I have never been much of an enthusiast for going back to visit the same place a second time. For a return visit to even be an option, it suggests that the original memory must be strong and powerful. It is often best, and simplest, to leave that memory alone and to avoid trying to replicate or reproduce. Moreover there are so many new opportunities to experience, new places to visit, new memories to create.
I have one exception to this theory. Paris, France. Every time I have visited Paris – whether for work or pleasure – it has been a unique experience. Every time I arrive it feels like the first time. Every time I leave I know I will come back again.
I first visited Paris twenty five years ago…to the day. My wife and I had just got married and we came away for a few days to Paris. Those memories are so vivid. The (inexpensive) Friday night channel ferry crossing, a train journey and Le Metro. A hotel in a ‘less than salubrious’ area. The sunshine. The freezing cold. The people. The atmosphere. The EiffelTower. Notre Dame. La Louvre. The Trocadéro. Musée de l’Orangerie. The food. And beer.
My wife and I last left Paris this morning, twenty five years ago…to the day. These memories are fresh and vivid. A Friday morning train through the channel tunnel and a taxi ride. A ’boutique’ hotel. Musée d’Orsay. l’Arc de Triomphe. Champs-Elysées. Sacré-Cœur Basilica. The sun shining. The freezing cold. The people. The culture. The food. And wine.
Twenty five years seems like only yesterday. In between times I have been to Paris many times. Alone to work (there was an R&D Site); with friends to watch a Rugby World Cup semi-final (England beat France – what a night); with my family to see Mickey Mouse and his friends (at Disneyland Paris). Such good times. Such amazing memories.
In between times we have had so many amazing experiences together and together we have generated such wonderful memories. Together we have created two amazing children and together we became a family. Together we have faced challenges, made decisions and solved crises. We have made new friends we see often. And kept old friends we see every year or two. Friends we share time and thoughts, hopes and dreams with.
And together we look forward. Tomorrow is nearly here. Next week is about to start. Year twenty six is already underway. Looking back and appreciating everything we have done together is important. Looking forward and anticipating everything we are going to do together is essential. I don’t know what the future will hold for us. But I am excited. The future will be different. It will be better…even better. The future will be remarkable…even more remarkable. So many of the events and memories I have came from unexpected moments, and so much better because of that lack of predictability. Together we will create our own future.
This weekend we celebrated what we have achieved together. This weekend was special. We look forward to a future that will be wonderful together. Everything you have done I share. Everything I have done you own.
I know I will be back to Paris again. I know it will be soon. We already have a list of places and sights we have yet to visit or see. Everyone I tell we have been to Paris will immediately tell me their favourite bar or restaurant or square; painting or building or sculpture. Paris is that sort of place. It is unique.
We will be back in Paris again. Together.