Back to Paris… beyond nostalgia

Back to Paris… beyond nostalgia

with 24 Comments

Do you think it was really the right decision to leave Paris?

 

Sitting on the Quai des Tuileries, I dangle my feet and try to avoid looking into Kerstin’s eyes. A couple of Japanese tourists walk past us, then stop for a selfie with the Pont des Arts.

 

Tears are stinging my eyes. I close them. Then imagine myself crossing the pedestrian bridge to the Institut de France. I would turn left and walk down the Quai de Conti and the Quai des Grands Augustins. Probably stop at one or two bouquinistes, then glimpse the Notre-Dame Cathedral over the green boxes. I would wonder if I should head to the bookshop Mecca Gibert Jeune, or to the legendary English bookstore Shakespeare & Co. To avoid the crowd on the boulevard Saint-Michel, I would jump on the bus 38 and get off at Val de Grace station. Then walk to the Institut d’Art et d’Archéologie located on rue Michelet…

 

 

Kerstin brings me back to reality, and into her arms. I know how you feel, she whispers. I miss Paris too. It’s been too long. We should have come back sooner.

 

Our mistake was not that we had left Paris after living there for a decade. It was simply not having returned for over 4 years. It’s unforgivable. I feel like I have betrayed Paname. As if I had run away from someone I truly love, and then just ignored it, and never looked back again.

 

 

Now sitting here, it occurred to me that everything feels so familiar. The Louvre is only a street away. I have been inside the world’s largest museum so many times before, with friends, family, professors, students, and mostly by myself. To learn, examine, study, or analyze the hundreds and thousands of paintings, sculptures, drawings, objects and other artworks.

 

On the other side of the Louvre: Edokko at 163 rue Saint Honoré, our favorite place for a late evening maki bowl. And further north: the Institut d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA) ,where we spent hours and hours doing research in the Gernet-Glotz library. Or the Opéra Garnier, that I loved to contemplate from the Starbucks at the corner of rue de l’Opéra and rue des Petits Champs…

 

 

All these places still exist. The menu at Edokko hasn’t changed. I still remember on which shelf I can find the books about Athens during the Hellenistic period. And Starbucks’ caramel macchiato tastes the same.

 

And yet… time has moved on. We are not Parisians anymore. We are nothing more than a couple of travelers, who happen to know how the City of Lights used to be several years ago.

 

 

As familiar as everything may seem, deep down I know that at every place in Paris I return to, something will be, look or feel different to me. My first reaction would be confusion, perhaps anger or even panic: WHY did they change this and alter that? WHY did they renovate, modernize, innovate?

 

Back then the Panthéon’s façade looked darker. Back then the Japanese crepes Okonomiyaki at Aki’s tasted sweeter. Back then we could easily jog under the Eiffel Tower without being surrounded by security control. As if back then, everything was much better.

 

 

The thought of what my little voice will say or criticize when confronted with the “new” Paris makes me laugh out loud. Seeing me giggling and crying, I’m sure Kerstin must think I’ve gone crazy. But I know that she too is getting her own whiff of nostalgia.

 

And it’s OK to be nostalgic. It shows that we associate our time in Paris with happiness. And that what is left of Paris to us now are the sweet memories from our past, not the bitter things that made us leave after a decade, nor the fear of terrorist attacks that Paris has suffered since 2015.

 

 

After spending an hour wallowing in nostalgia, we both dry our eyes and cross the Seine. On the Pont des Arts, we find out that the overwhelming love locks attached on the railings have been removed. On the Quai des Grands Augustins, we stop at a new place called Paradis Marguerite. Along the boulevard Saint-Michel, the boulevard Saint-Gemain, and the rue des Ecoles, we find new cocktail bars, all decorated with modern friendly and colorful furniture.

 

Conscious that both I and Paris have changed, I’m now ready to discover and explore the new Lutèce as a traveler. With new eyes.

 

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Back to Paris... beyond nostalgia © Travelwithmk.com

 

Follow Mei:

Traveler - Storyteller

30-something Archaeologist, born and raised in Luxembourg. She loves eating stinky cheese and raw food, listening to Kerstin's stories while driving on long road trips, and capturing their journeys with her iPhone, and then delete half of the photos. She speaks 7 languages, and wishes she had time to pick up Ancient Greek. She's afraid of heights, but adores panoramic views. Her favorite places are those she chose to live in: Paris, Greece, San Francisco.

24 Responses

  1. It’s always strange going back to somewhere you loved so much! I feel the same way about Barcelona – I lived there for 4 years but do go back to visit friends at least once a year, I just can’t keep away! No matter how many new places you go to Paris will always be special.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      For sure, Paris will always be special to us. We should have gone back more often like you to Barcelona!

  2. Jenna Kvidt
    | Reply

    It’s always so hard to leave a place you love, but glad you have great memories of it! And glad you were able to return too even if it did take you four years. It’s so strange to see how a place changes after you leave. Hope you had a wonderful visit and make it back again soon! Paris is such a great city–we have great memories of the city too!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yes, it might have taken us four years to go back to Paris, but now we’ll get back there at least twice a year! 🙂

  3. Nancy
    | Reply

    I really enjoyed reading your Paris perspective. To call a city your home and then return as a traveller is a unique (and very cool) opportunity.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thank you Nancy! A friend of us who never lived abroad told me the same thing the other day… that it’s actually a quite unique feeling that she never had the opportunity to know. So somehow we feel lucky to be nostalgic sometimes! 😉

  4. Paige W
    | Reply

    What a beautiful post. I totally understand that sentiment of going “home” and realizing that it has moved on without you. It’s such a hard thing to come to terms with though because you have such fond memories and want those times back. Thanks for sharing this beautiful look into your perspective on Paris post-move. Xx

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thank you Paige! I think it’s easier to just accept that Paris is not our “home” anymore, and I’m glad we realized it and accepted it right away. But in our heart, it will always be our second home. 🙂

  5. I feel like this about so many places I’ve moved away from. Its been almost a year since I moved away from NYC and am about to go back and have no idea what emotions it will dredge up. Leaving somewhere that once held your heart is hard even if it was for the best long term.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yes, I’m sure it will feel weird to go back to NYC! But if you return more often, you won’t be too nostalgic I think. Good luck and let us know how it’ll be! 😉

  6. Isn’t it crazy how we can become so attached to a place we live or visit? This must mean we love it there. Your photos really show the story of your experience while returning to visit. It’s always fun to revisit and it’s always amazing to me of what a person can see on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th,etc… visit.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yeah it’s so crazy! I didn’t know I could be so attached to a place before! We lived in many other places where we’ve also returned to, but never had the same feeling I have for Paris.

  7. What a delightful read. Glad that you got a chance to go back “home.” Great sunset shot over the bridge. The love locks were damaging the bridge so they had to go. But I agree, it’s sad when things change.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thanks! Well… if things change for better, then it’s worth it, right? 🙂

  8. DebbZie
    | Reply

    I can relate to this. I used to live and study in Luzern, Switzerland. And after graduated I flew back home to Indonesia. I only re-visit the city I called my second home after 10 years apart and felt very sentimental. But still lots of stuffs are familiar to me. Good to know that you eventually can explore Paris with new eyes 🙂

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh wow, 10 years is quite long! I’m sure you felt both nostalgic and weird seeing the “new” Luzern! 🙂

  9. tanyatravels
    | Reply

    Loved your post. I went back with my husband and kids this summer to a city where my husband and I had visited before kids. We found the lovely restaurant I remembered behind our hotel. It was closed, so we just stopped for a picture. It’s good to revisit, to remember – and then to go make new memories.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thanks for your comment Tanya! I’m glad that you and your husband also got to experience a walk down memory lane this summer. 🙂

  10. Oh what a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing this emotional experience with us!
    I visited Paris last year and i cannot wait to return again! But i find i more so relate to this article through my time in Cambodia.
    I lived and taught english there for the full year of 2015. Ever since it has been calling me back! I hope to return soon and cannot wait to see what has changed and what has stayed the same!
    Thank you! 🙂
    http://www.mikaylajanetravels.com

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thank you Mikayla! Oh wow a whole year in Cambodia… that must have been so cool! We visited Phnom Penh and the Angkor temples in 2014 and would love to return to Cambodia! Let me know if you need tips and infos when you go back to Paris! 😉

  11. dearlittledaisy
    | Reply

    What a beautiful post! I’ve never been to Paris strangely (I’m quite close!)

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thanks for your comment! Paris is a hectic – but wonderful city. You should definitely visit it. And let me know if you need any tips and infos. 🙂

  12. Theresa
    | Reply

    I swear you almost made me tear up reading this. What’s the saying? “You can never go home again.” I’m not sure that’s true, but maybe it’s always a little different.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Haha! Yes, you can never go home again. But I guess.. you can always go back to your second home again! Right? 😀

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