winding streets of dining options. It's truly a lively area with people flocking there throughout the day and night. The very fashionable Saint-Germain-des-Pres area is hope to some of Paris' finest café's as it was the home to many of the artists in the area. These cafes served as a base for their creative thoughts mixed, of course, with constant flowing wine.

Who says Paris has to be expensive? Some of the most enjoyable things do to in Paris, mostly sight seeing and "life watching" doesn't cost a dime. Taking the underground public transportation is a quick and economical way to travel - whether you are heading from the airport or the Eiffel Tower or any point in between and beyond, the Metro will not only provide a peek into Parisian life, but will also quickly get you to your destination. The Metro stations are almost all individually decorated and serve as mini-museums as well.

Quick bites from the street vendors such as a variety of crepes, baguette sandwiches and other local favorite items save you time and money. One of my favorite late night treats is a Nutella and banana crepe served by almost every creperie you see in Paris. Most menus are posted right outside all of Paris' restaurants and cafes so it is easy to find a place to eat that suits your budget. Try many of the open air markets in Paris as well for delicious fresh baked goods, fruits, vegetables and other food items at terrific prices.

If you've been to Paris before, you know what I am talking about in this essay and know why it is worth saving up your pennies for a visit when you can. If you have not been, you will understand when you come to visit. Paris is everything that you think it is - the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumphe, the cafes - then it becomes so much more as each hour passes. Paris does not appeal to one particular race, culture or socioeconomic class as Paris is comprised of all and everyone mixes quite well to make the city the Grand Dame that she is. Paris: My favorite city in the world.

James Williams - New Orleans Louisiana, United States