You will admit--sheepishly and only in a half-whisper to yourself--that your idea of Paris was more like a quaint village with little sidewalk cafés than the big bustling city stretched out before you.
Perhaps it was that at first glance, from the view outside the taxi cab window from the airport to the city proper, it looked like any other city: loud, industrial, overflowing with people and utilitarian buildings. Perhaps it was that you got in late at night after a long day in Barcelona and had no more room to truly see the city. In either case, your first impression of Paris was disconcerting.
It wasn't until the next day that you really saw the city--and began to understanding it. The visit to the Louvre did it first, then the walk along the Seine. This was the Paris of your old movies, the one you had read about in books. You embraced this more familiar notion of Paris even as you knew it was only the surface of this grand city--as all tourist spots are.
You went deeper still, on a long walk into left bank neighborhoods, past the tourist shops and pseudo-Parisian restaurants and into the city blocks where real people lived. This, this was Paris. It was the sidewalk cafe overflowing with people enjoying a drink after work. It was students walking to and from the Sarbon. It was old gentlemen enjoying dinner at a small bistro.
Now--between walking the streets and people watching at the cafe over a glass of whiskey--now you are beginning to understand Paris.
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