Today most bloggers take to their keyboards about Friday night’s attack on Paris. I think it would be virtually impossible not to – this is akin to September 11, 2001. A country devastated, its people feeling unsafe and unsettled, mourning the loss of so many innocents, not knowing what’s coming.
What can I bring to this subject that is new, different, or otherwise? Honestly, I don’t know. I just think back on the memories I made in this beautiful country, and its capital city over the course of my life and all I can think of is its beauty, its mystery, its joie de vivre.
I was about nine years old the first time I went to Paris. My siblings and I dutifully shuffled along behind our parents and oohed and aahed at all the right things – the Eiffel Tower, The Arc de Triumph, the Louvre… I’m guessing the Seine and a handful of other things. To be honest, these are pretty vague.
What stuck in my head was this:
· People sitting at cafes drinking coffee and smoking and laughing. Mostly laughing. Engaging with each other.
· Women dressed beautifully, gliding down the street, going somewhere and that somewhere felt like it ought to be fabulous and where I needed to go, as well.
· One single glance into a boulangerie forever cemented my love affair with all things bread and pastry. Since this past spring, when I gave up gluten, I have many a time wondered how people in France could possibly go gluten-free. I can only assume that gluten intolerance doesn’t exist. Which makes me wonder if many or any French people are lactose intolerant. I can’t imagine anything stranger.
My father introduced me to Edith Piaf that summer. My love for her will last a lifetime. A woman whose pain and determination allowed her to sing the words to this song like no other.
I think back to the summer of 1995, an epic, “quality” summer and returning to this amazing corner of the world. We were a large group of Architecture and Landscape Architecture students loose on the world, traveling with backpacks, stumbling about because we were continually looking upwards or in the distance, always pointing with fascination and delight. We were poor, so we didn’t see many glamorous spots, but we saw the people, the buildings, the roads, the avenues, drank wine, ate at farmer markets, peered through shop windows, and sat at cafés drinking coffee. We slept on the beaches of Saint Tropez, ate exquisite calamari in Sète while watching gondola jousting. We walked every step Cezanne took, we lingered at Giverny, and we wished for money to partake in wine tours! Each and every one of us fell madly in love with France, in one aspect or another.
For myself, I wanted three things to happen. I made a wish list for myself. I wanted to buy lingerie and perfume in Paris. I wanted to visit the ancient Roman Pont du Gard aqueduct which crosses the Gardon River in Remoulins, in southern France, and picnic. (Weird maybe, but in college I wrote a paper about Pliny the Elder and this seemed like something he would do.) Thirdly… I wanted to fall in love with a Frenchman and stay there forever.
I didn’t marry a Frenchman from France, but I did have a fling. Does that count? On the streets of Paris I met a lovely boy who took me to a bar next to the launderette where my clothes whirled about, and proceeded to dazzle the pants off me.
Well past the years that I would wander into a dark corner in pursuit of l’amour, I still find myself passionately in love with the city, the country, its people. There are endless people clacking away on their keyboards saying the same thing, and my only hope is that the citizens of France and those across the world who lost loved ones in the attack on Friday night, feel our love, because I know they are too busy, too sad, to read our blogs.
Je me souviens.
Thanks for reading.