Paris has a Left Bank and a Right Bank but don't forget Cité and Île St Louis, the islands in the Seine. I spend most of my time on the Left Bank, perhaps because it feels like home. Or does it feel like home because I spend so much time there? An interesting question for a Sunday in Paris. I stroll through the gardens behind Notre Dame and find my way to rue des Chantres. If there is a narrowest street in Paris, this is it. I can literally touch the opposing house walls with outstretched arms. Only motorcycles and pedestrians can travel this street. I turn left onto rue des Ursins. These streets on Cité are the oldest in Paris, missed by Haussmann when he rebuilt the city. I've walked down this street many times, not realizing that on my next return I would be living on it with a view of the Seine from my window. I cross Pont d'Arcole and head for Place des Vosges. This is a peaceful spot, enclosed by apartments with small art galleries and a few cafés scattered along the street level. Most of the time I am passing through on my way to buy film or developer on bd Baumarchais or to have lunch at Bistro Vosges where the saucisson with aligote and a cold beer would have inspired Hemingway to add a chapter to A Moveable Feast! I find an empty bench and sit. The sun feels good on my face and I am in no hurry. Along the pathway from me is someone else, apparently in the same mood, sitting here thinking. Right Bank, Left Bank, what does it matter? Isn't just being here in Paris enough? It's time for a beer at Bistro Vosges, will I see you there?
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Sunday, July 8, 2012
Who dreams of Paris without the sights, sounds and associations of her Métropolitan? What better introduction to Paris life could you have than your first ride on the Métro? If you want to get a feel for the geography of Paris then the Bateaux Mouches or a bus tour will do nicely. But to feel Paris, to understand her people and her history you would do well to spend time with her Métro. The stations are named after people and events that have shaped Paris. They have also become associated with the people who lived and work near them as artists and writers. Here, in the Notre Dames des Champs station, you are removed from today and transported back to the early 1900's. The Métro takes you through time as well as through space, it is one of the ways Paris to seduces you. Perhaps Hemingway used this station when he lived on rue Notre Dame des Champs. His memories of Paris written as A Moveable Feast gave us dreamers our first longing to be here. As the sign promises, this Métro will take you to Montparnasse where history is stacked on history. Hemmingway walked boulevard du Montparnasse and sat in the Cafés, Le Dôme, Le Select, and many others now gone. So many of the artists and writers who have left us memories of Paris walked here before and after Hemingway. The terrace at Le Dôme, in the very late afternoon, as people flow by, transitioning from work to play, is a quiet refuge. A glass of nice white wine, a platter of oysters, and if I try, I can see Picasso, just at the table next to mine when you could get a plate of mashed potatoes and a sausage for a few francs. Do you see him?