Paris Sundown
Paris Sunset

Scenes from the Seine

“What should I do in Paris?”

I had to try to answer this question a few times over the course of the summer. I’d only been for four days, but it was still four more than anyone I came across heading to France. My response was usually met with a bit of confusion-Just go hang out by the river.

Culture interests me but planning doesn’t, so when I travel, I don’t scour message boards for places to eat, I just walk around until I find something that feels right. It also means that when I find that feeling, I will sacrifice exploring a new place for keeping as much time as possible wherever I may be. This is what happened day after day in Paris with the Seine.

I’ve lived in three cities that have a major river cutting through the middle.1 But this city, this river, made me forget about all of that. The way people would gather in the afternoon was evidence of an ideal. There was no pretense, just a casual and consistent joy for extended stretches up and down the riverfront.

There can be much to nitpick or criticize about American culture, but the differences between being on the Seine versus on an urban river in America aren’t specific. In Paris, there’s just more of what matters. More enjoyment, more interaction, more beauty. This is the most telling: there was nothing specific about what regarding the American experience lacks, just that it is lacking in a substantial and meaningful way.

  • Portland, Oregon (the Willamette); Boston, Massachusetts (the Charles); Austin, Texas (the Colorado). Shout-outs goes to Savannah, Georgia (the Savannah)—but that river doesn’t really divide the city so much as create the border to South Carolina—and Fairbanks, Alaska (the Chena)—which probably isn’t big enough to be a proper ‘city’ and is also frozen for a third of the year.

Keeping Time

09:15 / 6 August 2018
Posted to Life

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