Alluring and infuriating in equal measure, Paris is a city that takes seconds to fall in love with and a lifetime to understand. There’s nowhere else quite like it.
I fall under its spell from the moment I step off the Eurostar. My heart skips a beat to the mêlée of blaring horns, taxi touts and chaotic terrasses. I even love the smell. It’s the scent of crumbling Haussmanian stone, of grainy espressos half-drunk on wobbly tables, of dusty pavements and faintly wafting cigarette smoke.
In Paris you always have permission to order a glass of wine at lunch, to spend an afternoon reading in a sunny window seat, to critique the latest exhibition as if you’ve studied the great masters for decades.
Here, you’re free to be yourself. Parisians don’t hide their emotions or kowtow to social niceties. They protest, argue and speak directly. They stay out late and don’t apologise for it the next day.
(It’s curieux that Brits love Paris so much, my French friends say, as they lament my love for Gare du Nord or the latest ruling of the Académie Française over a two-hour lunch.)
Most of all, it’s easy to make Paris your own. Neighbourhood bistros welcome you back as warmly as those around the corner back home. Allegiances to the 11ème or 7ème arrondissement, once cemented, last forever. On the surface, little changes if you visit every six months, perhaps the colour of an awning here and there, maybe a Biocoop popping up alongside Monoprix.
It’s little wonder that some three million of us used to come each year. Reminders of our intertwined lives are everywhere, from the Hermès Birkin to restaurants that shaped Orwell’s memoirs and the Seine-scapes that inspired some of Turner’s most evocative works.
No lovers’ tiff will rock a connection that runs so deep. This bond can withstand anything Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron can throw at it.
But Paris is no place for unfettered nostalgia or fetishised Hollywood pastiche (let’s not talk about that show.) It’s a city that outwardly conforms while quietly rebelling.
Historic buildings find new life as fast as Urs Fischer’s waxwork sculptures have literally melted away in the Bourse de Commerce. They’d never admit it, but the team behind the newly reopened Samaritane is on a mission to tastefully outdo Galeries Lafayette collection by collection. It can be hard to keep up. Even the classics are constantly in flux. Right now, cocktails are spiked with CBD not rum and the brasserie of the moment made its name for serving tête de veau nuggets in Strasbourg Saint-Denis.
The beauty of Paris is that even in 48 hours you can totally immerse yourself in its contradictions. A morning spent outdoors beneath the spring blossom in Sceaux or Parc Monceau calls for an evening in an arthouse cinema. Lazy breakfasts in Left Bank cafés might lead to late-night rooftop drinks or a concert in a tiny jazz bar. Remember that you can cross the city in less than an hour: there’s nothing to stop you spending the morning at the Fondation Louis Vuitton and an afternoon floating up the canal on an electric boat from La Villette.
Let’s be honest, there’s also no other city where you can plan an entire weekend solely around boulangeries, bistros and bars – and leave culturally enriched.
These days, I call Paris home full-time. My pulse might not race quite as it once did on rue de Dunkerque. Instead it flutters while watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle from an apartment in the 20ème, shucking impromptu oysters on a Tuesday night and walking home rather than taking the métro on a warm evening.
I’m constantly adding to a never-ending to-do list. At least one more raclette before the season ends, the new exhibition at the Musée Maillol, Cédric Grolet’s latest impossibly realistic creation, oh and re-finding that spot with the amazing kimchi pancakes in the 2nd. Maybe someday I’ll even get around to renting that glossy motor launch to cruise down the Seine.
Now that trips to Paris are once again possible, it’s time to start adding to yours.
For more inspiration on where to stay, read Telegraph Travel's guide to the best hotels in Paris.