Au Grand Air

Paris, France
Mandi Nyambi

PARIS, France—As a girl who hails from the paved roads of suburbia, parks are what I consider to be my great outdoors. Growing up, Web Field, down the street, was where we’d go to get some “fresh air.” Each time I go into New York City I make sure to spend some leisurely time in Central Park, or Washington Square Park (where there is another famous arc, what a coincky-dink). Among many other things, I’ve missed my opportunity for a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city since I left for college. Even after leaving New York, I still haven't been able to lose that iconic hurried pace.

Recently, in Paris, I finally managed to spend some significant time in a park. I went to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont in the 19th Arondissement. I like to refer to it as a garden on the peak of a city. It’s basically on the same altitude as Sacre Coeur, one of the highest points in the city. I could see every major monument from there, and it took my breath away. It put Paris in perspective for me, and it made me fall in love. Sitting on the bench in my solitude with my Brioche Tranchée and some strawberries I had handpicked from the market, I realized some things. For one, I suck at eating on a bench while thinking because I kept dropping food on the ground. But I also realized that I was at peace. I could hear my thoughts loud and clear, and they told me I was complacent.

I decided to take the bus back home so I could get a mini tour of the city, which let me see many parts of Paris that I hadn’t yet ventured to. There are soccer fields under subway bridges where pick-up games happen all the time. Just next to the courts under one bridge was a massive crowd of poor and homeless people a vying for the free food and water that good Samaritans were passing out. There were people eating at cafes and children holding their parent’s hand; it was beautiful to watch this coexistence. I got to be an undetected observer. For once I was watching time, and not so concerned about spending it.