As much as I love strolling through Paris’ Haussmanian streets and elegant gardens, seeing Paris from above will always take my breath away. For the first time in the six months that I’ve lived in Paris, this afternoon I climbed the 380-step tight, winding staircase and emerged on the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral. Of all the rooftops and terraces overlooking Paris (Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Galeries Lafayette, etc.), this is one of the most jaw-dropping, probably due to the fact that Notre Dame is in the dead center of the city. Drop a pin on geographical center of a map of Paris and it’ll land on Notre Dame. Plus, with Spring finally arriving, Paris has been cloaked in sunshine.
What struck me as the most enchanting at almost 70 meters above ground was how everything appeared in slow motion. People always say Parisians are rushed and rude, always pushing to get to their next rendez-vous. They even have a saying, “Métro, Boulot, Dodo,” for the ceaseless routine of riding the subway, working, and sleeping. But as I watched the bateaux mouches cruising down the Seine, the steady pace of traffic, and the minuscule pedestrians soaking up the sun, everything radiated a sense of calm.
Undoubtedly, this is partially a result of the change in weather. As I’m now learning, spring is my favorite season in Paris. My friends and I spend every afternoon either picnicking in a park or enjoying wine on the terrace of a café, never realizing it’s already 8 p.m. with the sky still so light. True, Parisians may rush, but no matter how much of a hurry they seem to be in when they cut in front of you in the metro, they can always find time to have an aperitif or café in the fading spring sun. So as I lounge in the grass under the magnificence of the Eiffel Tower or gaze out at the blue rooftops from the top of Notre Dame, one thing seems clear: Time stands still when it’s spring in Paris and you put away your watch to enjoy the simple fact that you’re in this beautiful, paradoxical, enchanting city.