"I have 48 hours in Paris, what do you suggest I do?"
Seriously, this is the land of two-and-a-half-hour lunches during a workday. You just don't do 48 hours in Paris.
The best laid plans can come apart pretty quickly
I learnt the hard way to dress for the weather - Paris covers about three-four seasons in one day. So you will check your app and dress for a sunny afternoon, but there is a good chance you will end up soaking wet on your host's doorstep, mumbling apologies for ruining the carpet.
"Food, culture, art, romance, politics, fashion -- you really never know which experience will hit you next. Unless, of course, you are hurrying to cross the 'Top 10 things to do in Paris' off your list."
So imagine this. You have scoured the internet for the best places to be at the best time possible (really, no matter what anyone would have you believe, the Eiffel tower is not the prettiest sight without the night as background), and then the weather pulls a fast one and you are left sulking about the stuff you would have done. You are most likely to encounter this situation in autumn/winter.
This is such a movie moment. I wish it would last forever
Paris is beautiful. And maybe you won't realise it while standing in that queue to enter the Louvre (which would feel like an eternity because well, your clock is ticking, 18 hours to go only...), but when you're hurrying to catch the metro home after the tour bus drops you off near the Notre Dame church in the evening, and you will pause by the bridge where the lovers have tied locks marked with their names. You will remember reading that the lovers throw the keys in the river after putting the locks on the bridge. You will hear this very old guy playing an instrument in the background. You will look down and see a boat cruising down the river and the people waving at you. You will wave back and feel like the star of some movie. And you will start walking slower and slower. You will cross cafes and see people talking intensely to each other, and you will impulsively sit down and order an espresso or a glass of wine, smile at a few strangers and while away the evening watching the world go by.
Or if you now have only 10 hours left, you will look at your watch and think about what you may be missing out on from your 'must-see-list' because you decided to just stop to enjoy the moment.
Life is like a box of chocolates
Wandering aimlessly on the streets of Paris, I have stumbled upon the cutest little tea-room facing the river and the softest macaroons ever. I have discovered the ice cream that the French say "tastes like children's laughter", I have caught the space invaders splattered across walls in the Latin Quarter and I have made friends with an incredible 70-year-old woman who sold off her possessions in Australia to start the "second innings of my life in Paris". Food, culture, art, romance, politics, fashion -- you really never know which experience will hit you next. Paris is fun like that.
Unless, of course, you are hurrying to cross the 'Top 10 things to do in Paris' off your list before the clock runs out.
My Paris selfie vs. my Paris story
A friend of mine crashed with us when she came visiting Paris alone. Every day for the first few days, she would leave the house armed with a map and with a few suggestions from me on what to do today. Every day, she asked me once, "Ok, from there then how do I get to Notre Dame?" For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why she wanted to visit Notre Dame every single day. Till one day I realised that every time she left the house with the "plan" to visit the church, she would get lost and eventually end up in some other part of the city, and then happily while her time there until it was time to come back home. I believe she did finally end up losing her way to the famous Notre Dame, but not before she had collected a bunch of weird stories from what happened to her when she couldn't find it.
"In 48 hours, the Paris you will see will be equivalent to wolfing down a burger at McDonald's. It will be just as expected and no more."
Then there was this one day when we had planned and planned and planned our visit to the very famous Mont Saint Michel near Paris. And we had tickets to Reims from where we would have visited the place. But when we landed in Reims we realised we actually had to go to Rennes to be near Mont Saint Michel. But what the heck, we were already there, so we roamed around the place the whole day and found a tiny little church opposite a champagne tour house, caught up on everything we had been up to since college (I was meeting her after 10 years) and then drifted to sleep while watching the Kapil Sharma show on the iPhone.
This is the Paris I want you to experience -- one that is full of your own stories, picked from its cobblestone alleys, weekend flower markets, magnificent old buildings and corner cafes. But in 48 hours, the Paris you will see will be equivalent to wolfing down a burger at McDonald's. It will be just as expected and no more.