Parisians would have you believe that they are a people of facile elegance. They show you how inferior and contrived they think you are through the power of positive example: their food is greedily rich but precisely balanced, their wardrobes sparing but hopelessly sophisticated. In fact, their entire manner of living is almost offensively cool, effortless, and enviable. But what Parisians neglect to tell you is that they are some of the most thoughtful, intentional people on earth.

Their particular brand of obsessive perfection, which they hide behind a façade of indifference, is one that’s been cultivated across the ages. And though carefully obscured, the truth comes easily when you peer down at a city that seems to know no other way. In Paris: From the Air, photographer Jeffrey Milstein outs it as the unusually symmetrical, orderly marvel it is. Each building, garden, monument, and street is positioned and constructed with an anal-retentiveness that would make residents of its neighboring country Switzerland blush. In an age when so little is sacred, nearly all of Paris has been fiercely preserved, maintained, and added to so that the city’s beauty and character are never diminished and the ceaseless caravans of lowly visitors pose no threat. If anything is revealed by a topographical examination of Paris, it’s that even when you’re aloft the city and its myriad treasures, you’re still beneath them. —Nathan King