“I have tried to unravel
The paths we’ve both had to travel
And now that I have come to see how much you meant to me
We might get to see a better view
Yes, I’m still here thinking of you
Still here thinking of you”
Still Here Thinking Of You lyrics by Carole King
My relationship with Paris was brief, awkward and solitary. Until now, with the exception of family and close friends, I’ve been reluctant to share my thoughts and feelings about this beautiful city that will forever tug at my soul. What can you say about Paris that doesn’t come across as pretentious, that hasn’t been better expressed by countless artists and expatriates? Now, nearly 10 years to the day of my first visit, I’ve had a change of heart, emboldened by the images and insights shared by several of my admired blogger brethren. This list is by no means comprehensive; I draw inspiration from all of my fellow writers.
So many people have Paris near the top of their bucket list, and although I despise the term and its connection to death, the emphasis on checking a box as a sense of achievement at the expense of spontaneity and personal experience, La Ville Lumière has well earned her prominent position. 51 Rue de la Victore was my “home” for three weeks. That address now goes by the name of the Hotel Mogador, but ten years ago, my impression of the hotel and surrounding neighborhood was mad ghetto. My room was cave-like, dark and poorly furnished with a single window that opened into a mine shaft of a courtyard. The sounds of the street level restaurants and bars that shared the structure echoed through this man made canyon late into the night, as did the moans of the amorous couple in the adjoining room one sweltering night.
After crashing in my cave for a couple of hours, I ventured out in the early afternoon to find my company’s office at 47 Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin. Having absolutely no sense of direction, I wandered about the neighborhood until I stumbled upon Sainte-Trinité church which was undergoing renovations. I seek peace in the sanctuary of old churches and this one was magnificent. I settled into one of the pews to collect my thoughts and admired the artistic structure. Love at first sight.
I did finally find the office, protected behind an iron gate. I felt abandoned by my French colleagues as they seemed little concerned that I was alone in a strange city with no knowledge of the language or my immediate surroundings. Fortunately for me, Paris, for a major city, is surprisingly open and welcoming.
The memories and impressions of those three weeks have blended and overlapped into a personal montage that included a side trip to Morez and Saint-Genis-Pouilly. If I was a more adventurous soul I would have explored the city at night and traveled on the Metro, but being a child of light I preferred discovering the sights, sounds and people in the warmth of the late summer days, first on the tour bus, then primarily on foot. Save for my time in the office, I ate all of my meals alone, and it was not unusual for days to pass without sharing more than a few words with another human being.
I was lonely, and yet, because it was Paris, I was never totally alone. There is something freeing about being propelled by your two feet and curiosity, and having everything you need for the day in your backpack. La Seine, the Opera Garnier, Notre Dame, la tour Eiffel, la Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, and especially the simple pleasures of the beautiful jardins du Luxembourg et des Tuileries; at times they overwhelmed the senses. I’ll share more recollections later, but here are some of the sights that sustained me.