As the train started moving towards Paris, the fields began to transform into city. People would come in and leave at each stop, and soon the train became very full. I was focusing on individuals, noting what they were wearing, how they were conversing, and it was all foreign. Men and women dressed for work, teenagers with skin-tight jeans, arab girls with scarves, arab boys sporting alternative fashion. I couldn't decipher the code. I couldn't pass off as a Parisian. Not with my luggage anyway.
That was one of my main goals: to be able to navigate the city without seeming like a foreigner. I did not have a list of tourist attractions that I was going to tick off. I was not going to strive to master the French language during my stay. Yet by the 5th day, I had gained that certain confidence, the ability to sweep past the ticket counters and enter the Metro with a flair of familiarity and control, backpack, wallet and iPod in place.
What I saw and visited, I really internalized. There were some things that always remained at the back of my head - like revisiting Montmartre or taking a boat ride on the Seine - but time flew by and I never got around to them. I don't really regret it. They are excuses to revisit Paris.
One such name was that of the Hotel de Ville. It would appear on maps, Metro station lists, and other guides. It was a Metro stop very close to the ones I frequented. Only while looking back at my photography did I realize that I had photographed it without knowing what it was (I had been mapping tower-tops as a friend and I walked to see the Centre Pompidou).
Here is a watercolor of the Hotel de Ville, which I got to know better this time around. This is one of a few I have done recently. Maybe it's time to switch gears again...