Wanted to get to Paris since age 11 when I watched Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face – that serious Greenwich Village bookshop girl always in black, who exclaimed “I want to see the den of thinking men like Jean Paul Satre; I must philosophize with all the guys around Montmartre and Montparnasse” and then got hired as a fashion model, dancing with Fred Astaire in Paris courtyards, mimicing Winged Victory with yards of red silk floating above her head in La Louvre. Do wish we’d found the ancient church where Fred and Audrey danced on a raft surrounded by swans floating on a cloud of new love.
Wayne had other ideas, exploring museums to find remembered images and reflect on his mother’s artwork, often reminiscent of the immpressionists, checking out the pastisseries and green grocers for fresh French vegetables to cook up in our perfect little flat in Montmartre in his own, delicious ways. Presents for all the grandchildren who live nearby.
Well, you can’t replay the emotions of an 11 year old romantic – or can you? Paris was all the great things I imagined and more…and I’ll always have Paris, as my brother reminds me, because I’ll tap into it over and over. Oh, I know, sometimes the monuments and palaces are more than a bit pompous. Les Palais de Versaille (outside of Paris) was after all the successful attempt of all the Louis Kings of France to prove they were ordained as Gods – throughout ancient French history this was the main stay to hold on to power…but there is majesty in that though other parks and museums caught my heart.
Corny songs came to me: Why Oh Why Do I love Paris? Because my love is here. And he was. Wayne and I learned each other better during this month plus, spending nearly everyday and night together discovering beauty, old and new ways of looking at this new big world. Discovering where our own curiousity led us.
La Musee de Montmartre with Renoir’s garden was the most intimate and just uphill from the airbnb what was our flat on rue Franceour; felt like we lived there. Twice we wandered through the Musee, lingering over expresso and hot chocolate in small cafe looking out onto the garden’s lily-filled fish pond. Knowing this was the place favorite French artists, writers, independent thinkers gathered, this home and adjoining cabaret, the Lapin Agile (agile rabbit jumping out of the pan that would fry him!) to visit the studio upstairs and touch everything, sweet! This is a hands on sort of museum – no ropes to keep you off, so we took photos of me on the swing that held Utrillo’s mother, Suzanne Valadon, a wild woman and artist in her own right. Her studio is classic – great high windows and light, a loft bed above stacks of paintings, great heavy wooden table to set things out. You would just have to paint to live there and see the world from near the top of Montmartre, 18th Arrondissement at the foot of Sacre Couer Cathedral. Evendently, Suzanne took her son’s friend as a lover for several years at this site.
At first, it is a bit shocking to see beautiful young couples kissing ardently in public – a tradition! Erotic, yes, oblivious to us it seems.
What to make of the tragedy of the January Charlie Hebdo murders? The ever-present thieves in crowds?
The beggars and elderly poor? A city of contradictions, yes, that, too…more to come…