• Renata Haidle

Paris and Me - A Lasting Long Distance Relationship

This story was previously published on Urbansider Paris.

I was probably a pre-teen when I discovered Alexandre Dumas's novels. I was an avid, indiscriminate reader, and I devoured them all, buying some, borrowing others, until there weren't any left. I had been taking French as a second language starting in second grade, and I was somewhat familiar with French culture. Dumas's books only cemented a love affair that had been growing stronger every year.

I had no idea back then that life would make me wait decades before I would be able to take my first trip to Paris.

Fast forward to 2014. It was mid-April when I landed at Charles de Gaulle, where my cousin was waiting for me. She swiftly guided me to the RER B, off the train at Châtelet, then on to the métro, to Le Pré-Saint-Gervais for a quick luggage drop-off, and back on the métro once again, all the way to Hôtel de Ville. I came out of the underground like a child at Christmas, wide-eyed and delighted by everything I saw. My cousin, a terrific guide and a very patient companion, showed me her city one arrondissement after another. We explored Le Marais, L'Île de La Cité, L'Île Saint-Louis, Quartier Latin, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre and Palais-Royal, and oh-so-many charming side streets in between. We crossed bridges back and forth, walking along the Seine all the way to Musée d'Orsay and further yet, to the Dôme des Invalides, inevitably ending up at Tour Eiffel. We walked and walked for hours. My head was spinning and I couldn't quite take it all in, the beauty was breathtaking and I was falling, falling for this city that defied imagination and my wildest dreams.

All the pages I had read, all the films I had watched, all the photos I had seen, had not done the city justice. Being there, walking the streets, hearing the sweet sound of French words everywhere, that was simply an intoxicating experience that nothing could have prepared me for.

Since then, I have returned to Paris several times. Photos I took during that first trip made their way into an art exhibit, then another… I think it's fair to say that Paris turned me into a serious photographer. Later on, I started writing about the city, because when you love something deeply you want to shout it to the world. This bond I have with Paris is something I treasure. It is a long distance relationship that takes a bit of effort and patience, but the rewards are always worth it. And one thing I'm certain of: I will always come back.


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