‘Thank heaven, for little girls … they grow up in the most delightful way.’ Maurice Chevalier
I have two delightful little girls whom have grown up into the most remarkable women. My eldest is enjoying the sunshine of the Southern Hemisphere, so it was to Paris with my youngest for four days, to take in the love we both share for Paris. My son loves her too.
Most people avoid Paris in the winter. I love Paris throughout the year, but it is in winter when I return to end the year in the heart of this magical, enchanting city of lights, and love. Paris in the Spring, the summer and Autumn have my heart, but when the clouds hang close and the starkness of architecture and nature are at her height, I love her most. It is quieter, more solemn and poetic for me. Her buildings melt into the grey, her love for the linear in planting comes to the fore. We walk for miles, huddle in her cafés and brasseries, character abounds, the ghosts of writers and revolution with tips of gold on her statues, all impact when the crispness of winter envelopes.
Rather than stay in my usual hotel, we were invited to stay in a flat in Pigalle.
Dubious I was. Pigalle is the place of the Sexodrome, of the many sleezy nightclubs and the once, or is it still, famous Moulin Rouge? I am of the Opera, the left bank sort of gal, but we were grateful of the opportunity to explore – and loved the experience. The apartment was tucked away in a side street, just up from the falafel and ‘private viewing’ offers, but it gave us an insight into the living of Parisians behind the many doors you see. Courtyards and apartments that are quiet and filled with character.
By night, the lights of hedonistic living are everywhere, by day, the tarnished remnants of a bygone era greets me. The streets are wet from the winter drizzle, rubbish on the pavements, leftovers of people who frequent and go about their lives in this city. Every city has her ‘other side’ and yet, people are living here, they thrive here. Waking and longing for coffee, I experienced Paris in a different light, a good light, a city that has history but continues to build upon itself. Within the realm of what she is. London does this too.
The Moulin Rouge in the stark light of day. Still a landmark.
It had been some time since I visited the D’Orsay museum and it has been too long. The Impressionists are a favourite, so, and so, hello to Van Gogh, to Pissarro, Monet and Manet. To all those who dared to defy the norm, reach for the different and make that happen. Go early, the tourists are still there with their damned selfie sticks and loud voices. I detest standing before a portrait to hear the uninformed comment and move on after a hundred or so photographs of them just being there. Is it my age that makes me grumpy with the ignorant who confuse all and this is most more irking when we visit ‘Shakespeare and Company.’ Over the years I have loved entering this little shop that offered a haven to writers so poor they needed the comfort of Sylvia Beach? Hemingway would pop in to collect his mail, to borrow a few francs and hope his books would make it onto her shelves. Nowadays, one bustles and breathes deeply in the hope of some reprieve to find the book. As I always do.
As the light slips away, the candles lit at Saint Sulpice for my loved ones, time for stocktaking of the day. People watching, a bierre blanche with a view. Dinner at a brasserie. Deep conversations about life and where we are going in this interesting time.
I love the rain. We chose shelter in the company of the Luxembourg Gardens in the rain, leaves dripping and statues soaked in their frozen marble forms. Pools of light on the pavements in their wetness. Escaping to the passages of Belle Epoque – children’s toyshops and miniature furniture stores. Gift shops and ballet shops where point shoes and tutus take us to another place. I follow a number of Parisian bloggers and one in particular, Paris Breakfast, was doing exactly the same thing at the Gallerie Vivienne, so I knew I was in good company. Love her watercolours.
Dined at our favourite place on St. Louis, our favourite film locations from ‘Midnight in Paris’. tasted fruit and visited our favourite florists. Chocolate Chaud at Café de la Paix, where my family tradition in Paris is manifest. Brunch at Buvette, mandatory hello to Deyrolle, Claudelie, Les Deux Margot. Prayers and candles at the La Madeleine as is custom with every visit.
A creature of habit, the final day before returning to the Gare du Nord is Galleries Lafayette. She is Christmas Paris for me, besides the gorgeous Lindt chocolate close by, but her display is magnificent. Her view the same. In the winter of Paris, the walking, the rain, the greyness of her beauty, I must to the rooftop of this place, with a view of the Opera, I am of the Phantom, the rooftops, the unique character that is Paris.
Because I go to Paris so often, many have asked me if I have a lover there. Of course I do. It is she. Someone once introduced me to her loveliness and I return over and over again, for the inspiration, the history, the hidden promise of love that this city holds close.
I love Paris. That you know. The wintertime is particularly magical.
‘That I love Paris in the spring time
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles
I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year
I love Paris, why oh, why do I love Paris?
Because my love is near’
Till one day soon …