With all apologies to Willie Nelson, that's the way I've started to feel in Paris. Last time I was here more than a few days, I unaccountably found myself following 1980s footsteps (when I lived here on the rue Corvisart [rented condo]) to the point that it weirded me out. That was before my bucket list started and maybe it's what started it aside from health issues. I was retracing steps from the mid-80s and my two years of living in the 13th arrondissement and travelling every day by metro to Palais-Royale to work at the old Biblioth`eque Nationale. There were also so many personal relationships, so much that was different, exploring a different country at age 34-36 for the first time and at least finding what I did not want (that has nothing to do with Paris). But it took me out of my comfort zone for the first time ever, and a reminder that the 1980s were not like now -- NO ONE spoke English, and everything was still very Gaullist. Last time, before l'incident `a la Rive Gauche, when I was walking long unwalked streets and just keep following them, my first instinct was to actually think I was going to die soon. BTW, everyone from the plane to CDG to the ticket office was more than friendly today -- they were HONESTLY friendly. Granted, I was speaking French, but a few spoke English back. That never happened THEN.
But they included places from 1985-7 and the summer of 1995, so it was less easy to figure out. When someone was playing OLD music from an upstairs apartment in the Latin Quarter in 1995 and I heard it again a few years ago, I thought, 'whoa.' Space-time continuum sort of thing.
Now here I am again in Paris on fall break after an awful Air France flight (booked on Delta), though I must say the personnel were great. The things that were wrong are for another forum. But I booked it as a Delta vacation since all I will be doing is spending 9-10 hours a day in archives and libraries, and am at a Best Western as a result in the 13th near Place d'Italie (really my comfort zone along with the Latin Quarter -- rue Corvisart is 3 minutes away).
Today I felt that feeling again (not nostalgia, though). I just felt like I was back where I had been. I walked from the minimalist hotel to Place d'Italie and bought the kind of meal I used to as a grad student, except the first thing to confront me unpleasantly was the apparent dissolution of Supermarche Champion in favor of the bigger Carrefour (kind of like our Walmart). Everything else seemed the same and I was so worn out from the trip that I brought bread (but not a baguette this time -- so different -- a heavy duty whole weight fresh made bread that was so much better. And of course some dinde (turkey) to add to the bread for dinner Then I found pre cuts hunks -- unlike the old cheese counter where you asked in kilos) of my favorite cheese ever -- Merzer, a low fat cheese from Normandy, which I have loved for nearly 30 years but only get when in Paris. Then the wine aisle, and of course having to buy a tire-bouchon since you can't get them both ways in carry on.) I got a wonderful bottle of Sancerre red, albeit 2011, and a half bottle of Sauternes (mind you have not drunk them all)!
But somehow time has collapsed. I am staying in acceptable quarters (much better than the 80s since I have a private bath and LCD TV), and yet while I was eating my homemade meal it took me back in time. To a better place? I don't know, and would probably say no. But there was something oddly comforting about it, since I did not have the energy to wait up for a restaurant to open for dinner.
Alas, some parts disturbed me -- watchng TV.. My hotel is mostly French only with a BBC station. So I watched it. I got used to the French adopting reality shows about 5 years ago, but now they have their own version of The View. Amazingly, they also had a dubbed version of Army wives -- that's for you, NUHUSKEr.
Any other such stories, nostalgic, pleasant or unpleasant about revisiting old places?
You're just down the street and around the corner de votre favorite, Rive Gauche! It sounds like you are - comfortable. Who can ask for more? Since I have only recently become a world traveler (didn't begin traveling until I was 45), it will take a long time for me to have any travel-related stories of a nostalgic nature. Even having been to Paris 4 times now, it's always new with each visit. I can say that I was disappointed this summer with all of the little one story shops spilling onto the sidewalk of the Champs-Elysees. It really detracts from the beauty of that boulevard. Je n'ai pas un lieu de prédilection à Paris, bien que je crois que je suis une rive droite - "er." (A "right banker." Ma Français est triste.) Love the 3rd, et possible l'onzieme, aussi la dix-septième. I love French TV, although it is much harder to understand than reading French print. Maybe someday... The only place I can return to that would be nostalgic in nature would be the island of Okinawa in the East China Sea, or Iwakuni in the Yamaguchi Prefecture of Japan, and that would indeed be "trippy." When I think about that, I sort of "get it" more about what you are saying. Going to Paris to spend all day in archives and libraries would be a dream, but alas a pipe-dream (pour moi). Amusez-vous!
Enjoy yourself, I am not sure which BW you are at, there are 84 in/around Paris, but there are NO bad locations, only ones you wished were better!
Have a great stay and don't forget to have some great food on the Left Bank, probably on Rue St. Germaine.
How about an ice cream cone?
We all enjoy your posts.
I found your post to be very compelling and provocative. I couldn't decide if you were melancholy or simply reminiscing a day gone by. Either way, I love your prose as well as the content of your post. I felt as if it was the beginning paragraph of a romantic novel......
Yes, we all enjoy your posts. Safe travels.
Your post resonates with me, though I was there in the 70s. No one would talk to you in English, even if they knew it. Matter of fact, they wouldn't talk to you in French if they didn't like your accent (my sister picked up a bit of a southern accent studying in Nice). And compliments on Anglo's speaking French were backhanded, saying they had Candian or British accents, as they were thought to have a better English accent in French than Americans. We had very little money, so we stayed on the left bank as that was where the cheapest hotels were. Our hotel was a 6 floor walk up. The toilet was at the end of the hall, and the shower was down three floors. You had to stand on the studs, cause the floor boards were rotting and we were afraid of failing through. There were time limits on using the shower, not due to the queue of people, but conserving water. The bed was a twin bed, that sagged in the middle that my sister and I shared (yes, it was one, two, three turn in the middle of the night). The mattress was thin, and it felt like plywood underneath. Also, the bed was short so our feet hung off the end.
But we did not care! We were in Paris! and we were only in the room to sleep. The hotel provided croissant and coffee in the morning, and we ate alot of cheese, dried sausages and bread. My sister has a sweet tooth, so she had alot of chocolate crepes they sell on the street, and also the homemade chocolates from the little shops. I remember the milk was unpasteurized (she preferred this), and came in a triangular cardboard box. We would buy things to eat, and sit on a bench in Luxembourg Gardens, around the corner from our hotel, and feast!
We made many short trips to Paris in 20xx, and things had definately changed. Coming through passport control, everyone spoke English and was very friendly. The only different if you spoke french was a protracted conversation on what to do and see. The first thing we noticed were the clothes were all mass market instead of the more stylish clothes we were use to seeing everyone wear. Back in the 70s folks did not have alot of money, but as my French friends said, it was better to have one or two nice outfits, rather than alot of mass market produced clothes. Also, we had more money, so we stayed in Marriotts on my points, and had plenty of money to try the restaurants we never got to try as students. We not only visited college friends, but we also visited our local offices and socialized with colleagues, and of course those dinners were expensed.
Paris had changed, and so had we!
Ah, Shoeman, you've found me out! Thank you for your kind words. And GemPrincess, you and I definitely shared many of the same kinds of experiences back then. I admit to having always had a love/hate relationship with Paris (though for the rest of the country it's all love). But Shoeman, you correctly figured out my tristesse -- a French word for sadness that really means melancholy.
I lived on rue Corvisart with my soon-to-be ex. While we should never have gotten married, we were quite good friends and even lived together officially after the divorce when back in Providence to save money. But he met a woman early on while here and then I met a guy and had my first real 'love affair' perfectly French style. We had nothing in common at all, but that didn't matter. The last many months of my 2-yr stay I lived with his non-English speaking family in a down and out suburb near Mairie des Lilas (a very rough area of Paris). Although at the beginning he was at pains to tell me he was not the marrying sort, by the end he was telling everyone I was his fiancee though I never agreed. But things got worse because he was an alcoholic so I often went back to Corvisart, but kept strong ties with his family. Then when I left Paris for the US there was a teary farewell. We saw each other two years later in the BN, where he worked, and then a few years later his sister wrote to tell me that he had drowned in the Seine. It was very sad, but I still am in touch with his mother and sisters. 1995 was not quite as dramatic, but the magic was still there. Now the magic's gone, at least for Paris. (I'm now thinking of a different song - Don McLean's American Pie.)
That doesn't mean there aren't still wonderful things to do -- especially eating, but it is a different place and a different time and I know things will never be like they were, even though they were never meant to be. But I am older, and wiser, and don't regret anything about my life. I am especially glad I was 35 when I met Bernard and not 20 -- things could have ended up disastrously.
Oddly enough it was seeing Carrefour this time that evoked all that. But on different trips of shorter duration, until the 2000s, I stayed in the kind of place GemPrincess described --7 story walkups in the Latin Quarter that charged 110 francs a night, the shared bathroom (fortunately I never had to go to another floor to shower), and yet always there was a feeling of something new.
I think that's why I've reinvented myself a bit. I'm teaching more ancient history and going to new places that really excite an older me. And I feel comfortable enough in my own skin to do it alone, since most people don't share my love of getting up at 4am and going to bed at 7pm (I'm definitely not one for the night life...).
Salut de Paris, ProfChiara
Oh Mon Dieu, ProfC, we are digging deep into the old memories!
The ex-French boyfriends (mon ami, copain, or fiancé)! Relationships are always challenging to define, but add in differences in language and culture, and its even more complicated. One of my french girlfriends told me that she always had a hardtime concealing from her mother her boyfriends, as when talking about a friend in French (Spanish, Portugese, Italian, or any romance language) one must commit to the sex of the friend to conjugate nouns and/or possessive pronouns, depending on language. So whether you say M'Ami or Mon Ami, everyone knows whether your talking about a man or a woman, if its your family or friends, they are going to dig deep to try to get all the details of the relationship. In English we can just say, "my friend", and no one really knows. So in countries speaking a romance language, or even the germanic languages, one always is forced right up front to disclose more.
Anyways, both my sister and I had our petits amis français which is how the french family refers to it, and its hard to tell if they are dating, living together for a lifetime, engaged, who really knows. And of course we were in our twenties, in the south of France (Nice during the school year, and Mougin on the holidays), staying in Paris before we went south to University, and again when we returned north to visit. I think the fact that we both had a very good idea of who we were and what we wanted, and we were living together, made things more managable and prevented any disasters. Both relationships were quite good while they lasted as we had the same social circle at the university, and their families were very much like ours at home, so it was really easy to go stay and be part of tthe family. Usually we both stayed in Mougins with her BFs family, and we traveled to Toulon to my BFs family when we traveled to their villa in Lavendu and the islands that our friends referred to as "Les Porquerolles" (which is the name of one of the islands, along with the islands of Port-Cros and île du Levant, as known as the îles d'Hyères Archipelago, or more commonly called "les îles" d'or Golden Islands).. Anyways, more stories about our escapades there but have provided a link below incase anyone is interested invisting when staying on the South of France.
Anyways, all was going well until my BF, an English major was offered scholarships, one was a full scholarship and board to NYU, and the other half scholarship and no living expenses to Leeds University in the UK.. Anyways, I probably could have lived with his his preference for the UK, or the university there, even though I think NYU is the better school, and full scholarship and room and board in NYC is a great deal, but he said he based his decision on not liking Americans or the US which I took offense at I pointed out that I was American, and that I would be spending a certain amount of my time in the US with my family and friends. His response was that I was not 'typically' American. To which I can only say that I am very American. I credit the amount of diversity I grew up with, and that is allowable in the US to my abilities to learn and adapt to other culturs, countires, languages. At that point I knew it could go no where as I would never be able to totally give up who I really was for my entire life.
My sister's case was slightly different. Her BFs family had the wonderful farm that had been a Roman land grant to an ancestor that was a solidier, and most likely lived under the reign of Queen Joanna that I read with much interest. And he did not want to leave the south of France, much less Mougin or the farm. My sister did want to stay in France but wanted to live in Paris, which he said no too.
I returned home first to go to graduate school in WDC, and my sister followed not long afterward.
We still go back to the farm in Mougins. Everyone is still there, and none of us are married. Its somehow very familiar to be cooking together in the kitchen and sitting down at the table that looks across the valley to Grasse, eating the same dishes made from the produce of the farm, only the meat is bought. The only difference is we all look so much older. Madam & Monsieur, who would have been my sisters inlaws are dead, so we 'kids' do all the cooking, and make all the blessings and toasts. And so we are really family though we live on opposides of the ocean, as we can pick up where we left off when my sister and I go visit.
The last trip we rented the car, and toured inland where we had never been before as we only went were we could go via our Eurorail passes. Remember the old passes that you could buy for 6 months or 1 year, that no longer exist? Now its all very short durations, and lots of money.
Hi Prof ... quite an insight that you are sharing with us. Paris is not somewhere that we have visited as a couple that often but we may have to do a return visit next year. I used to visit Paris fairly frequently on business but it was only for a few days at a time and was generally with colleagues.
Our relationship with Paris is very different. When we were married (in 1973) we had very little money but I managed to organise a 5 day honeymoon in Paris. I know that we stayed on Avenue Jean Jaures but I haven't a clue which hotel ... my only memory (that I can publish) is that the lift was tiny and very cosy ... we two and our bags just fitted. We were there in August and the Parisiennes were not that friendly! However, we had a great time. Our second visit was in the late 90s and we stayed at a very different hotel ... somewhere near l'Opera. As it will be our 40th anniversary next year, I guess that we ought to do a return visit ... but I don't think that we'll be going in August again! I'll be looking for advice on an 'outstanding' restaurant ... needs to be informal, good food and good wine (I guess that the latter two will not be a challenge in Paris!?!) ... and not too large ... 'cosy' would be nice.
I hope that you find what you are looking for in those archives and libraries ... and I hope that Sancerre was good ... I think that I'll open a bottle of Brouilly to keep you company ...
Your comments on restaurants in Paris reminded me of a statement that Omar Sharif, the actor, who also lived in Paris made about dining there.
He said you could eat in a different restaurant every night, and after 1 year you would not have covered all the restaurants in Paris.
Always thought it would be fun to do that.
Live in Paris, and eat at a different restaurant every night, sampling as many as possible.
Course one of my friends who owns a restaurant in the US is from Lyon, which is also famous for their food. Judging by his cooking, I think the food is great, and its only a short train trip from Paris.
The other interesting option is Brussels. Many French, including Parisians travel to Brussels to eat as the food is great, and the prices less.
Ah, Chris, what a wonderful story! I listed the restaurant you must go to under Languages, and the thing about Paris that has changed so much is that they are very anglophone-friendly, but if you speak some French you're very, very special. Still, I would suggest for a serious anniversary maybe one day in Paris but then either Dijon in Burgundy or the Loire Valley or Champagne for an amazing stay. If you want info on any of those places, please let me know and I'll suggest places.
Yes, Paris is romantic. But I think it is more romantic for les tres jeunes (my accents don't works on my netbook) than for us older folk. Or maybe I just lived here too long so it lost its luster for me. But I have never felt about Paris the way I've felt about everywhere else in France. 1) Burgundy; 2) Brittany; 3) Provence; 4) Loire; 5) Champagne; 6) Normandie; 7) Sud-ouest -- Pyrenees, St Jean Pied de Port... Etc.
I already got most of what I wanted. Alas, for a brief dinner considering my lunch I went back to Carrefour. That's where it hits me. Supermarche Champion was the first supermarket. Everyone hated it. But when I had to get to the BN and could not get to the Corvisart market, I went there after work. Now it is the colorless, lifeless, large supermarket, even though most things are the same. (Except the separate fish and cheese market sections.)
All I can say is sad, very sad. A world lost.
PS - Although my room at the BW Weha is about the same as the bad room I was last given at the Rive Gauche, there is something therapeutic about being here. I don't need more when a trip is all about work...
Ah, this is the good thing about being in the country!
The food is all from the farm, and what is not eaten on the farm is sold in the farm market every morning.
Mougins does have a Supermarche, but its much more local and less of the bland chain supermarkets we have here.
Great story! You will also be in the movie with the wonderful ladies!
For your 40th Anniversary, if you go back to Paris, I have two places that are worth it. Have been to places that "Are big deals, and NOT worth it", but think of these two:
La Tour d' Argent: Very friendly, historic and scenic place. For hundreds of years this place has a wonderful wine list and overlooks The Seine and Notre Dame Cathedral. Reserve a window table well in advance and tell then about the occasion. They are "English friendly" and will provide a "Once in a lifetime experience, without being outrageously expensive).
When making your special reservation, ask for Andre, the multi-genreation owner to do something special for your Anniversary. He is a wonderful host!
Classical setting, but you do NOT have to wear a tie. There were a lot of people in "Business casual"!
Otto Von Bismark, ate at this table!
I am not sure why I took this picture, but there are many interesting things to enjoy here as well as the food!
My second choice is at The Grand Hotel, across the street from The Paris Opera and it's place to dine is Cafe de 'la Paix.
A wonderful place for food, people watching and a memorable experience.
That's the Paris Opera outside of our table!
Wonderful dining room, but there are other relaxing areas to dine as well as a beautiful "Sidewalk cafe"!
We can talk about this some more on your "World Tour", get together.
Was actually thinking more of travel articles, or a book. My cousin keeps giving me books on the Best Travel stories for the year and encouraging me to write and submit, but I keep procrastinating. He has suggested the more unusual destinations have the best chance of getting published. Am finding that MI has gotten me back into the discipline of writing, and that ProfC pieces besides being informative, also are helpful in considering style. Am definately open to anyone who wants to do this collaboratively.
To get a movie, first you need a book (which generates royalties), and then it can be optioned for a movie. Can also make money on writing the script as well and selling that.
Think about it though, Eat, Pray, Love is nothing more than a travel book with stories organized by locaiton.
It would be an interesting book though. We could pick a location and then have individual stories for that location.