Posted by: Catadromy | April 24, 2020

We’ll Always Have Paris

This year marks a milestone wedding anniversary. We had planned a trip to Europe, which was to culminate with a stay in Paris, complete with a grand celebratory dinner at a romantic restaurant (is there any other type of restaurant in the City of Light?) and then participating in the annual Bastille Day celebrations. In all our visits to Paris, we’ve never been there for Bastille Day.

Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’étendard sanglant est levé!

I hear it’s glorious in Paris during the Bastille Day celebrations.

I have always loved Paris; it’s long been my favorite non-US city (New York, don’t worry. You’ll always be my Number One). From the very first visit in 1968 to my most recent time there in 2018, I always discover something wonderful and new. My goal in life (at least where Paris is concerned) is to be un flâneur. Someone who walks for the sake of walking, without aim or purpose. I suppose, technically, since I am a woman, I should describe myself as une flâneuse. Either way, this describes the bulk of my behavior when I’m in Paris. I walk and walk and walk, discovering new sights and vistas and shops along the way. I have no idea what this is but look how beautiful. Not me, the setting. Down some random alley that we saw somewhere near Le Marais.

Or sometimes, we sit at a café and take in the other flâneurs going about their walks. This was at a café in St. Germain.

I finally made it to Shakespeare & Co. and bought a book on…Walking by Rebecca Solnit. What other title would une flâneuse purchase?

Or this. Walking back from Ile de Cité one rainy afternoon, I ducked into a doorway, turned around, looked up and saw the name of this fleuriste. Rosebud! My nickname in college. I burst into the shop and told the owner of the shop all about it. She was nearly as excited as I was and furnished me with this business card.

My first visit, frankly, I was a bum. It was the tail end of a 3-month trip to Europe that began with a 6-week time in Israel and the Middle East. At that time, the Israelis would stamp your entrance visa on a separate piece of paper, so that you could go to Jordan or Lebanon or Egypt and not have an issue with the authorities. Ah, those were the days! Anyway, I worked my way west from Tel Aviv, landing in Athens, then Italy (many tales to be told about my time there, but for another time) then Switzerland, where I spent just about the last of my cash on a sweater because it was that cold; finally ending in Paris. If I hadn’t a pre-paid ticket back to JFK, I’d still be there, I think. Not that that would be a bad thing. I befriended a waiter in a café who gave me a place to stay and free meals. To occupy my days, I walked the city and got to know her. It was the beginning of my romance with the City of Light.

Even way back in the ‘70s on our first trip to Paris as a couple, the city was special. Most memorably for me, a woman came up to me in the street and asked for directions, in French, which she received from me—also in French. My husband, whose French consists of bad Charles Boyer impressions and asking for the check, was quite impressed. I studied the language in high school and had a French minor in college, so ce n’était pas un gros problème.

I am forever thankful that we managed to visit Notre Dame on our last visit. My heart broke when I watched her burn last year. Even though I am not a Catholic, to me, she represents the beating heart of Paris, of France. She is Mile Zéro for the French; the starting point for all distances in France.

There will be no trip to Europe or to Paris this year. Milestone anniversary or not, I will be missing Paris, as I do always.

A Bientôt, mon amour.


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