Paris, France

Every trip to Paris is completely different for me. It’s strange because it’s the same city, we go to our favorite spots—lunch in the Tuileries, crêpes near the Eiffel Tower, walks along the Seine, yanking the Contax out of Ben’s bag every other minute. And oh the baguettes. But still, Paris is different every time I visit.

The first time I went, I was only nine. We’d flown in from England (with a horribly long delay, finding out later that the delay was due to the horrific and tragic Concorde Crash). It was probably midnight by the time we got there, and everything was closed except one Turkish restaurant. The rest of the two days we were in Paris, I just remember being completely in awe of the amount of gold everywhere. It was magic.

The second time I went to Paris was with Ben on our honeymoon. We’d been in the South of France all week where it was warm and sunny every day, and on the last day we found ourselves back in Paris for one night before our early flight the next day. It was chilly yet sunny, and we walked aimlessly for a while trying to find the spots I had found so magical with my family. Luckily, it was June so the sun stayed up late. Ben finally snagged a map from a Best Western as we both knew that my sense of direction is awful (especially after 10 years). It was a lovely end to our honeymoon. It was probably the emptiest I’ve ever seen the streets of Paris, and we had so many different spots to ourselves. I wish that I had been a photographer back then because we had such ideal shooting conditions. Instead, all my photos are blurry.

The third time I went to Paris was in 2014. I was completely overwhelmed by how big the city is, how crowded. It felt completely different than I had remembered. I couldn’t decide whether I had changed or if it had. I know that cities don’t stay the same, and I know people don’t stay the same. By the middle of the week, I had eased into the vibes of the city. We had our favorite grocery store, we had our favorite route to the metro line. We had our favorite spots by the Seine again.

And yet, this past time in Paris, it felt different again. This time, it really was different. There’s a wall around the base of the Eiffel Tower now, and just after we left, there was unrest. Protests. I don’t think I can say that I felt tension when we were there. It felt peaceful, on the verge of a stunning fall.

The one thing about Paris that doesn’t change is the romance I feel when I’m there. Something about the way the sun sets over the Louvre and the twinkle of the lights on the Eiffel tower after dusk, something about the way the croissants taste fresh out of the case at the boulangerie. I find that no matter how anxious I feel upon arriving in that overwhelming city with all it’s gold and it’s crowds and increasing tourists (including me), I always seem to fall into step while I’m there.

Sarah Carpenter