One of my favourite cartoons while growing up was Ratatouille. It was a story about Remy, a rat who aspired to be a renowned French chef in the famous city of Paris, ignorant of the divide that existed between man and rodent.
Remy finds and becomes friends with Linguini, a human who he realized he could control by hiding under his hat. To me, Remy was the most relatable version of ‘started from the bottom, now we are here’ because he came from the sewers. He formed a formidable force with Linguini in the culinary world, living his dream.
The ten years old me believed that Paris was the place you go to do the impossible. That was around the time I fell in love with Paris. I remember the movie’s soundtrack and I remember smiling, happy for a rat that got to live his dream.
Recently, I have taken to learning French and I am reminded once more of how much the language sounds like falling in love. With its husky tone, it leaves you with a song on your lips, happiness in your heart and a dance in your step. It has a certain je ne sais quoi and I find it incredibly hot.
The first time I read about French kissing or what the French would call ‘un basier amoureux’ – A lover’s kiss or ‘un basier avec la langue’ – A kiss with tongue, I scoffed at the description thinking “Who would do that?”.
I thought the adults in my book were very unhygienic, preposterous and unchristian. Until, I saw a French kiss and I thought to myself -“It is obvious the French know what they are doing when it comes to love because that should be the only way to kiss”. No other country has a gesture of romance named after them. So what if it’s kissing? The same kissing Judas used to betray Jesus!
With thousands of couple pictures hitting the internet from Paris every year, all in maddening PDA postures, It makes total sense that Paris, the famed capital city of France is the renowned city of love. Paris calls out to me, reminding me that it is a place where I can just be.
Coming from a society that frowns at any form of PDA, leaving you to worry about your legitimacy as a child because you are almost sure your parents have never held hands not to talk of having sex, Paris strikes me as shamelessly and unabashedly romantic.
Its streets seem to be built for couples because it is extra wide, making it perfect for strolling hand-in-hand and with places like:
Le mur des je t’aime – the wall of love- which has more than 300 declarations of love written in 250 languages,
Pont des arts – a pedestrian bridge in Paris which crosses the River Seine and where couples go to lock their love for each other metaphorically in padlocks and then lose the key.
Eiffel tower – with over 20,000 light bulbs which go up every evening. I suddenly understand why the phrase ‘sending you love and light’ makes me feel warm inside.
When I think about Paris, I think about scented baths and stilettos, unpronounceable cuisines and fine wine.
I subscribe to the school of thought that says “If you love me, you would feed me” and the French seem to know how to do just that, with food that sound like poetry, like the love of your life saying “Je t’aime” over and over again.
Paris is the only reason why the thought of eating something like frog legs sound like an adventure and also the reason I ever entertained thoughts of being a chef although I do not enjoy cooking.
I think about dressing up for an elite gathering dedicated to the art of wine tasting. Holding on to the stem of my wine glass and gently swaying the wine while making polite conversation, taking a sniff, with my eyes closed like I want to shut out every other sense but the sense of smell. Taking a sip from my glass with my eyes rolled back as if an ancient secret has suddenly been revealed to me.
I have often wondered what it would feel like to love and be loved by a French man. For a man like that to call me ‘mon amour’, flirt with me unrelentingly, write me poems, bring me breakfast in bed and take me to the movies. I wonder what it would feel like for a man like that to talk to me about art and architecture, about bread – French bread – and everything I could do with it.
You might say that I am simply buying into the Hollywood stereotype of what Paris should be, romanticizing Paris because of what I have seen and read and felt in books and movies and maybe you are right but I do want to remind you that Paris seems to be crawling with couples and that leaves you with the question, “Is the fact that Paris is crawling with couples the reason why it regarded as the city of love or is it the city of love because it seems to be crawling with couples?