(I asked my mother to write of Paris for it was she who first took me there. At her hands I learned to read, at her hands I learned of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We have returned several times over the course of my growing up, but Paris holds its own place in each individual’s heart. Here is what it means to her…)
I remember rolling the word Paris around on my tongue when I probably didn’t know it was a city far away across the Atlantic. The word itself was exciting unlike another and though my mother’s blue bottled perfume said, Evening in Paris, its inherent qualities told me little. I loved the magic of the word as I grew and began to discover where Paris was and how many adventurers had escaped to its shine. Then I realized that paintings I liked were painted by artists with French names. In a sophisticated restaurant (in the prairie city of Winnipeg) in my favorite Eaton’s store! items on the menu that I didn’t understand, were written in this special language. About that time I was beginning French in my junior high, Earl Grey. Soon I was trying those glamorous words, (made in Paris, I thought) on my tongue. I began to search for any and all opportunities to learn about Paris.
The passion has never dimmed. Even after my first visit in1974 to the city to rendezvous with an Israeli artist friend, who led my family and I on many treks and searches, the city made itself known to me in very small discreet increments. Of course we sat in cafes ordering Schweppes with lime and café au lait and ate jambon sandwich in the Luxembourg Gardens watching les petites float their boats. Strangely (to me) my husband tired of the city and made arrangements for the family to visit the country. We chose Gourdon in the Dordogne Valley and traveled there by train. My sad au revoir to Paris was quickly healed as we began to discover the countryside around Sarlat, Rocamadour, Combescue on horseback. In fact the randoneur who led our trip told us we were the first Americans to ride those trails.
Too soon too soon we had to say another au revoir and I promised myself I would return no matter what or how. I did, with my two children. We spent a summer visiting Paris then the chateaux of the Loire, Bretagne, finally safely back to the country town of Gourdon.
I have returned many times, with family, with my husband and even alone. Paris remains an ultimate glamour pill. No coincidence that I offered my daughter the opportunity to buy her wedding dress in Paris. No wonder I encouraged her study of French which quickly surpassed my Berlitz drivel; assuring her mastery of the menu at the Tour Eiffel, even hushed translation of the concert at St. Sulpice.
I wait and hope and look for opportunities to do it all just one more time. The perfume makers of Grasse continue to waft their treasures to my attention, the ancient city of Aigues Mortes with its walled fortifications provides not only memories but were a fine prelude to the Camargue, and Mont St.Michel is so outstanding I returned a second time with my beloved to eat omelettes and gaze at the incredible beauty of sea and stone.
Nevertheless and always Paris has its own beat unlike any other. And though the Jeu de Paume has changed to the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre now sports the I.M. Pei glass triangle the Mona Lisa still lives there and the Rodin garden continues to welcome lovers of all ages. Coffee, whose fragrance combined with diesel flavours the air of Paris reminds visitors like me that they are still welcome. At home I am transported to my fantasies by a whiff of coffee or Chamade, while the real essence remains in my heart.