Joie de vivre

I’ll never forget that weird Saturday afternoon 8 years ago when I arrived to Paris, alone for the first time, driving with a stone in my guts to the 19th arrondissement where I was staying, but not sure how to feel really, me – a petite and timid teenage girl.

I just stood in the middle of the room that was meant to be my home for the next couple of weeks, looking at my own hands, not sure what to do next, somewhat nervous, yes, but mostly just confused. Should I unpack or go out, eat something or find the nearest metro station? After some time had passed without any kind of specific action from my side, I heard the old lady’s voice, shouting my name with her harsh tone and strong French accent, saying she was about to go to the market. ‘’Would you like to join me?’’

My face turned into an indecisive grimace – no, I really wasn’t feeling particularly social at that moment and hanging out with a little stereotype of a severe French Madame was not my idea of a relaxing first day. I was afraid to be impolite though, so I shouted downstairs a gracious OUI – J’arrive!

The decision turned out to be a confirmation to the ancient advice Say yes to things. No, she was still making me uncomfortable every step of the way, her face features that made even a friendly smile look like a patronizing pat on one’s shoulder, the way she carried her shopping trolley bag that reminded me of every single prejudice people might have about the proud Frankish nation. But it was the atmosphere of a small street market that erased the frowns and smoothed my nerves.

The Arabic vendors with their energy-full laughs, the smells and the flavours of fresh fruit, so much sweeter and richer than the ones at home, the sounds of people yelling their offers, tooting cars, the sea of folks, the burning sun in the absence of a calming breeze. Everything transformed into murmuring music for my ears, a colourful painting for my eyes, into fullness of life for every single sense I might have (more than those five, I believe). On my first solo-traveller day, I got to feel the best of what you can get when you dive into a city and its life – that is the life of its own residents.

Thus, it is because of Paris I love London and its fabulous, world’s best markets. No, it is because of Paris I keep falling in love with cities, period. (Even my own humbly lovely Ljubljana.) Yes, it is because of Paris I love the city life, the street life: the life.

All because of that moment when I first truly experienced joie de vivre.

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