Dear Donald: Paris Will ALWAYS Be Paris
Our idiot president makes so many stupid, baseless statements it’s hard to pick a favorite.
But, since we were headed that direction when he made this doozy about Paris and his old "very, very substantial" friend Jim I took notice:
Jim "loves Paris," The Donald told us through several fake media outlets. “He loves the city of lights.”
"For years, every year, he would go to Paris . . . Hadn’t seen him in a while. And I said, Jim, let me ask you a question, ‘How’s Paris doing? ‘Paris? I don’t go there anymore, Paris is no longer Paris.’ He wouldn’t miss it for anything. Now he doesn’t even think in terms of going there.”
For a spot-on analysis of POTUS’ oh-so-diplomatic comment “Paris is no longer Paris,” I’ll refer you to the Daily Beast.
But after nine incredible days in the City of Love, here’s what I have to say to the very, very substantial Jim:
Dude, you are missing out. But, hey, that just means more soupe à l’oignon gratinée and Bordeaux for the rest of us.
I'll add here that one of the highlights of our time in Paris was my late-in-life discovery of real French Onion Soup. I actually thought French Onion Soup came out of a Lipton's packet that was almost exclusively used to make onion dip for your Lay's Potato Chips (Thanks, Mom!).
By the way, in case you are reading this Donald, Paris is not the “city of lights.” It IS the “ville lumière" which means "city of enlightenment" and references its love of culture and learning. It has nothing to do with lights. Just say’n. Maybe a little homework next time, eh?
Better than Ever
Neither Joe nor I had been to Paris in 30 years. What we found was a city just as bustling, beautiful, romantic, culturally superior and gustatorily blessed as it ever was. With its streets and sidewalk bistros brimming with people, it was clear that this is a place where locals and visitors defiantly refuse to live in fear. Even in winter, museums and attractions were packed, people looked us in the eye and smiled, locals frequently stopped to help us, and nobody tried to bilk us. Our experience was of nothing but open arms and fantastic wine -- and a lot of rain. Nice rain, Gene Kelly kind of rain.
Forgive me as I make another plug for AirBnB, but honestly short of paying thousands of dollars a night I cannot imagine a more perfect accommodation than what we enjoyed in Paris.
Our host Eric's classic, high-ceiling, eclectic Parisian apartment was situated in the very heart of the city with a perfect across river view of the the tiny island Île Saint-Louis While we were there the Paris marathon ran right in front of our window.
Eric was as fun and comfortable as his abode -- a high energy, life-long Parisian who not only provided great suggestions but also joined us in fascinating conversations about everything from history to politics to psychoanalysis. (We highly recommend Eric and his place if you too feel like thumbing your nose at Trump's ridiculous anti-Paris claims. Click here to find him).
Whiling Away the Hours
It would take me a book to write about everything we saw and did in nine days, or to descibe the meals -- the gorgeous breads, sublime unpasteurized cheese, that onion soup. It’d take a second book to cover the hours spent at the Musee du Louvre where I was more impressed with the building’s maze-like structure than the tiny Mona Lisa; at the Musee d'Orsay which may be the most beautiful museum I’ve ever seen; at the Musée de Cluny where we spent time with the mysterious Lady and the Unicorn tapestries; and at the impressionist Musée de l’Orangerie where I was mesmerized by Claude Monet's water lilies presented in the round.
Since there are plenty of books out there already I’ll only add this: if you love art, Paris is THE city to get lost in.
Art is everywhere, in buildings and on them (there's even a museum about Paris buildings), in parks, even underground. I had to admit to being slightly freaked out at the artful displays of the bones of 6 million Parisians stacked deep beneath the city in the Paris Catacombs.
It's a long story how they got there, but the short verrsion is the Plague overloaded Paris cemetaries by the late 1700s causing some graves to cave in. So to stop illness from spreading, the remains from numerous cemetaries were collected and moved here. Then in 1810, Louis-Étienne Héricart de Thury decided to turn the bones into art and open it to the public. These underground tunnels would have been the highlight of my skull-loving son's trip had he been with us.
The $62 each we spent on four-day Paris Museum Passes was well worth the expense. The pass allows you to bypass lines at more than 50 museums and monuments, including the catacombs and all the museums noted above.
Covered Passages & Dusty Books
Since, like Winnie-the-Pooh, a little black rain cloud followed us everywhere we went in Europe, we had quite a few wet and cold days in Paris. Luckily this is a city that pooh-poohs the wet stuff.
There's plenty to do in a downpour. We strolled several of the city's old covered Passages, beautiful indoor shopping streets where you can find all sorts of great artsy antiques. Why we bought six doorknobs in an antique stall, I have no idea. But I am sure they will look good wherever we put them.
It is a beatutiful thing to see a city where the independent book seller can still survive. Paris is chockafull of little book shops and several big ones. But the one I was most excited to spend a few rainy day hours in was the legendary Shakespeare and Company. This is was hang-out for such legendary literati as Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Anaïs Nin, Richard Wright, Henry Miller, William Saroyan, Lawrence Durrell, James Jones, and James Baldwin.
We listened to a book reading, drank some coffee and I inhaled the sweet smell of successful writers, hoping it might rub off and inspire by own writing.
A Happy Birthday
We were excited to share at least some of this art extravaganza with my good friend Tina who celebrated her 50th birthday in Paris (despite The Donald’s warning that Paris has disappeared). Together we hunted down macrons, took a boat tour down the river Seine, and walked many miles exploring shops, cafes and attractions.
Isn’t it Romantic?
Speaking of rivers, isn’t it funny how subjective the word “romantic” is? We each have a different definition of what it means.
For me, that word will be forever synonymous with the image of Joe and I sitting on the deck of a river boat (http://www.canauxrama.com/en/cruise/cruises-canal-saint-martin.html ) in Paris floating along the Canal Saint-Martin. In that image, we are huddled under our umbrellas in pouring rain, drinking wine out of plastic cups while everyone else on the boat peered out foggy windows from the inside.
I’ve never loved my partner more than that moment as drops ran down our noses passing under quaint bridges. OK, maybe I would have loved him just a wee bit more if he'd agreed to add a lock to the thousands on the Pont des Arts Bridge -- the original "love" bridge. Be he wasn't going for it. The locks all get cut down and tossed these days. Joe doesn't like to waste things.
Where’s the Snoot?
I’ve heard many times that the Parisians can be rude or snooty to travelers, especially those who don’t speak French. We certainly did our best with Joe’s attempts to retrieve elementary school French. But we didn’t need to. Everywhere we went Parisian shopkeepers, waiters, ticket takers, even old men on the street were kind and eager to help us find our way or make suggestions for where to eat or visit. Our host Eric even eagerly gave us hints on how we might manage to live in the city for a while – “You are so welcome here,” he told us.
Parisians are haughty and insular? I think not. Case in point. Midway through our stay, I got the idea to ask the locals we encountered to read a few lines of the Ludwig Bemelmans children’s book Madeline -- in French as Joe filmed them. I wanted to make a movie of the edited readings for my daughter, Madeleine. I expected to be snubbed or at least for people to be turned off by the camera, I don’t know, somehow connecting it to terrorism! And yet every time we asked, the request was met with a sweet, enthusiastic smile. “Ahhh Madeline,” the people twittered. Then waiters, boat operators, barkeepers, and teachers alike all picked up the book and read with animated gusto.
I think the rude Parisians must be in the city that The Donald is convinced “is no longer.”
But enough about a man who isn’t even my president. Instead, let me end this post as I ended many a night with my kids when they were small. Here is our friend Eric, reading the end of Madeleine.
"Good night, little girls!
Thank the lord you are well!
And now go to sleep!"
said Miss Clavel.
And she turned out the light-
and closed the door-
and that's all there is-
there isn't any more."
Thank God we will always have Paris.