I first visited Paris in 1971. It was my first city in Europe. I must have been enthralled by all that I saw, because I remember walking the streets from seven in the morning till eleven at night, capping off the evening at a cafe with a glass of vin rouge ordinaire and recording all that I had observed that day in my journal. For example my detailed notes on the Sacre Coeur basilica included this gem of an insight: ”overwhelmed.”
In my most recent trips to Paris, I’ve observed that little of the city had changed. But neither had my powers of observation, so all that had actually changed with the City of Light (the fifty-eight floor Tour Montparnasse, the Pompidou Center, the steel and glass commercial center of Paris known as La Defense and the Charles de Gaulle airport to name just a few of the more monstrous encroachments of modern architecture) had charitably escaped my attention and note.
With Carol, however, I'll have to do better than my last solo trip to Paris, which consisted of spending the afternoon at a cafe across from the Gare Montparnasse train station, sleeping and then leaving the next day by train to Bordeaux. I have managed to come up with a few ideas that may interest Carol, while leaving mostly undisturbed my limited powers of observation and any desire to sightsee. Carol has been to Paris, so she'll easily be able to point out all the places I'll no doubt be leaving out that she'll try her best to compensate for with postcards and exacting those “next time” promises from me, which she hasn't had time as yet to realize are probably utterly empty.
There will be walks, and, of course, busses. The #69 takes you from the Eiffel Tower to the Pere Lachaise cemetery, home to Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and perhaps even myself if I don't at least try to behave a little. I will stifle my default habit for pursuing Hemingway haunts, movie scenes from Midnight in Paris and the tour of the sewers of Paris (now defunct as I understand it) for walks along the Seine, Luxembourg Gardens, Champs Elysée and the Left Bank. I've walked these routes many times, and I can't wait for Carol to point out all that I've missed. ( I know this will happen, too. The other day, I shared with her my multiple frantic searches throughout the house for a laptop I'd all but concluded I'd left behind in Seattle, She thought for a second, slid open a bedroom closet door, and there it was, right where I'd safely stored it just above a drawer I'd earlier searched through twice.) Paris will not look the same to me after this visit I'm sure, because I'll be seeing much of it through Carol’s eyes.
It won't taste the same either. After watching the Paris episode of I'll Have What Phil's Having on Netflix, Carol spied me jotting down the names of the patisseries, chocolatiers and croissant cafes Phil had raved about. “Why are you writing those down?” my healthy-eating traveling companion asked sweetly.
“Places to avoid, my love,” I replied shrewdly, but not really, and I placed my pen quietly back down.
My new book, Paris Without Gaining a Pound, will be out in the Fall. A slim volume for sure.