My first time in Paris I was 12 years old. We were driving down for a beachvacation in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon and stopped in Paris for a few days on the way. We saw all the must-sees. Went all the way up in la Tour Eiffel. Went up in the Arc de Triomphe. Walked along Champs-Élysées. Evan bought a pair of Eiffel Tower-shaped earrings. Got a giant balloon at the Trocadero Esplanade. Took a boattrip on Seine and saw Notre Dame from a distance. Strolled around Montmartre. Passed Moulin Rouge and was told inside women were dancing with naked breasts and giant feathers in their hair. Was supposed to see Mona-Lisa but when we finally got there the Louvre was closed. I don’t remember having any specific feelings about Paris. Travelling outside Scandinavia was all new to me but the route was not mine to decide. I was simply following and although I liked too see all the things we saw my lasting love of this trip was the sea and the seashells and the foreign fruits on the trees in the south of France where we spent a couple of weeks.
My second time in Paris I was nineteen and Interrailing with my boyfriend. I remember we went to the Louvre because this was the first time for me to see the tiny little painting called Mona Lisa. Much smaller than I’d imagined. And rumours said it was not evan the real deal hanging there. We also went to the newly opened Disneyland. It was all fairytales and princesses and I felt too old to be there. And off course we went to Cimetière du Père-Lachaise to visit Jim Morrison who’s grave back then was not all fenced in as it is now.
Some years later I was on my own and made a stop in Paris on my way home from a summer in Provence where I had done volunteer work as a pretend-archeologist in Tarascon. I was so tired and lost and had had the best time of my life. I carried my back pack around trying to find the places I knew but somehow I just ended up walking in circles because I was not focused enough and finally I ended up hiding away in the giant cemetery Père-Lachaise which gave me some comfort but I was then chased away by guards because I was not aloud to sit down for some reason. I wrote this poem:
Lost and found in Paris
How do one cope with Early Morning Attitude in Paris?
Surrounded by the Absence of Why
Just the feeling of relaxing in Being
Not Minding what’s been done
Just Observing Myself in Silence
Set to Zero
Funny how the French Glow of Frenchness in their own Gare du Nord
I sit on the stairs and sip a coffee they call Une Grande Cappuccino
Can’t make up my mind about going to see Monets Sunny Chairs
Or going home to feel the sweet pads of my cat pounding away the feeling in my chest
New train leaves in fourteen hours
I’m so tired
Out of money
I love to be
Let be. Just be.
Let me stay
I’m in Nowhere
I’m in Between
I’m whatever I want to be
Have to wander around not to fall Asleep
Not evan an English magazine in the Paper Store
Buy some gifts to the people at Home
Try to find the places to see
I’ve been here before
But don’t know where to go
Find Pere Lachaise and feel embraced by Recognition
Catch my breath and Allow the rest my eyes are Crying for
But instead of Melting in and being Forgotten
Some guards drive me away
This is not a place to Rest they say
I don’t get it
I hate this town
I’m so tired
I need a Hug
I need some rest
I need to be Held
I want to go
I want to stay
Miss what’s been
Too late to go back?
Afraid of what’s coming
Afraid of catching up with Me
Wander the streets to finish
unfinished thoughts and Feelings
I found myself
Will I still be Me
when I get Home
Or will I Disappear Again
Eight years later I had gone through a kind of trauma and an old friend whom I got to know when I lived in Ireland invited me to visit his familyhome outside of Paris to shortly escape it all. We spent a few days in their house and a few days in Paris. Eating Crème de Marrons with Crème Fraîche and smoking waterpipe in the garden. Visiting old churches and old grandparents. Feeding birds like old people. Watching children play with boats and sticks in a pond in the Tuileries. Eating breadcovered onionsoup, Soupe á l’oignon, in a restaurant in Montmartre that made you feel like you were in a movie set with pavementcoloured pigeons as extras. Wandering Parisian streets late at night with a streetbought paperbag full of flavours and bonbons. But my main stomach-feeling from this get-away was the fairground in Saint-Germain-en-Laye where we witnessed a horrible accident. A father and his son died in one of the attractions but everything around us just kept spinning as if nothing happened. I haven’t gone on a ride since.
Some years after that I finally had what I count as my first proper rendez-vous with Paris. I went on my own and rented an apartment for almost a month. It was august, a month that is rumoured to be the big holidaymonth for many Europeans and so Paris is supposed to be quite calm because many of the Parisians themself go away to the sea or the countryside. On the other hand there will still be tourists. And yes, there will still be Parisians. Some small shops and restaurants might be closed but there’s a nice feel in town and most things will still be open.
The place I rented was a onebedroom flat on rue d’Aboukir – with a small bathroom, a small kitchen and a giant stonebalcony with rooftopview where I enjoyed my coffee and croissant in the mornings and my apéritif in the evenings. My childhoodfriend from back home came to visit me for a few days. We strolled along Seine and had dinner with a red and white tablecloth, accompanied by a very Edith Piaf-ish singerlady in Marché aux Puces. My writerfriend from outside Paris also visited and we hung around bookstores and had dinner in Le Bouillon Chartier (it’s a noisy and crowded but beautiful and charming kind of fast food restaurant with real french food classics at low prices). And besides from that I made a new friend in Paris who showed me around town when he was off work. So I wasn’t as alone as I had planned.
During this trip I discovered the magical, giant flea market in Saint Ouen which I fell completely in love with and visited over and over. I bought a semi-finished aquarelle of a blue butterfly on old yellowed paper. I tried on dresses that told me stories of ballrooms full of music and champagne. I bought a pink vintage sifon bottle that I imagined some tall elegant lady dressed in a purple hat used to carbonate her drinks with. I dreamt of owning one of the old folding cameras.
I visited the Salvador Dali museum in Montmartre and the Bois de Vincennes. Visited the morning market in d’Aligre, ate boxes of figs from Provence and strolled threw the market in Boulevard Richard Lenoir. Read in Jardin des Plantes. Spent alot of time in Bastille and around Canal Saint Martin. Learned to drink beer with syrup (for example Pelforth a frais). Learned to order Panaché (half beer, half carbonated lemonade). Ate Moules Frites & Chevre Chaud but also discovered the Cous Cous & Mergues foodtradition that comes from the North African population. Superdelicious and superaffordable.
I went back in september to visit my new friend. He was some kind of handyman. Sometimes laying out the incredibly beautiful mosaic in rich peoples privately designed bathtubs. Sometimes cleaning and renovating sculptures at the Louvre. He had a small apartment close to Père Lachaise. I fantasized about actually having a life in Paris but realized I was in love with Paris but not at all with him.
The year after I was Interrailing again, now with my new man (who is still here). Stopped in Paris for a few days on our way back home. The plan was not to go to Paris at all but since we missed our night train somewhere we ended up on a morningtrain somewhere else and one thing led to another. Getting a room was like Mission Impossible but we finally found a windowless one on the outskirts of town and fell asleep for 12 hours straight. Have no more memories from this visit except loosing my new, cool glasses and getting into H&M to buy a warm sweater since I was freezing in Paris. It was september. Oh yes, we visited Jim Morrison, again. The ground covered with brown leaves and smooth chestnuts. My face covered with icy air and caressing sunrays. Passed some of the bridges and looked at books along Seine and when they closed up we found an Irish Pub and had a pint before strolling towards Montmartre where we ended up having Couscous-dinner near Sacre Couer.
Next year we went back to experience ‘Spring in Paris’. It was april and freezing cold. Actually I still freeze when I think about this week. We stayed in Montparnasse to discover the area where the artists led their bohemian life after Montmartre was considered to have become to touristic in the beginning of 1900. I was having a bad cold and spent most of the time in bed in the hotel with no heating. We expected sun and 18 degrees. But it was 9 degrees and icy wind.
We visited a small and very old zoo in Jardin de Plantes (Ménagerie du Jardin de Plantes) for the first time. Always controversial with animal parks but this has some historical and architectonial value since it is the second oldest zoo in the world. Founded in 1793. Had a Crêpe au Chocolat while admiring the giant antique bird cage (La Grande Volière) that could fit elephants. Feeling sick at heart seeing the black panther walking forth and back in his antique prison.
Had one sunny day with Cous Cous & Leffe at the foot of Sacre Couer. Visisted the flea market in Saint-Ouen and played the piano at an empty train station (installed by the SNCF inspired by the ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’-idea). Saw the view from the roof at La Fayette. But mainly hung around Montparnasse having drinks in Absolut Café when I wasn’t all covered up in bed with triple socks.
Last spring I went back for a girly weekend with my photograph-friend. I was currently living in Malta and she in Malmö and we got together in Paris for some walking, talking and photographing. Visited Musée d’Orsay for the first time and really loved it. What a beautiful building and collection. Stayed in the beautiful and perfectly located Hotel Regyn’s in Montmartre. With Sacré Coeur and the petit vineyard, Vignes du Clos, around the corner. Bought some cute locally designed clothes from a chiq boutique run by two sisters. There were no must sees or maps and several times people asked ME for directions, in FRENCH, which made me feel as if I finally melted in completely.
So this will be the TENTH time I arrive to Paris. It is 2018 and the FIRST time I bring my four year old Sunseed to this beautiful town. Her dream is to ‘go inside the clock‘ (Musée d’Orsay). She knows the Eiffel Tower from the cartoon Gaspard & Lisa. I tried to watch Ballerina with her and to read Mademoiselle Oiseau to her, to give her a sense of Paris, but she tends to lose interest after a few minutes. Hoping to let her lead since I have already seen what I need to. Hoping to give her a sense of that cool big cities are not dangerous or too hip for her the way I thought as a teenager when I wanted to study or work abroad and wrongly decided I couldn’t muster up the courage. I thought I had to be as perfect as I thought this cities were to be able to be there. What nonsense. If there is somewhere you can actually be completely yourself and still find your space and your arena I believe it is in giant cities because there is no possibility for homogeneity because of its massive variety. Soon I’ll be back with news from our latest trip to Paris.