A contest between France and Italy? Please. All it takes is one word for France to win. Do I have to say it?
The word alone breathes glamor, elegance, style—and a hint of perfume. What Italian city could possibly compete? Rome? Too dusty. Florence? A cute village. Venice? Sinking. Naples? Ha!
No, Paris is unmatchable. It has bragging rights that other cities can only dream of. For centuries, people have traveled to Paris from all corners of the world to sip from its cup of sophistication and knowledge.
Oh, don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about, Italy. Paris is Mecca for just about everyone.
Foodies come to experience, taste and push the boundaries of haute cuisine. Fashionistas come to worship at the altars of Dior and Chanel. Writers and literary hounds trawl the little streets and cafés of the Left Bank, seeking inspiration in the footsteps of Hemingway, Beauvoir, Stein, and Baldwin. Dance enthusiasts, history buffs, opera lovers, architects, aesthetes…Paris offers its cultural bounty to all like a tray of gleaming gems.
And for those of us who live here, you know the best thing about Paris? No, not the cobblestone quays along the Seine…not the twisty medieval streets of the Marais…the abundance of excellent wine and cheese…not the fact that it’s an international hub and easy to get anywhere in the world…
The best thing is that the City of Light has a long history of embracing foreigners seeking to become the person they’ve always dreamed of being. It’s a city made for reinvention of the self. James Joyce wasn’t talking about Milan when he wrote: “There is an atmosphere of spiritual effort here. No other city is quite like it.”
Seriously. Paris and its environs is home to an estimated 200,000 anglophone expats and the range of creative and business activities they’re involved with is both staggering and inspiring. Sorry Italy, but which of your lovely cities offers as large and cohesive an international community as Paris? Speak up…I can’t hear you.
I know what you’re going to say next. You’re going to complain about the cost of living. Okay, fine. It’s true that Paris is no country village. But if you think that you need to be wealthy to have a great life here, you’d better lay off the grappa. Like most French people, Parisians understand that having a high quality of life means appreciating good food, beautiful things and time spent with loved ones—and you can do all of that in Paris without spending very much.
The city is packed with free and low-cost entertainment, from music festivals to museums to movies. Paris’s markets offer up mouthwateringly fresh fruit, produce, poultry and meats at extremely reasonable prices. And you can get excellent three-course dinners at top-notch bistros for as little as $30.
Real estate in this fair city costs a premium, yes. To rent a 540-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in an upscale, central neighborhood, you can expect to pay about $1,600-$1,850 a month. But for this price you’ll also likely get soaring ceilings, hardwood floors, a marble fireplace, huge windows and stunning details.
And oh yes—you’ll also get to live in Paris. And be the envy of just about everyone.
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