While people from the world all over go to look at Paris, People-watching is a serious business here. Whether it is sitting by the Seine watching the boats cruise by and waving at the tourists occasionally, or sipping espresso from tiny mugs while smoking cigarette after cigarette and smiling at the passerby, or just lazing in the umpteen parks of the city watching the tourists go gaga over it, you will always see the Parisians relaxed and smiling, watching the world go by. As they say when in Paris, do as Parisians; so I decide to indulge in some people-watching too. It is late evening now and I am in the gardens of the Louvre. The sun is still shining bright and the sky is as blue as it can possibly be. At a little distance a lady plays ball with her tiny dog, a little further, some young men are having a picnic; around me in the hedge, two boys play hide and seek, and in front of me is a group of girls jumping every few seconds trying to coordinate their smiles with their height of the leap to get the perfect picture. Across the museum, on the far end of the horizon, I see the Mona Lisa smiling at the world, and at the other end of the horizon stands the majestic Eiffel Tower. I know I have to keep my appointment with it in the evening, but for now, I lay on the grass, happy and content, experiencing the joy of Paris through its people.
There are many ways to see Paris—on a bus, by the metro, through curated tours, and by personalized taxi services. I, however, want to walk. Walking, in my view, is the best way to get to know a place. I also realize though that I have very little time, there was a lot to do. Who goes back from Paris without going to the Arc de Triumphed or the Louvre? So I decided to hop on to the underground for longer distances and walk the rest of the way.
My first stop is Ile-de-la-Cite, the island where Paris was born. While the tiny island boasts of places of historical significance, like the gothic Notre Dame and Sainte-Chappelle, it is to the adjacent island of Ile-de-st-Louise where I headed. Dotted with cafes, lined with bookstores and boutiques, this neighborhood boasts of 17th-century architecture and is dedicated to the good life that Parisians cherish. I’d have perhaps lived here if I were a local, as a traveler my choices however are limited to sipping coffee, ambling along the Seine, watching a street performance, or just wandering on the streets. I decide to do all.
And so, I spend my morning ambling in the lanes of Latin Quarters, watching a cute boy play the accordion, shopping for souvenirs, and stuffing myself with cheap Greek sandwich and strangely tart Fanta.