Dear Princess ‘Ishka,
I heard that Paris is the city of love. Despite this reductive description of the French metropole I had in mind, I grew great romantic expectations to visit it. I imagined myself with some beautiful Prince Charming, walking side by side by the Seine, contemplating the shapes of lazy clouds at dawn in late spring.
I couldn’t think of getting to know the city of love without the love of my life – or of that holiday, for what it’s worth. For several years, I held myself from buying those plane tickets, just because I thought Paris wasn’t worth a visit on my own or with friends. I suspected that Prince Charming was just right behind the corner, ready to make me regret the decision of not having first travelled with him.
Never have I ever thought anything as stupid as that. And romanticism, with its detrimental waiting for fulfilment of expectations, is arguably one of the greatest obstacles on the road to happyness and self-affirmation.
I don’t despise Romanticism meant as the period of great thinkers, writers, artists and revolutionaries it has been. I despise the all too common romanticism – with the little “r” – and its rigid roles, its cryptical etiquette, the repression of feelings it sells for sophistication of the soul, its pathetic theatre of faithfulness and betrayal, and the fetishist attachment to an oversimplified conception of love.
Yes, Paris is the city of Love! But with a HUGE “L”, large enough to embrace its majestic museums, the great boulevards irradiating from the Arch of Triumph, and the animated nightlife on the upper side of the Seine corresponding to the Isle of Notre Dame. The L you can find in the laughter of me and my friends in a vintage bistro right out of the city centre, with Art Nouveau posters of its dated glory. The double L of the will to climb Montmartre and its steep lanes up to the white Sacré-Coeur church, and then admire the whole city spreading at your feet. The many Ls you can sit on in the Jardin du Luxembourg on a mid-February morning, watching from the distance the peak of the Tour Eifel, promising that you will return. With Prince Charming, or without.