So, lucky, lucky me, I’ve recently attended the Festival du Roman Feminin in Paris (Festival of the Romance Novel). If you ever get a chance to go… GO. I had a marvelous time, met many wonderful people including both authors and readers, and I am so very glad I went.
I was in France once before, 40 years ago for a few days. I don’t recall much about it, except a general sense of awe. Now my sense of awe is more specific. I’m in awe of the history, the natural beauty, the integrity of the culture, the reasonably priced fresh good food, and the kindness of the people. Everybody has been unfailingly gracious, patient with my four words of French (all mispronounced), and good-humored.
I’ve noticed something else about the little slice of France I’ve seen that I also respect tremendously: People here do one thing at a time, with a very few exceptions. If they are sharing a meal with a friends, they aren’t also checking texts. If they are walking down the street, they walk down the street, they don’t talk on the phone at the same time. They enjoy their food, they interact with their children (who are much in evidence), they occupy some of the ubiquitous benches along the parks and boulevards, and to a much greater degree than my American neighbors, they simply enjoy the park without getting out a device and tapping a screen.
In one of the largest cities on the planet, the pace felt slower to me than it often does in my sleepy Maryland backwater town. Waiters don’t hover to chase you away from the table when you’re done eating, cars wait for pedestrians to get out of crosswalks, museum staff take the time to make sure your questions are answered. And yet, the French, with their 35-hour work week, five weeks of annual leave, and a dozen federal holidays, are a more productive work force than we hard-charging Americans are.
My sense is, this culture is both more focused and more relaxed than the one I live in. I like that focused/relaxed approach better than the scattered/anxious tone I can slip into at home, even when I’m in the solitude of my own home. To be around other people who can maintain focus on a conversation, who can eat good food slowly, who can walk down the street without setting land-speed records, helps me be more relaxed and focused.
I have really, really enjoyed being in Paris, which surprised me. I associate cities with hurry, noise, and over-stimulation, but I have not found that true of Paris at all. My data sample is tiny, of course, so I will doubtless have to return to Paris to gather more information.
Is there someplace you simply enjoy being? Why? The people, the landscape, the food, the weather, the entertainments? Would you live there year-round if you could? To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 e-gift card.