Macarons, high fashion, and classic architecture? Check. Well-heeled residents sipping wine at outdoor cafés? Jaw-dropping window displays? Those, too. I expected all of that from this city, and it didn’t disappoint on any count. (In fact, you might want to listen to Françoise Hardy to set the mood as you look through this particularly Parisian set of images.)
That said, I have to admit that I also expected a chilly reception from the natives; perhaps that’s why the most surprisingly pleasant moment of my time in France caught me entirely off-guard. I had unwittingly boarded the wrong train as I was leaving for Barcelona, only to be politely kicked out of my seat; struggling with my suitcases and entirely perplexed by the train station signage, I was flustered and more than a little embarrassed. A Parisian woman about my age—effortlessly stylish in her red cashmere sweater, of course, and resembling a blonde Marion Cotillard—sensed my confusion. Smilingly, she insisted on carrying half my luggage (“It is just my way,” she explained in her accented English while waving her hand at my protestations), then walked a quarter mile with me to the correct train and helped me get situated in my seat. It was one of those moments where, against all odds, my faith in humanity was completely reaffirmed.
I was prepared for a frigidly beautiful city, and was met with surprising warmth when I least expected (but most needed) it. For that, I was both humbled and grateful—and I only hope I can pay it forward to another flustered solo traveler someday.
Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Portra 400