From Paris to New York—in 1906
Travel Blog • Eva Holland • 08.27.10 | 9:26 AM ET
Conor Friedersdorf digs up an old gem from the Atlantic’s archives: a dispatch from a native New Yorker, returning to the city after an extended stay in Paris. It’s a must-read for NYC-philes. Here’s a taste:
In a word, this returned New Yorker finds few familiar landmarks; and the few he does find seem to have lost most of their original meaning. He is as much dazed and puzzled by his surroundings as Rip Van Winkle after his twenty years’ sleep. Nobody resides, does business, dines, or drinks in the same places as before. Nobody frequents the same pleasure resorts. Nobody saunters along the same walks. It is not safe for him to make a business or social call, or to set out for a restaurant, a chop-house, a theatre, or a club, without consulting the Directory in advance; and, even so, he risks having his trouble for his pains, inasmuch as there is more than a chance that a move has been made since the Directory was issued.
After he so far recovers from the shock of his initial disenchantment, however, as to be able to take note of details, he finds that there is some balm in Gilead, after all. At the end of a month he begins to catch the spirit of New York; and at the end of six months he has come completely under its spell, and loves it, as Montaigne loved the Paris of his day, “with all its moles and warts.” The radiant white city by the Seine still appears to him at intervals, like the memory of a favorite picture or poem; but it has lost the power to disquiet him with desire. Paris is no longer a perpetual obsession,—the absolute norm by which he judges everything he sees. Indeed, it has passed so far out of his life that he is in danger of being as over-lenient in his judgments as he was at the outset over-severe.