Paris got cold the day I arrived. That was the unfortunate moment I remembered that for the past eight months I had been living in the same place Parisians go for vacation — the cold air snapped me back to reality.
As soon as my unfortunate French Southern twang emerges in Paris, I am faced with an ultimatum: Paris or Aix?
The question, though, is super difficile to find an answer for — these are two very different French beasts. Why should I have to choose?
Paris is filled with festivals and art and good food and markets and the sparkling Tour Eiffel (and a skyline). Paris has character. It is also home to the most tourists in the world, smoggy and smokey air filling everyone’s lungs, and a metro system that views its users more as sardines than people.
Paris has Haussmann buildings, Aix has Roman-inspired, orange tiled houses.
Aix is filled with sunshine and wineries and lavender and markets, but good luck going anywhere beyond the same three restaurants and bars you always resort to. To be sure, Aix has character too, just of a different kind. (I will confirm, however, that the late-night food in Aix is better, mostly because you don’t have to travel all over the city for it.)
Comparing Paris to Aix is like comparing New York to Charlottesville. They are only similar in the sense that they are French, but even then, the Provençal lifestyle bears no resemblance to the Paris bustle.
Aix is bourgeoise and expensive, but not city expensive like Paris. Happy hours still have 1€ rosé, despite the rent prices that show up most other French cities. Paris, though expensive, though smoggy, though crowded, still has some sort of tug at heartstrings as the Seine lights up at night, reflecting from nearby cafés and boats, as the sun finally comes out and picnics are set up on parks and along the canal.
This is only a brief analysis of my two favorite French cities. Often, when I’m asked this question, I avert my eyes in an effort to not answer. I can’t, and I don’t want to. I want to have them both.
How would you decide? ♦