Monday, 25 April 2011

See Paris and love


I love Easter, I love spring and I love Paris. When I combine the three nothing could be more perfect. I got back from a long weekend in the city earlier this evening, a lovely time in a perfect place, my favourite in all the world. Paris holds no more secrets for me; there is nothing fresh to be discovered; I have been so many times before, from early childhood onwards. Yet it never ever fails to charm.

My parents have a small flat close to the centre, allowing me to explore the city and its surroundings, to develop an intimacy with it over the years. I don’t go as frequently as I used to – it’s a year since I was there last - but I make the most of the time I have had. I love introducing Paris to new people, to friends coming to the city for the first time, or who may not know it as well as I do.

But Easter, the feast of Ostara, a time quickening and renewal, is more personal, a time for greater intimacy, a time for long walks, quite talks, leisurely lunches and magical dinners. It was a time for me and the person who is closest to me, just ourselves alone. We didn’t really do anything special, just relished the opportunity to be together and to reflect, to let the city exert its own romance in some of the more out of the way gardens, or bathe ourselves in the magical light of the most perfect gothic church in Europe, lovers hand in hand.


To Versailles also, not to see the palace – there is no more that it has to tell - but simply to sit once again in the shade of the trees and watch Apollo arise from the waters! The chestnut groves here are special to me, a place I came to in my teens, a place I have brought so many others since, to picnic in dreams. Here I always say my own silent prayer for Marie Antoinette, my favourite queen, who last saw these gardens in October 1789, before being marched off to the capital by the canaille vomited out from the city slums.


From the groves of Versailles on to Montmartre, sitting by the basilica of Sacré-Cœur, looking across the rooftops from the highest point in the city, all bathed in a sublime spring light. Sacré-Cœur isn’t an old church, dating no further back than the 1870s, when it was constructed in part as a memorial to those murdered by the leftist Communards of 1871. I find the interior uninspiring but I’ve loved the building itself ever since I saw it from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, that brilliant white edifice punctuated against an empty blue sky.


This morning we went Père Lachaise to lay some lilies on the grave of the Divine Oscar, forever reposed under Jacob Epstein’s ugly flying sphinx. I see the lipstick tributes are as bad as ever, despite admonitions against such desecration and regular clean ups. If you want to know, yes, I did resist the temptation! I first came here with mother, from whom I inherited my enthusiasm for Wilde, on 30 November, 2000, the hundredth anniversary of his death. I was only fourteen at the time, wholly beguiled by the experience, seeing all sorts of celebrants and outcasts coming to mourn, some attired in late Victorian dress!


In the afternoon, shortly before we left, there was one last thing we had to do – go and sit in the little park at the tip of the Île Saint-Louis, possibly the most romantic spot in the most romantic city in the world. See Paris and live; see Paris and love.

29 comments:

  1. Ciao Ana! Your writing is like a story and I could picture you walking through Paris, like a true Parisienne, pointing out the sightseeing in Paris ^_^.

    I visited Paris two times, both times, I've been there way too short to truly capture the French vibe. What I saw was lovely do.

    I want to wear a Victorian Dress one day! Also, I just love your full name! It's gorgeous.

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  2. It seems that you and yours had a good time, that is good.

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  3. The second paragraph seems a bit off, or is it just me?

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  4. I've been there too and I agree it's a magic city. New York City is my personal #1 but Paris comes close :)

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  5. TJ, thank you so much. You are really sweet. :-)

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  6. Anthony. I did, a really great time. The par seems OK to me but if you think it unclear on any point I'll change it.

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  7. Duot, I like New York too. Have you ever dined in Per Se? It's my favourite restuarant in the city.

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  8. The second sentence? Perhaps an American-UK English difference.

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  9. happy easter ana. I love paris as well, even I never been there before. I hope someday :)
    and oh, I deactive my blog catalog account. I hope we do keep in touch via blog.
    have a nice day ana :)
    sorry for my bad english.

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  10. Wow, I dont think I could disagree more.
    Paris is hell on earth, it would surely be hell in hell!
    And of all the Royals who bought it in revolution, surely Marie and Louis were by miles the most deserving?

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  11. I was wondering how your weekend went, now we know! Thank you for sharing, it might be a cliche, but you certainly make Paris feel like a city of love.

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  12. Anthony, you were right! I was too close to the coal face to see that odd 'to'. :-))

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  13. Maya, I understand you perfectly. I would be happy to see you here any time. Did you have a problem on Blog Catalogue? I sincerely hope not.

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  14. RT, I don’t think it’s a question of agreement or disagreement; one either loves a place or one does not. Paris is hell to drive in, I’ll certainly give you that much!

    Louis XVI was the most liberal and most humane of all the Bourbons. I hope you don’t harbour the ‘let them eat cake’ myth about Marie Antoinette; for it is exactly that – a myth. She was a woman of great dignity, composure and courage. Her conduct at Versailles in October 1789 provides ample evidence of that. The indignities she had to put up with thereafter, including perfectly foul accusations levied by that political pornographer Jacques Hebert during her ‘trail’ in 1793, would have destroyed all but the strongest. I think of her not just at Versailles but whenever I have visited the Conciergerie in Paris, where her cell has been preserved. The last time I was there I wore my blue fleur-de-lis scarf.

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  15. yeah,as if, an evening in paris,very till your vacation spent there.Lovely one.

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  16. Did you walk through Luxembourg gardens Ana?

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  17. ...and this is why I love reading 'Ana the imp'!! A picture perfect tour of Paris without even leaving my armchair...Very nice, Ana : )

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  18. Nobby, not this time. Many times before, though.

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  19. Paris always seemed to me a dreamy city that never grew up and got a job. Unlike London or New York or Hong Kong - dirty, messy, working cities devoted to making, and getting, and trading - Paris belongs among the half-world capitals like Vienna and Washington, D.C., that devoted themselves to serving those most remote from the material world who worship 'power' and 'rule' and 'authority' as though those things mean something divorced from their execution in the physical world.

    There is no doubt such cities glow with the light of faerie, but that is just what makes me uneasy about spending much time there. Dreams can be dangerous.

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  20. Calvin, you've captured the essence of the place, precisely why I love it so, a city of dreams, half-real in a half-light. I love to live dangerously. :-)

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  21. Nope, never been to that restaurant, but I'll surely check it out next time :)

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  22. When you do you must let me know what you think.

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  23. Hi Ana,
    Sounds like you had a wonderful holiday in a wonderful place. I'm glad :-)

    When you mention Paris and Montmartre, I cannot help being reminded of one of my favorite (well, among comedies anyway) movies, the Blake Edwards farcical comedy, The Great Race, with Tony Curtis (good guy in white) pitted against Jack Lemmon (bad guy in black) in an early motorcar race from New York to Paris. Have you seen it? It's utterly silly, but also utterly irresistible.

    Near the end of the film, in the home stretch of the race through the streets of Paris, Lemmon makes a wrong turn and Curtis, when urged by his companion who swears "I know Paris" to make the same turn, he replies, "So do I! If we turn left there, we'd end up on the Montmartre steps!" and the scene immediately cuts to Lemmon and his assistant, jiggling in his car as it bounds down the Montmartre steps...

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  24. Jay, I don't think I know that movie. What I do know is that driving in Paris is a complete nightmare!

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  25. I've been to France twice but never, yet to Paris. I'd rather go with someone, preferably a companion of the opposite sex(!). Maybe it will never happen and I will wait till I am overtaken by Le Bon Dieu's command "Leave Him." But this is one city I long to visit one day.

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  26. What, you've never been to Paris?! Go, now, at once. :-)

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