Today is my first day back in the office after vacation, so please pardon me for the philosophical post. I’m still in the vacation mindset. My daughter and I spent a fun-filled week in Paris with my dad. I admire a few things about my dad’s approach to retirement, one being his habit of traveling to Paris for 3-4 weeks every summer. He’s spent a lot of time there and was a phenomenal tour guide for both of us. He loves to explore the city and visit several cafes, so much that we younger generations had difficulty keeping up!
After spending an entire week wandering through the streets and museums of Paris, I’m feeling inspired as I reflect on the unique beauty of that city. The city perfectly supports the Parisienne way of life with its darling cafe tables and chairs on every sidewalk, to the ideal climate that makes it pleasant to be out and about all summer.
The art in the city’s well-traveled and treasured museums and the architectural treasures surrounding us speak to and connect us to past times. I love the conversations we had while walking, wondering how the people from hundreds of years ago carved the beautiful facades of these buildings without any power tools.
Their commitment to leaving a legacy of their time is admirable; we all benefit from it today if we stop and take the time to breathe it in. In my work, I seek to beautify surroundings and inspire our clients, not to be quick and cheap about building a home, but rather to lean into the opportunity that the design process presents to beautify and create spaces that support a lifestyle. The entire city of Paris has bent into that beauty. No opportunity to beautify has gone unnoticed. Is it the architecture that informs the lifestyle or the other way around? They are now so very entwined it’s hard to know.
We took a walking tour one day with a local Parisienne guide. She remarked on the American culture of everything being fast and all food, especially coffee, is to go. She’s right. Then, I realized how I’d been sitting in cafes, ready to pay and go on my way again and wondering why they didn’t bring the check sooner. The simple answer is that they give people the time and space to enjoy their food and take in the setting. As a busy professional, I usually eat at my desk or in the car before my next appointment. I need to bring that lesson home, the reminder to pause, enjoy life, and listen.
When I slow down to take it all in, there is so much that I can take home with me. From a sense of awe regarding the commitment of the past to beautifying everything around us. To images now etched in my mind of the great works of Van Gogh and Monet that will serve as jumping-off points for my work this coming year. Time spent wandering with no fundamental objective but to see is good for the soul. Time spent reaffirming connections with family is so precious. These experiences nurture our souls against the backdrop of architecture and art that support a lifestyle and encourage us to ponder and breathe in the life around us. Ironic that traveling all that way has reminded me to embrace island time.