Paris:  City of Love

Despite the difficulties of getting here (and of recharging devices), after just 14 hours, my doubts about coming have vanished.  It was a difficult time, the last few months.  Our beloved dog, Kealani, was very ill and we were panicked/in denial.  She died a few days before we left.  Work became not only tumultuous, but incomprehensible to everyone – which is saying a lot, since we are a college and most of us are capable of putting our thinking caps on.

Would it be worth it to go to Paris?  Again?   If I had known there’d be difficulties getting here (physical and mental), would I have come?

Yes.  

We’ve never before seen Paris as leafed out and so green, nor the Seine so many shades of blue.  At Sunset, to the west, the Seine is the color of twilight sky over the Pacific – even in places with almost no light.  Hotel de Ville (City Hall) is, on seeing it this time without the tennis tournament or the skating rink or the Tour de France…the single most amazing city hall on the planet.   The people are composed, but right now, playing guitar and laughing softly below our window.  The occasional motorcycle or moped buzzes by.  The Seine, to the east, is an even deeper blue (navy blue, has to be where they got that color name) with more lights that spill gold onto it and boats of happy revelers.  The Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette spent her last night, is no longer under renovation and gleams in the moonlight, one of the best turreted castles ever.  We know these little side streets – but we never really know them.  

This time, each little architectural detail stands out on this first day – not like our first trip, but with more familiarity.  Notre Dame is nothing less than the world’s great cathedral, but it is a monument to the human values of aspiration, of soaring, of flight, of endless beauty – not to any one god.  The saints, and especially the Mother, wait in beautiful, patient attitude for songs and prayers to soar above.  Notre Dame, tonight, without tourists, was as it should be:  the home of 12 and 13th century chants (now sung by women instead of just men and boys).  They’ve lit the interior well without candles, because that would soot it up.  It’s modern sophistication and…Gothic splendor.  The Goths are an interesting bunch (everyone says they are “German” but I see them as pan-Celtic – more about that some other time).

Notre Dame cannot be explained, described or even experienced.  In some former life, I know I loved or drew its dots, lines, tiny houses sat upon arches.  I know that only a genius, unnamed, came up with those flying buttresses.  Yes, I know Rome invented/perfected the arch, but from childhood I’ve known that the flying buttress was several steps up the ladder of engineering.  As a Californian, I sit there and look at the arched brick ceiling and know that no one here worries about earthquakes.  I know the Romans forced the Parisii to make a column (maybe just one column) but…look where it led.  To this.  To Notre Dame.  Anyone who hasn’t seen Notre Dame has missed out on some central human experience.  TOnight, with the Gregorian chants, it is clear that the music and the building soared up toether, driven by some greater spirit that unified them.  

Singers are ineffable and miraculous, today and always.

So there are the amazing balconies (and lower buildings in the neighborhood where we stay – no Haussman).  Geraniums.  Cobbled streets.  Across from my window tonight (there’s a barking dog too), is a remnant of a wll of Paris’s oldest church.  And behind it are the towers of Notre Dame, with the Merovingian graveyard in between (where some of my ancestors – and perhaps some of yours, too – it was a long time ago)  form the backbone of a simple garden.  Homeless people sleep there.  Toniht some people are singing American pop (of course).  I already picked out my homeless place (someone put great chaises in front of Hotel de Ville).  It’s about 55 degrees outside, so the Parisians are sometimes wearing coats – or shorts.  

We didn’t bring enough European converters.  This is our main problem, aside from physical effects of travel.  We don’t care about the physical effects, because we are happy here.  Our apartment is dream-decorated.  I’ll try to take pictures.  No one can do small apartments like the French.  There are inkwells, reliquaries, trompe l’oil (spelling?) and euro cabinetry.  Tiny Euro bathroom fixtures that work so well.  Touches of red, as in any well decorated Parisian apartment.  

We pass through familiar streets.  The owner of the local tavern vaguely recognizes us.  We go on a walk to a favorite restaurant – it used to seem a long way, but knowing the way, it is close by.  I have aligot.  We remark on how the Franprix has changed into a mini-mart.  Lots of changed in 18 months.  There are gas stations outside the peripherique that have mini-marts.  But the common courtesy, the easy of crossing very busy streets, the beauty of every building…that hasn’t changed.  Even the new modern buildings I used to think were ugly not mesmerize me – who would think of building a chartreuse tube builing or a wrinkled tin foil building?  (Just not anywhere near history…)

Idiots are starting to put locks on new bridges, having been banned from that other one.  There’s a big sign memorializing Charlie Hebdo right outside Jardin des Plantes.  Where it will be seen by virtually every tourist coming to Paris.  

And if you look closely, that spotlight isn’t a used car lot.  Nope.  If yuou look closely for its soure – it’s the Eifel Tower.  Com

Competing with the New Moon.  And Jupiter and Venus in the west.  Wi5th the wrought iron and the many many pocket and balcony gardens and yes, that amazing young woman in the cream coat dress with the cream designer bag and her jet black hair.

Competing with the lovers, strolling along the Seine, with the bouquinists closed up.  Men embracing men, women with women, and of course, lots of us women with men, holding hands, embracing, because Paris is for romance and doesn’t care what age you are (there are some really old romantic couples), and Paris doesn’t cre if you are of two different “races,” or the same gender/sex.  Paris doesn’t een care if you are homeless and sleeping on a grate – eeryone is respectful (even the police) and the police seem to have better things to do than harrass the homeless.

Oh, and we saw no thieves, pickpockets, etc. and there are no sirens tonight.  It’s $23 dollars to visit a doctor for any reason and the pharmacists are licensed to give out many medicines on their own.  My favorite skincare costs ¼ of what it does from Amazon (or less) and vitamins are virtually free.   People act as if they think other people are important and beautiful.  Old people are helped by younger ones and mothers with infants are helped by all.  Not everyone is kindly, some are aloof, but they are not rude.

Dinner for me was tuna tartare with tiny poppy seeds and sesame oil, a dash of balsamic and some fresh lettuce, and a side order of aligot (can only get here).  I couldn’t finish it.  I’m writing this on a 18th century desktop.  II got to hear Gregorian chants, some of the first music to be accurately charted in the world, sung by people who have devoted their lives to doing it right and hae amaing voices – in Notre Dame.  With a crowd of people who didn’t sneeze, cough or mess around.  

‘Nuff said.  

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