|L'Arc de Triomphe at night|
"Je suis perdu," Louis XVI despaired as he knelt at the guillotine in the Concorde. "There is never any end to Paris," countered Papa Hemingway, some 130 years later, during his self-imposed exile. Both statements resonated as I stepped off the train and into the City of Light.
And thence to a pensione near l’École Militaire, right in the heart of it all; in the heart of this thing they call "Paris." This was not my first visit, but may as well have been: much more than a city, this. An astounding organism: risqué, holy; mocking, gentle; impervious, haughty, humble and vulnerable . . . Paris.
That first night, I wandered through the Place de la Concorde, but heard no lamentations. The ghostly victims of the Terror have passed beyond. Paris rains washed away the blueblood stains of the haughty aristocracy. Now, sidewalks teem with the ultra-chic and their pampered dogs, whom they disdain from cleaning up after.
I walked up the Champs-Élysée, stopping along the way at a bistro for aperitif. It was cold and rainy. But it was Paris. Solitude fit my mood. I was alone at the center of the Western world.
I made an obligatory homage to Leonardo's mysterious Mona, behind the thick glass and the laser beam security, forever beyond our grasp, but taunting us with her enigmatic smile. Then Vincent, Manet, Monet, and Rafael drew me in. No, there would be nothing beyond these masterpieces. They defy you to pass them by. It can't be done.
Four hours later the senses finally succumbed. One eventually becomes insensate, dazzled into submission. And so, it was back out into the Paris streets to visit Our Lady, enthroned on her ait in the Seine.
|Stained glass in Notre Dame Catedral|
|Memorial to Holocaust victims|
For me, American wanderer, standing in a tunnel on an ait in the Seine, it was another humbling and solemn moment: surrounded by the spirits of slaughtered thousands.
|Michael whipping up on Lucifer on the Left Bank|
And so, I rode le Metro to the Left Bank where Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein hung out and drank their wine and dined on escargot et fromage et pain while they wrote their masterpieces. It was here that I found the young people and the smiles and the lighter spirits that defied the gray November skies.
|Nappy and me|
|Chance romance in Versailles, France|
|Packed to the gills in the Hall of Mirrors|
Small wonder that the proletariat rose up back in the day, and exacted such a bloody toll on their overlords. The lavish gardens, the many-mirrored hallways spoke of obscene and unnecessary luxury. But, truth be told, it was far too crowded to enjoy the spectacle. At every twist and turn in the palace was an endless sea of people, stutter-stepping through.
More enjoyable was the interaction when we five went to lunch afterward. Andreas (amiable, over-bearing) brought his huge Greek personality to bear. "No, no, I order for you," he insisted. "I order for all of you! I know what you will like." He pushed the menus out of our hands. And order he did. And it was good. Andreas didn't so much speak as shout. He chain-smoked, dragging off his cigarette between mouthfuls of food. But so good-natured was he that neither I nor even elegant, high maintenance Katie-Teresa could object.
|In the Musée d'Orsay|
|The Gates of Hell|
Paris . . . there is never any end to Paris. Je suis perdue.
To be continued...
- Pt. I Amsterdam - Arnhem - Copenhagen
- Pt. II Copenhagen - Oslo
- Pt. III Bergen
- Pt. IV Flam fjord - Goteborg
- Pt. V Stockholm - Gavle - Stockholm
- Pt. VI Berlin
- Pt. VII Prague
- Pt. VIII Budapest
- Pt. IX Vienna
- Pt. X Munich
- Pt. XI Salzberg - Innsbruck
- Pt. XII Venice - Florence
- Pt. XIII Siena
- Pt. XIV Rome
- Pt. XV Naples - Pompeii
- Pt. XVI Cinque Terre - Geneva
- Pt. XVII Avignon
- Pt. XVIII Arles
- Pt. XIX Barcelona
- Pt. XX San Sebastian
- Pt. XXI Bordeaux - St. Lo
- Pt. XXII Paris
- Pt. XXIII Brussels - Waterloo
- Pt. XXIV Brugge
- Pt. XXV Amsterdam at last