Paris, From My Mother

(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.

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22 thoughts on “Paris, From My Mother”

  1. Thanks for inviting your mother to write a guest post, Bellezza! I Her writing is very beautiful and it was a pleasure to read her experiences and memories of Paris. I didn't know that the Musee d'Orsay was known as Jeu de Paume before. I didn't know that you are a French expert and connoisseur too 🙂 One of the things that I was looking for and didn't find in your mother's guest post was the experience of having a luxurious Parisian lunch – not hurrying taking one's time, having a leisurely conversation, giving each item on the plate a deserving attention and enjoying the pleasure of each morsel while spending the whole afternoon in an outdoor cafe 🙂 Maybe you can tell us about it.

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  2. That´s such a beautiful recollection of Paris!It really makes me want to and explore the city right away 🙂 I started learning French this semester and want to wait until I know the language better. I find that it´s always a more intense experience if one know the language of the place you´re travelling to.So I really envy you and your mother for speaking French! 🙂

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  3. Quelle merveille!!Your mother's love of the city shines through in every word, and makes me even more excited for my first trip there next October 🙂

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  4. I was just about to type exactly what Frances did. This truly is lovely.I enjoyed Paris the one time I was there and hope to spend more time there in the future. I can perfectly relate to that first trip away, and the scents that transport me back.

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  5. Paris is a classic beauty. So is your mom, (can tell by her words). (Nearly) every place she mentions, certainly in Paris, resonates with me, having been to many of the same places which is no surprise – it just somehow makes Paris all the more special.Lovely to have your Mom's words on this "fairest of them all" city.Thanks for sharing this.

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  6. For me, Paris will be in August… three days to be exact. Your mother's fine memoir is a beautiful preparation for me. Although I'd visited Paris before, that was many years ago. Reading your post here invigorates the feeling and excitement. The reference to her Winnipeg past has stirred up memories for me too… esp. this line: "In a sophisticated restaurant (in the prairie city of Winnipeg) in my favorite Eaton’s store." I too remember the Eaton's store restaurant in downtown Calgary here. It's just so sad to see Canadian business establishments like Eatons and Woodwards had all but disappeared totally. ooh… those were the days. Thank you Bellezza for a wonderful post!

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  7. Bellezza – I have enjoyed your mother's fine writing of a special city. It almost makes me want tochange my allegiance from Rome to Paris! Since we're driving down to Italy soon I'm looking forward to travelling through France.

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  8. What beautiful memories and thoughts – thank you so much for sharing them with us. I made my first trip to Paris with my mother which was very special.

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  9. I have been to Paris, but your mother's words made me want to go back!!! She is a beautiful writer and I could "feel" Paris in her words!

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  10. Everyone~thank you for taking the time to stop and leave a comment; it has been so fun to see your reactions, to read them with my mother, and relive our Paris days. My father is telling of all the things she missed, but that would be from his experience, in which case he would need to write a post. We'll see…Needless to say, Paris in July is great fun. It's lovely to go to Paris, but it's almost as lovely to dream of going in the first place. Or, imagine oneself already there. Taking a virtual trip? That's a big part of what Paris in July means to me.

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  11. DB, your mum's post was spine tingling for me – tres romantique! And I would just love to hear your dad's memories too! I made my first trip to Paris with my Mum when I was three -she too taught me to love travel and she gave me courage to find my own passions. Thank you for inviting your mum into Paris in July also.

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  12. Oh, no! Now I want to go to France (Paris) and Italy! I loved reading your mother's recollections of her time in Paris. She is a beautiful writer and I hope she returns as a guest here in the near future.I agree with Robin. I must make this trip happen! Maybe you could be our tour guide. Wonder how many others would want to join us. 🙂

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