Inner Circle

Paris, a City that Changes Lives

Yeoh Siew Hoon recounts her love affair with La Ville Lumière.

Paris, a City that Changes Lives
I think some places have the ability to change lives, and Paris is one of them.

Only recently, I was interviewing Don George, author of Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing, when he spoke of his time in Paris. At the time, George hadn’t quite decided what he was going to be – a professor or a poet – and he thought a trip to Paris might help give him an idea. 

“Paris changed my life,” he said. He decided there and then that Paris was going to be his classroom and he would travel, as an extension of that. “And since I love to write, I thought why not combine the two?”

I think some places have the ability to change lives, and Paris is one of them. It is a city you never tire of, no matter how often you visit. You never lose that sense of wonder that enveloped you when you first laid eyes on its buildings, parks, rivers, cafés, and of course, when you first felt the indefinable essence that makes Paris the city of love and romance.

I first visited Paris when I was fresh out of school in the early ‘80s. The trip opened up for me a whole new world of learning. I did all the things a first-time visitor would do – river cruise, Louvre, Versailles, Eiffel Tower, Champs-Élysées, Notre Dame, Montmartre. Well, I was pickpocketed at Place du Tertre, the artists’ square in Montmartre, but that too was part of learning, I suppose. You learn that there are both heroic and rogue elements in life and it teaches you to be a more mindful traveller.

This last visit, I travelled with six friends who were in France for the first time.  Seeing the city through their eyes reminded me of the reasons I fell in love with Paris at first sight. Paris is a great city to explore on foot and Shangri-La Hotel, Paris, with commanding views of the Eiffel Tower, is a great place to start. We also took the hop-on, hop-off bus tour – what a fantastic experience that was! Sitting at cafés, we watched the world (mainly tourists because August is the month Parisians go on holidays and leave their city to the visitors) go by.

We also bought tickets to Moulin Rouge, the most Parisian of entertainments; although if you ask any Parisian on the street, they’ve probably never been. It was fun, spectacular and extravagant. Bigger and more flamboyant than I remembered from my first visit, but there were bits of it that remained unchanged, namely the can-can dance. 

We took a half-day trip to La Vallee outlet for shopping.  The bus was full of tourists from Asia and the Middle East, the two biggest markets for branded goods. Here’s one thing that has changed about Paris – I feel it has become a friendlier place for tourists, especially those from Asia. English is more widely spoken among the young and a lot of shop attendants now speak Mandarin.

One day, I took leave of my group and revisited Le Marais, one of my favourite parts of the city, and sat in the gardens at Place des Vosges, listening to buskers and reading a book I had bought at Shakespeare and Company, a place I always visit when I am in town. This is something Don George and I have in common.

“I love that bookstore and I spend hours in it,” he said. When I asked him what the upside of being a travel writer is, he replied, “You never lose that sense of wonder.”

So did Paris change my life the way it did George’s? I don’t know if I could put it as categorically as he did, but it certainly unlocked something in me – that sense of wonder – that led me to pursue a life of travel and writing and for that, merci beaucoup, Paris.


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Showing 1 comment

  1. Jean-Pierre Pardo: 4 years, 10 months ago

    I admire Paris.. my name is French inspired. I appreciate my name much for it' s unique here in Manila and it gives me more distinction and stature, as compared if I was named plainly in local terms. Fashion| Food| Design| Paper-Paris speaks good in these categories :) Thank you for the feature.. nice Paris picture: it does remind me of the sticker cover in my Mobile Wi-Fi from Globe Telecoms which I newly acquired last week {rays of light}. Thank God because I got a post-paid plan of internet, I can now browse more often the Shang Website & contribute my thoughts| words to your channel. Happy week ahead!!

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