Paris is good for the soul…and for a gal’s confidence.
I’m flying home to Oz after attending a friend’s wedding soiree in Paris. More on the entertaining nuptials in a later post, but top billing goes to the City of Love itself.
Coincidentally, I arrived in ‘Gay Paree’ on Valentine’s Day. The symbolism of the timing wasn’t lost on this hopeless romantic, but I was a little concerned the greeting card schlock that infects February 14th would be tackily overwhelming in such a setting. And, while a moody early morning walk along the misty Seine was evocative and inspiring, there was plenty of kitsch on offer. I began the day, culinarily speaking, with a heart-shaped baguette and then downed a sin-sationalheart-shaped tarte au chocolat for lunch which was topped with rose petals and just melted on my tongue. Meanwhile, the streets around the Eiffel tower were teaming with florists doing a booming trade in sweet smelling blooms of all varieties and lovers canoodled and giggled as they walked along the river bank.
Strangely, none of this seemed contrived. The inherent romance of this city is actually enhanced by a near spiritual celebration of passion. If you allow yourself to soak up its beauty with your eyes and ears; walk its monument-laden boulevards, cobble-stoned rues and riverside quais; and linger in Museums and galleries displaying extraordinary talent and genius, you can’t help but fall in love…
Later that afternoon I visited the famous old bookshop, Shakespeare and Co. which sits alongside the Seine opposite Notre Dame. It was a memorable haunt of Anais Nin, Alan Ginsburg and other lauded authors who wrote in its rooms and at nearby bistros. A quote from Nin now hangs above one of the overstuffed bookshelves: "And there by the Seine was a bookshop...An utrillo house, not too steady on its foundations, small windows wrinkled shutters. And there was George Whitman, undernourished, bearded, a saint amongst his books, lending them, housing penniless friends upstairs, not eager to sell in the back of the store, in a small overcrowded room, with a desk, a small stove" (Anais Nin, Diary, Vol 5) I poked and prodded the eclectic collection - which includes some Nin-vintage volumes - until I found something that satisfied: a book of love letters from contemporary authors including Margaret Atwood. What a fabulous Valentine's Day find!
Paris has it all: the language; the salons, bistros and brasseries; high culture; lunchtime discussions about politics and philosophy as heated as a ménage a trois; and then there’s French men… . Notoriously chauvinistic, they also have a seductive way with flattery…and that accent! I speak from (very limited) experience here. My confidence received a welcome boost during my walks between the Latin Quarter and the Right Bank. On one evening saunter along the Seine I actually lost count of the number of men who made passes at me.
I laughed at the first one…he leapt across my path and his hand swooped to the ground to collect a gold ring which lay at my feet. Locking his eyes on mine, he smiled and said “Bon chance, madame” (we’ll ignore the fact I’m apparently no longer mistaken for a mademoiselle!) and winked before watching me walk away. A total cliché, and I’m pretty sure sleight of hand was involved. But my new green hat (“Ooh it matches your eyes and sets off your red ‘air booty-fully”, cooed the very attentive gay designer…I bought three of his ‘ats!) may have had something to do with the performance.
On the next block a stylishly-clad and stubbled motorcyclist drove up onto the pavement in front of me, stopped, got off his bike, turned to me, made penetrative eye contact and said “Ooh, la, la!” No, I hadn’t been drinking on the evening in question – but I obviously had something going on! If it wasn’t the hat, maybe it was the super-stylish vintage coat I was wrapped in (newly purchased from the Montmartre flea markets, it was certainly irresistibly alluring to my wallet!)? Or perhaps I’d managed, after careful study, to cultivate that disdainful, haughty, sexy expression Parisian women seem to wear so effortlessly?
The compliments and bad French pick-up lines continued: one guy, who spun on the spot after walking past me, said something that sounded like “Phwaah, la, la”. Then there was the group of school boys led by a cocky blonde-haired wannabe-seducer who made his friends look at “la belle madame”. Mrs Robinson, look out! ;) At that point, I developed a theory about my strange appeal on the streets of Paris that evening – I’m a lass who’s fond of colour and whose red locks and ample curves make her stand out from the parade of monochromatically stylish, classically beautiful and uber thin Parisian women. (Where do they store all that cheese, bread and wine?) Perhaps, for once, the features I tend to complain about became assets? Either that or the men of Paris had been bewitched that evening…could have been the full moon.
Whatever the reason, I have to admit I enjoyed the attention. (I promise I’m not normally this gullible or narcissistic – it usually takes a lot more than flattery to make me swoon!). I blame it on Paris – seductive; moody; strikingly beautiful… it messes with your receptors.
Quick, pass me those hand-made chocolates! I have 8 hours of flight time left before I can find a cold shower and land back in reality. Forgive me if I’d rather stay airborne with my head in the clouds.
This is moi in that green hat! [read more]
26 February, 2008
Paris is good for the soul…and for a gal’s confidence.
Posted by J-scribe at 9:27 pm