We love Paris. We love the architecture. We love the food. We love the people. We love the museums. We love the neighborhood street markets. We love the art of Parisian living. But there is a difference living in a warm, sunny Paris and living in a cold, wet Paris. With just a few days left before we fly down to Madrid, we counted only one sunny day in our second month here. There have been a handful of days when the sun toyed with us, but then cruelly left us standing wrapped in scarves, hats securely pulled down, jackets tightly closed, and umbrellas in hand to walk about the city we will always love … Paris.
Last June we made sure our month here would include all the important sights such as museums, gardens, neighborhoods, and other expected sights. Living here for that month also allowed us to go deeper than a tourist could in their week or two. We came to feel the Montmartre area was our neighborhood and the local boulangerie, patisserie, cafes, and grocery stores were our friends. We were part of the ebb and flow of this special Parisian community.
This month-long stay was not only different because of the location and weather, but it gave us a chance to go a little deeper into the French culture and history. As I mentioned in one of the posts during the German leg, our traveling has become a walking education through European history, and thus, world history. Our recent exposure to the Latin Quarter, as we enjoyed the Hemingway Walking Tour, opened up the Parisian Art movement from 1905 to 1930. After returning to the steps of Saint Etienne Church, where Owen Wilson’s character rode back into this exciting period in the movie Midnight in Paris, we couldn’t help ourselves; that evening we watched the movie again. The characters are so well done. The short, explosive verbal outbursts of Hemingway sound so much like his writing in A Moveable Feast, not to mention his desire to get into scraps when he questions no one in particular with, “Who wants to fight?!” The wildly expressiveness of Dali is captured by Adrian Brodie as he outrageously waves his hands around and exclaims, “Dali!” You can feel the restlessness and searching of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald as they go from one party to the next looking for something they are not even aware of. The character that caught my attention the most was Cathy Bates’ Gertrude Stein. With an abundance of confidence and passion for the arts, she was the hub for artists of all expressions. The weekly Saturday Night Salons at her house drew writers, painters, dancers, poets, and other creatives to share, argue, and explore the possibilities. Many of these creatives were non-French. Expats from America were drawn to Paris at this time for a variety of reasons: disillusionment after WWI, freedom of expression, inexpensive living, and prohibition back home. These are a few of the factors that made early 20th century Paris the incubator for birthing new art.
Along with Gertrude Stein’s contribution to the art movement, Sylvia Beach provided another safe place for the artistic community. Her bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, became a hangout, lending library, a place for generous loans, and a publishing house. Sylvia bankrolled James Joyce’s Ulysses when no American company would touch it.
If you have an interest in this Art movement of Paris, I would recommend a movie and two great documentaries we have watched while here. The movie, of course, is Midnight in Paris on Netflix.
The documentaries can be found on YouTube:
The Lost Generation A&E Biography
Paris: The Luminous Years
As usual, we thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the neighborhood street markets. On any given day, there is a street market somewhere in Paris. Smells of flowers, curry, garlic, and sugar pull you through the crowded streets to see what delicious goodies are calling to you. Colors of red, yellow, and blue give hints of fabrics and spices just up ahead enticing your senses. Men shouting claims of their superior products clash with the sound of children whining their need for a special candy, and against this, the occasional sounds of a busker’s guitar or accordion or violin cutting through the joyous cacophony of today’s neighborhood market.
This last week we circumnavigated both of the natural islands in the Seine River: Ile Saint-Louis and Ile de la Cité. These islands were thought to be the start of Paris as Celtic settlements. As the population increased, the need for land off the islands produced today’s 20 arrondissements. Ile de la Cité is home to the famous Notre Dame Cathedral and Sainte Chapelle. Ile Saint-Louis is not to be outdone and holds claim to the highest concentration of gelaterias per capita in all of Paris. Not only does Ile Saint-Louis have that envious title, it is the location of multi-million-euro-view homes. A walk through the interior streets lined with shops and cafes is the very best time travel you can imagine of French life without cars or scooters careening by.
We saw our second movie this week; The Darkest Hour. Gary Oldman was incredible as Winston Churchill. The movie grabs you right from the start. Marsha and I couldn’t help but be excited to see the many scenes set in the Churchill War Rooms of London. We had physically walked through this maze of rooms and corridors just last July when we were in London. It was an impactful tour that brought this recent history to life. Watching this movie made me realize how fragile and precarious our world history is. It wouldn’t have taken much to change the world we now know. I guess the same can be said for today. What little unknown nuances of today will produce our tomorrow?
Our flat in the 11th arrondissement seems to be a forty-minute walk to everywhere: the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Luxembourg Gardens, The Great Canadian Pub, and the Seine River. There is just something about this river that calls out to us. We are perfectly happy just walking up one side, crossing any of the thirty-seven beautiful bridges, and walking back on the other side. I especially enjoy seeing all the vendors with their green metal boxes clinging to the cement walls opened to display artwork and books just as they have for over one hundred years. I can imagine Hemingway buying a cheap copy of a book after a morning of writing in his flat. I see Dali, wide-eyed and jabbing at a picture of the Seine, proclaiming his love for all of Paris. Gertrude Stein thumbs through the illustrated posters to find another piece of culture to hang on her cluttered wall. Just walking through Paris is often enough.
Paris is different in the summer and winter but it will always be Paris. And we will be back. Au Revoir Paris.
Next stop, Madrid. Click on the image below for a little 18 seconds of fun.
This week’s flat can be seen by clicking on the bed image below.
PARIS weeks 2-4
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We look forward to hearing from you.
Preston & Marsha
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