It occurred to me the Sunday before I left for Paris that nothing I could possibly say about my time there would be much of a surprise to anyone. Paris is possibly the most photographed, painted, filmed and written about city on earth and I am but one voice in the chorus.
I set myself a task - I was going to find myself in Paris. It’s not that I was especially lost – I like to think I’ve got quite a keen sense of who I am – but I’m not quite the same person I was when I lived in South Africa.
I decided it was time to reconnect with who I am and what I like. To show you Paris through my own eyes, what I see when I look at the world around me. This is a post of things, of experiences and impressions. It won’t include the actual reasons for our visit – meeting up with precious friends and family, tracing our family history, reconnecting with our loved ones – but I thought it was a good place to start.
Tube, underground, metro or subway. Whatever you name it, I love the underground networks beneath many of the world’s greatest cities. I’m a little sad that I didn’t take more photos of the Paris Metro – I was convinced I had but this turned out to be my only photo.
I love discovering grand old houses, palaces and buildings and learning of their history. This is the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye in the western suburbs of Paris. My mother's family once lived in a house in the grounds of this estate but today all that remains of the house is overgrown grass covering the foundations.
I love stairwells and tiles, old buildings and classic fittings. My mother and uncle would once have run up and down this stairwell when they were young children.
I love architecture. I like to look at the lines and curves of a building and learn more about its style and design. This house is part of the house where my mother and uncle lived as children. It is next door to the building that the photo above was taken in.
I love gardens and statues and learning more about their meanings and the reason they were built. This photo was taken in the gardens of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. After a particularly difficult morning tracing family history, I took a long walk alone in the gardens. I love being alone and often like to be alone when I am feeling emotionally drained.
I love views, especially ones filled with greenery and nature. This is the view from Saint-Germain-en-Laye looking towards Paris in the distance. If you look closely, you can see the Seine winding through the middle of the photo and also some interesting turrets in the right corner of the photo.
I love city scenes and seeing how different cities in the world look. This photo was taken in the 10th Arrondissement, shortly before the shopkeeper closed for Friday prayers.
I have always loved Joan of Arc and consider her a hero. This statue is located just off the Rue de Rivoli in Paris.
I've learned to love sweet foods during my time in London. I was never really a sweet tooth before but that has all changed now! This is a Tarte au Citron from Angelina which is located on Rue de Rivoli.
I love lampposts and am quite certain that this can be traced back to my love of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This photo was taken in The Tuileries Garden where the lovely Yannick took me on a sanity-saving walk.
I love sculptured gardens and extravagant walkways. This was taken in The Tuileries Garden looking towards the Louvre.
I love old Victorian arcades. I think this is only something I discovered after moving to England seven years ago but since then I have discovered arcades in London, Norwich, Paris and Milan.
I love churches in all their details and symbolism. This is the Église Saint-Laurent in the 10th arrondissement of Paris.
I love people-watching and looking at how people interact and relate to each other. This was taken from my seat in the Renouveau Bistro in the 10th arrondissement.
I love Art Nouveau and was thrilled to see all the Art Nouveau touches in Paris, such as this Metro sign. This was taken emerging from the École Militaire Metro station near the Eiffel Tower.
I love handwriting as well as stationery and books. This is the Mur de la Paix or Wall for Peace monument in the Champ de Mars gardens.
I love seeing the things that other people have seen with my own eyes. I try not to think about whether or not they met my expectations but instead I like to really look at them and to see the details that I hadn't noticed before.
I love metal work and filigree and the details that go into massive metal structures. I first realised this love in New York when I visited the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty.
I love rivers and especially rivers that flow through cities. Water is in fact one of my greatest loves of all. I love rain and oceans, waterfalls and rivers, swimming pools and canals.
I love flags. I always loved the Union Flag and the new South African flag but I think it was again in New York that I discovered my love for flags in general. New Yorkers were so proud of their flag whereas we in the UK only really discovered that pride in 2011 / 2012 in the run up to the Royal wedding, Diamond Jubilee and Olympics.
I love cafe culture and sitting in cafes across the world. I also love eating alone and am also known to go to the cinema alone. I know that many people don’t like that at all but I find that these are my best times to think and reconnect with myself.
I love coffee. This wasn't always the case. For many years, coffee gave me headaches and so my love of coffee is a very recent thing. I generally like my coffee and tea the same, strong, sweet and milky but I've also discovered a passion for the French café noisette - espresso with a dash of hot milk. I’ve finally learned to sip it slowly with a glass of water too, instead of downing it in one gulp.
I love France. This is a brand new love and one that surprised me. I never had any desire to visit France at all and often wished that other countries were just across the Channel. But visited Boulogne and Lille in 2012 and Normandy this year and I have certainly fallen in love. This is one of the reasons I try not to hold expectations about destinations.
And finally, I am beginning to love myself, even my tummy which, it seems, will not be tamed. This is me after a mammoth walk through Paris right at the end of our four day stay. I was much more relaxed and at peace with myself than I had been four days earlier but that was soon scuppered by our bus to the station being delayed behind protestors and the two of us almost missing our Eurostar home!
Have you ever lost or found yourself? What do you do when you need to reconnect or are you naturally Zen about the whole thing?