Cold, dark, gray, and small are the first words that best describe the first time I had ever saw Paris. All the years of learning about Paris in class, movies, and books, seeing it for the first time was different than I had expected. A Southern California girl who is use to sunny days and weather going down to about 60 degrees stood no chance in Paris, France with 28 degree weather wearing just ankle boots and a one coat. I was not prepared for the weather conditions here. Stepping out of the airport for the first time, having a gust of wind hit me in the face was the first time I experienced coldness like that.
Besides the weather, I noticed on my first day in Paris how dark it was. I had the same impression that James Thurber did about Paris in his essay “The First Time I Saw Paris”. Thurber depicts in his work how ironic it is that Paris is famously known as the City of Light however; when he saw the city for himself he could not help but note that fact that Paris is actually a dark city. Besides the lights shining off of famous landmarks, like Eiffel Tower and Arc De Triumph, the rest of the city is sort of hidden in the dark shadows. All the buildings I saw were painted in a grayscale. It did have this depressing vibe to it. I wasn’t sure if the winter season is just like this in Paris but all the pictures I’ve seen of Paris are bright, colorful, and just lively. What I have seen so far is just a darkness clouding the city. The people in city also give off this sense of coldness. Since I left airport, heading to my apartment, I cannot help but take note on the people I run into. They are reserved, to themselves, and limited interaction in public. This closely relates to Thurber’s essay when he described the people of Paris as depressed spirits. I can actually understand that analogy after seeing Parisians interaction with my own eyes. People basically walk around avoiding each other, avoiding eye contact and smiles. I can’t even come up with a number for how many people have bumped into me without a single word being exchanged. This did come as a culture shock for me. Growing up and being raised in California, I was exposed to daily interactions to be respectful to those around me like greeting people I see in the streets or do not stare at people because it’s consider rude. However, in Paris, people stare right through each other and avoid any interaction even though they are so close in space with one another.
Paris is actually small. When I mean small, I’m not talking about the size of the city. I’m referring the structure of the city. Everything is so close in range that it almost makes me claustrophobic. The streets are tiny and squished together. The housing here looks piled on top of each other stories after stories. All the businesses here are operated in small facilities. Of course I understand that Paris’ structure is small and tight because it is a city rich in history that dates back for centuries. It is just overwhelming for me coming from Anaheim where it is a modern day city that is still growing. I can appreciate the structures of this beautiful city however, I am not sure if I can live here for a long period time.
Overall, my first time seeing Paris was not what I had imagined it would be and yet it still does not turn me away from it. It may be cold, dark, gray and small but this Californian Girl is still in love with the city and willing to embrace all that Paris has to offer.