I’ve been obsessed with Paris since I read Mirette on the Highwire, a watery illustrated picture book about a young laundress who learns to tightrope walk. My love for the city resurged when I saw Moulin Rouge, when wrote a high school term paper on Toulouse Lautrec, when I finally stopped talking through French class after we watched Amelie, and when I finally got to visit the city just after turning 18. But I’ve never experienced the city like I got to last week. I suspect Paris is the kind of city that looks and feels different every time you visit it. I went first in the summer and as a sullen teenager; this second time though, I arrived in November with far fewer tourists and as an almost-adult who can read a map.
I didn’t bring a camera to Paris and that turned out to be a blessing. I think Paris is one part beauty and one part imagination. Snapshots can’t articulate the ineffable feeling that Paris gave me, and I’m not even positive I can articulate it myself. Everything I expected to love I loved; the Eiffel Tower is stunningly intricate, the Louvre holds most of my favorite paintings, including the one I wrote my first art history term paper on, and the village of Montmartre still lives on as romantically bohemian as I’ve read about it. But my favorite part of being in Paris was what I wasn’t expecting to feel. I fell in love not just with the dewy impressionist illustrations I’ve covered my walls with for years, but with places and moments that took on a new wonder because they happened in a city with its own unique magic.
We had just finished a tour of street art in Paris and my mind was still full of murals and mosaics. I was in the center of the overwhelming Bellville street market, in a part of the city I’d never read about, seen movies about, or obsessed over. As the merchants began packing up their stalls, the street was littered with brightly colored plastic bags. I was racing down the boulevard, trying to find the metro station and a gust of wind blew through the mid-dismantle market street. The bright blue, pink, and yellow plastic bags flew up and jostled in the wind, never touching the ground and never flying away. Fruit rolled into the streets and bright striped awnings from stalls puffed up like parachutes while merchants flapped their arms and tried to control their windswept goods. My line of vision was a blur of color and motion, the delicate details of the market cast wildly back and forth in the wind.
Paris has a way of giving everything weight and making everything feel romantic and important. The way I felt in Paris was a saturated version of the way I feel about everything; I’m always floored by how much beauty the world has, in places you would and wouldn’t expect to find it.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Having grown up in rural Vermont, Alli Green now studies art history and studio art at Skidmore College. She stays active on campus by working as admissions ambassador, a tutor in Skidmore’s writing center, and looks forward to assistant costume designing the theater department’s main stage production in the spring of 2014. Her ambitions include pursuing a master’s degree in either art history, museum studies, or library sciences, exploring opportunities to work as a field archeologist, illustrating children’s books, and contributing to the making of movie magic as a costume designer or special effects makeup artist. In the meantime, she is content to get excited about books, movies, art, history, and learning everything she can both while she is a student and after.</span></p>