Ah Paris, seeing Paris again always makes me feel good, city that I’ve been desperately in love with for years. However it’s in Marseille where I grew up, second largest city in France in the South, capital of soccer, in eternal “foot-ballistic” competition with Paris, a strong rivalry that I have to admit sometimes becomes ridiculous. Parisians always envy our sun that they come to borrow in summer, grumbling about our occasional casualness and a bit about the “show-off” attitude.
Nonetheless, my heart is in Paris, an admission that may hurt and create a revolution for my Marseillais companions. Besides I remember living in the South and going to Paris very regularly for my business. Then, my landlord – who became a friend – said to me “Why don’t you go and live in Paris? You only live one week per month in your apartment”. He was right and he hadn’t even finished his sentence before I had made my decision. Here I am Paris! Then you may not know the whole story but I came to Melbourne to live.
First of all, allow me to speak about the Parisian.
The Parisian loves Paris (even if he always says he’s fed up with this city), denigrates the Provincial life (Paris is the best) even if often the Parisian is not born in Paris. Urban romantic, stressed poet, cultured elegant and sometimes snobby and impolite.
How often I have heard that the Parisian complaints all-the-time, classified as professional complainers. However it must be frankly acknowledged that since I live in Australia, I realise indeed that not only Parisians but also all French people can whinge a lot, me included in the list. What can we do, we are perhaps just misunderstood artists? Whatever…
My heart started beating wildly for Paris when I was just a kid during a trip with my mum to visit cousins living in Paris. I remember this sweet walk to the Place du Tertre in Montmartre (this place is called tertre (hill) as it is located on top of a small hill). All the painters were calling my Mum to say to her how much they would love to paint SUCH a pretty little girl. At this time, totally unaware of commercial subtleties, I obviously believed in my infantile beauty. I remember walking on the pavés (cobbles), it was like time had no hold on this place, Montmartre, the old Paris, I was dreaming and I was letting myself be soothed by the poetic architecture and the atmosphere.
The years were flying, I was continuing my life in the South because after all we have the Sun, the beach and the Pastis (anise-flavoured spirit and apéritif of Marseille) but I have to confess to you that often I was secretly thinking of Paris, cheating on Marseille, ashamed to say this to my Marseillais friends. I passed my exam (Literary Baccalaureate) when I was just 18 years old and after the Fine Arts exam (an option that I took), the examiners advised me seriously to consider the School Art of Paris. What an honour!!! But you know at this age I was dreaming of becoming a journalist. I didn’t really think about this opportunity and I pursued my life in Marseille studying Communication and Advertising. Surely one of my biggest regrets in my life… And what if… maybe in another life, I would have been a recognised Parisian artist, respected for my work going through the centuries with my art. Well, as we say in France with an “if” you could put Paris in a bottle.
But let’s go back on my story…
I was still in Marseille, let’s skip some of the points of my life, I finally moved in Paris, living with girlfriends at the foot of Sacré Coeur, it was more than I could have hoped for.
I was experiencing the popular métro – boulot – dodo (rhyming words meaning metro-work-sleep) and I was loving it. I went out, I visited museums, soaking up all the Parisian culture, I strolled in the streets, in the Grands Magasins, in the old quarters, in the bookshops, memorising a word or a quote of a poet or a writer who had also left part of his/her soul in Paris, I observed people in the metro, I read newspapers over my neighbour’s shoulder in the carriage, and I looked at all the styles that mixed in the streets and I remembered this quote from Chanel “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening” and yes I could totally get why Paris is the fashion capital.
Each moment spent in Paris is unique in discovery, magic and emotion.
And it was the case again when I went back a few weeks ago. Visiting family, friends, taking the opportunity for a few professional meetings, I was playing the tourist. After having lived in Paris, worked in Paris and having been to Paris scores of times, I am always under the spell of this city. It’s certainly one of the rare cities in the world where you can always see something new or different, be amazed to not know a place: a little street that you follow by random that allows you to find a building with gorgeous architecture, a museum that you never thought to go to, a passage that projects you two centuries back in time, a new designer shop, a new bar, a new deli that takes your senses to all regions of France at once, a new concept store, a few words or poetry here and there on your way to inspire your day… And everything changes of course according to the seasons, the forecast, your mood, your age, your aspirations, your open-mind.
Paris is a city that inspires, develops my senses and imagination, it’s my breath of fresh air (even though I risk making Parisians who escape the polluted air the weekend laugh, the Parisian loves practising weekending), a strong blast of culture, a sigh of poetry, a philosophical breath which has always allowed me to analyse and question myself, move on and make the most important decisions in my life.
(Little anecdote: It’s the movie Amélie that gave me the courage to open my first business in 2004)
Months without seeing Paris and emotions were at their greatest. Here I am at Gare de Lyon, en route to a cosy studio in Buttes Chaumont. I feel Parisian again in just few weeks and I understand how much I missed insignificant details of the capital.
Then I hear some of you thinking “why did you leave Paris to come to Australia?”. Well simply because perhaps I understood that I will always bring a piece of Paris with me wherever I go, that I am French and I am Paris too (as we sadly remember this). That reassures me and even if I’m far away, Paris will always be my refuge where I can go back anytime.
I’m living a love affair with Paris, oui you know this kind of affair that you deeply know it’s forever. A caring soulmate who is always happy to see me back and for me always ecstatic to feel. I can understand all these artists: singers (Edith Piaf, Léo Ferré, Joe Dassin, Frank Sinatra…), writers (Ernest Hemingway, Jacques Prévert, Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde…), filmmakers (Woody Allen, Quentin Tarentino, Ron Howard…) were all captured by the Parisian spirit. As Hemingway titled his book Paris est une fête (a moveable feast) and Paris satisfies hearts, my heart. I love walking in the streets for hours, letting Paris guide me and speak to me, carried by a frenzied rhythm all the while filling me in with its sensuality.
Lastly, on this trip I returned with my Australian husband who was laughing at seeing me running to catch the metro when we were not in the rush at all, just in a tourist mode. The Parisian rhythm regained control over me. To show him this city, to visit the city of lights with a French woman was magical for him. It was a revelation, a revelation about my culture but also a revelation about my person. From now on, he could have a better understanding of what has shaped me, my love for art, books, the art of words, this desire to exchange with the world and change the world, this need for intellectual stimulation, the attention to detail, the eagerness to be surrounded by beauty, the need for the natural, anonymity, café terraces, the tremendous importance of friendship, and obviously my gastronomic demands and my taste for style, le Chic à la Parisienne (the Parisian chic) and this “less is more” motto that follows me everywhere.
And he also understood that he will always have to share me with my other lover Paris, a subtle ménage à trois.
So much to share with you, my lovers of France, my Parisian darlings and because like a lover, we know that every reunion is unique and precious, it’s important to leave a part of mystery, to leave you here with, I hope, this craving to discover more of Paris. For sure, I will give you another rendez-vous soon about Paris with a new article.
As for you my Dear Paris, my Paname, you are so far away today but so warm in my heart and I can’t thank you enough for bringing so much poetry and inspiration to my life.
A bientôt mon Amour. (See you soon my Love)
Paris je t’aime.
Thank you to Nicola Thayil from NHM Translation