25 September 2011


"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." – Ernest Hemingway

I have now been living in Paris for 45 days. 
When you come to a legendary city as a tourist, you try to immerse yourself in a foreign idealism as quickly as possible - forcing yourself to see as many myths as possible in a day, swallowing language, spitting out clichés. A long weekend is spent treading pavements, denying fatigue and perhaps on the last evening you sit in a half-rate bar somewhere near Saint Michel after gloating  round Shakespeare and Company and say 'Yes, this is it! Ah, Paris - it's mine!"
As a new resident, the city opens itself to you slowly. For the first few weeks I was here, I didn't stray farther than the 11th arrondissement where I live on the East of Paris, Le Marais, the Left Bank and the 1st, where I work.  You begin to realise that going for 'dinner' and just drinking wine is the only way you can afford anything on the menu, and that the Sacre Couer actually looks far more spectacular from the Pompidou Centre balcony than the steps of Montmartre themselves. You learn the opening times, and then the cooking times of the bakeries in your quartier off by heart and that you MUST be seen out for 'aperos' with your work friends on a thursday night but never on a Saturday night. 

Paris' speciality is grandeur - sheer scale, size and splendour. What other city's Police HQ resembles one of King Ludwig's castles? Paris's Prefecture de Police on l'Ile de la Cité does. Sometimes the landscape can be overwhelming, so I went in search of a different kind of grandeur - one of decay and names lost in time. A personal splendour, to be found in the Père Lachaise cemetery in the 20th. My brother came for the weekend, and we went in search of our lost heroes, dressed in black and dark glasses. Edith Piaf, Proust, Chopin, Oscar Wilde are buried here amongst Communists, Jews, Artists, Playwrights, Mayors, Poets, Lawyers and burned out Lizard Kings - yes, Jimmy Morrison also lies here. 

I have always had a fondness for cemeteries. The monuments erected to honour the dead far exceed any praise for the living cast in stone or marble. I could have wandered the cobbled paths for hours, counting stained glass windows and dried purple roses. The tomb of Oscar Wilde has been defaced in the name of love - I don't consider it disrespectful as I know the man himself would consider it all a right lark, up there in heaven surrounded by a harem of young boy cherubs...

Pont Alexandre - the most spectacularly grand bridge in Paris
Oh Oscar, you rogue.
View from the Italian galleries, the Louvre.
Tributes for the Lizard King
Parisians are ants


kate woods said...

Just divine my girl. What a wonderful update. I wish you were here today. Today of all days, as most do, i feel that it is my right, nay my divine right to do as i please. Now ignoring the fact that my morning began with the washing up after a heavy wine session last night, and too pay no heed to my looming dissertation proposal submission date, Tuesday, which also happens to be the time by which i need to have read and re-read Brideshead. (I feel incredibly privileged that I can study the glories of Waugh and the likes of Castle Howard for a whole semester). Oh an not forgetting the 7 gigs/shoots I have lined up this week… I feel somewhat overwhelmed on my Birthday. I feel that if you were here we would be breaking in to abandoned buildings and shooting the thorns in the sides of Leeds’ architectural and cultural history. There is no other here that I feel would embrace such a day with me.
Now… We do need to speak soon so we can talk when Lulu and I can come out for a visit. Because Im getting hers for her birthday present I need to book well in advance and need to know the best services etc.

I love you beauty xxxxxxx

polka dot said...

Ah, Imogen, you are such a delight. (Thank you btw: as I replied on my own post - I'm so glad you picked that up with Anna's arms - she's getting her own post shortly).

It's uncanny.. I think I was your age, maybe a bit younger, when I first went to Paris. I was a student in Denmark, and at the time, that was a big deal for Americans: not like now, where every college student does a semester abroad, and with cell phones/emails etc, it hardly makes a difference if one is in another state, or Europe.

But then.. I remember a phone call cost something like $5 a minute, which was the price of a meal at Lutece. My boyfriend was living in a tent in Kauai with his older brother, while they built his house on the beach, and I misunderstood a letter, took off for a month in Europe - including Paris - thinking we'd broken up (we hadn't: his remark about thinking of him as a teardrop in the puddle of life was just his way of saying 'be free, have fun').

For years after, in NY, when I'd get jaded about the city I lived in, I'd think about the excitement I felt in each place in Europe. On a certain day, I'd say 'it feels like being in Paris' and what I meant was, I feel like I'm being more PRESENT. that's all I care about now: not taking anything for granted. You know you're there for a finite amount of time, you want to see, hear, feel, experience everything.

Soak it up. And then carry that feeling to everywhere you go in life.

I love these photos, especially the top one of you, and the one of you kissing Oscar Wild's statue. Do people really write all that in lipstick? Tres cool. And who is that cute boy, is he French?

I still have a post in mind, a tribute to you not being physically present, but there in spirit. I don't know yet how I want to illustrate it. Any suggestions?


the style crusader said...

Absolutely love Ernest Hemingway. Beautiful post, Paris totally suits you. Can't wait to visit... if not before, then definitely in February! It's such a short trip from Zurich, I don't know why I haven't come already! xx

Geneva (apairandaspare) said...

Great write up Imogen - its so true about how you slowly learn about a new city. I'm always excited to read your personal posts! xxx

Coco said...

I love that you love cemeteries! I always feel slightly morbid when I force my friends to spend their birthdays walking with me in all the beautiful cemeteries, but they are so magnificent. Something very special with Père Lachaise, though!

Eva said...

This is a wonderful posts. I've been to Paris twice in the past 6 months (fashion week), but I only stayed 1-2 days. After the first visit, Paris became an obsession. Its energy aligns with mine. I hope once I'll have more than 1 or 2 days.

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