Paris, It Has That Je Nai Se Quoi

My first day in Paris was spent wandering around alone trying to fall in love with this beautiful ancient city.

My knowledge of Paris before coming here was pretty basic—based on television shows and research about handbags.  It’s little embarrassing to admit that I recognize the street names because of the Louis Vuitton bags (all named after places in cities) or the tiny homages to Paris that Chanel delicately adds to each piece (rue Cambon, I’m looking at you).

Now that I’m here, I can’t help but be intrigued by the bustle of the city, the architecture, and the backdrop of vast open skies. I wandered aimlessly for about four hours yesterday, trying to grasp an understanding of what makes this city so magical and what makes people fall in love with it.

It’s always been interesting to me how places create feeling—an indescribable feeling—or a je nai se quoi, as they say in French. Places and locations have an intangible quality that makes you feel a certain way.

Every person has their own relationship to individual places they’ve never been before—so it’s not like every person goes to Paris and falls madly in love with it; some people might come here and hate it. I always wonder what that quality is—what gives a place a feeling?  Is it their personality mixing with their interpretations of culture? Is it something beyond our grasp (multiverse? past life?)

This morning, I awoke with red beams of early morning light creeping in through the curtains. There’s a heatwave in Paris right now—it’s supposed to get up to 99 degrees today—so I got up to unlatch the windows to let some fresh Parisian air full the inside of our stuffy Air BNB. I couldn’t fall back asleep and decided it was probably a lot more comfortable outside than it was inside, so I ventured out of the apartment at 7:15am to find an espresso and a croissant.

I ended up at a Starbucks, which I try to visit in every country to explore their global menu options, which they cater specifically to each country (from what I’ve gathered, anyway. Can anyone at Starbucks confirm?). Today’s morning fix was an Iced Cappuccino, which, in the US, ends up being a latte. But here in Paris at Starbucks France, it’s two shots of espresso over ice, topped with 3/4 of foam. I picked up a croissant from around the corner because I wanted to have a taste of a real Parisian croissant.

I try to be in touch with spirituality—not religion, but that “I’ve-got-the-chills” feeling when something really touches you. This morning, standing in front of the Seine River, drinking my Starbucks iced cappuccino, I felt it. I kept walked along the river trying to soak in the sights of early morning in Paris—the warm dawn light illuminating the washed out beige Parisian architecture, the brassiere owners setting up their chairs and tables anticipating the arrival of tourists,  and the sun shining above me.

I think I fell for it, but I’m still trying to figure out why. Is it the beauty of the distinct, redundant architecture juxtaposed city streets? Is it the history and age of the buildings? Do buildings carry souls of the past like a house carries the scrapes and marks of its previous inhabitants? Is it the culture, born and bred with a “Parisian lifestyle”? Is it the air?

Whatever it is that makes you fall in love with a place–that’s the feeling I want to keep chasing.

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Author: Becca Risa Luna

Seattle-based fashion writer and personal essayist. Likes designer handbags, glaring openness, and subtle vulgarity.

One thought

  1. The river looks so beautiful! I want to visit Paris so badly, since the last time I went was when I was really young, and it was such a short trip that I don’t even recall much of it. I’m glad you had such a sentimental and touching time there. x

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