I Have Been Stalking Paris


rue Cler cobblestones

It’s been going on for weeks now.  It started with a movie – I don’t even remember which one now, but something from Warner Brothers, made in the 40s I’m sure, set in Paris – and I began to do a little internet research, borrowed some books from the library, started listening to podcasts in French (because, you know, my French is so good!).  And then I began to pull out some cookbooks, some of my parents’ cookbooks from their adventures to France.

La Fromagier

This lead me to a little more research on line.  I learned about rue Cler, one of the great open air marche’s in the city, with wonderful fromageries like the one pictured above, and patisseries, like the one below.

La Patisserie

And I began to read about cooking schools and language schools, about walking tours of the city and using the bikes available to rent everywhere (the Velib system).  I learned about the easy-to-use Metro, the buses that are almost as good and offer wonderful sights along the route.  I came down on the side of Musee d’Orsay over Le Louvre (line-ups can be such a bore on holiday, don’t you think?).  I worried about the pickpockets and the gold ring scams.  In my head, my suitcase has been packed and unpacked a dozen times, at least twice for every season, as I debated the bliss of Paris in April with the fresh fruits and flowers v. the relative calm and contentment of a quieter, cooler, rainier Paris in November.  I visited every website I could find with apartments for rent because, as expensive as some of those might be, I will never be able to afford Le Bristol Hotel, to which I have given my heart.  I became a lurker on Trip Advisor and even posted once or twice, offering up my opinion.  Not because I know Paris, but because… well, because I think I should know Paris.

Once, a long time ago, when I was young and foolish and thought that Paris would always be there, I decided to merely travel through it, on my way to see my pilot husband, sailing somewhere in the Med.  So my only experience with Paris was 5 hours in Le Gare du Nord, waiting for a train to take me south to Rome.  That’s it.  That’s my experience with Paris.  And for the past several weeks I have felt bereft, empty, lonely for a city I haven’t really ever seen.

There just is something about Paris that has generated in me such feelings of… longing, of belonging, of being drawn to the romance, the pride, the beauty, the smells and tastes of history and art and culture and, yes, the food & wine that so defines the city.

When my parents went to France, they planned in great detail their dining adventures.  My mother was in the business after all, so she wanted to see and taste and feel what made food so different in France.  As I stalk the city, I read the reviews of restaurants, find out what people like and don’t like, how they find themselves surprised by the formality of even the smallest cafes, how they finally learn to embrace the pleasure of savouring a meal and not rushing through it.  And in my reading I think I might have found the cafe for me…

Leo le Lion

Leo le Lion is a little bistrot in the 7th arr which has no stars, no one famous amongst its clientele, it’s just… part of the neighbourhood, the warp and weave of a village within a city, welcoming residents and visitors alike with good food and excellent service.  This is where I will have my first dinner in Paris.

When our lives turtled a couple of years ago, any plans or ideas I might have had for travelling overseas were halted.  There is no short-term plan for me to be in Paris… or anywhere else that I cannot reach in a half tank of gas or less… but still, I dream.

I walk the Champs de Mar, the paths along the Seine, the rue Commerce.  I visit les passages, the undercover ‘streets’ of Paris where sweet little boutiques can be found.  I sit in Notre Dame for Sunday morning mass, listening to the Gregorian service and bathe in the sound and glory.  I drink champagne at every meal and indulge in a croissant for every breakfast.  I sit in Rodin’s garden and let my mind wander with The Thinker.  I visit Giverny and wish again with all my heart that I could paint but as long as I can gaze upon Monet’s work, will let that joy suffice.  I wake up early to take photos of a rising sun lighting the golden domes and stay up late to stroll the cobblestones in the rain.

Paris, I am stalking you… I am loving you… I am missing you…. and someday, we will be together.

Paris in the rain

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19 thoughts on “I Have Been Stalking Paris

  1. Omg just loooove these photos from Paris! I totally hear you.. felt so sad bidding farewell to lovely Paris! Plus the fact that I can’t find any pain au chocolat as delicious as those in Paris in where I live made me longing to return for another visit… one day we will be there again! 🙂

    • Thank you Juliet! I do appreciate hearing from people who read the blog – especially comments from those I do not know. Friends & family are always kind; sometimes another perspective is good. Here’s to Paris, always.

  2. Dearest Donna…
    The moment I have the money, trust me, this is what I will be doing!!
    Jeff has no desire to go to Paris (philistine!) but I am not adverse to travelling alone, to keeping my schedule, eating where I choose. Of course, it also forces me to finish entire bottles of wine… Small sacrifice but one I think I can make 🙂
    Thanks for reading.

  3. When next we are in the same country, my dear, I will bring a bottle of Perrier-Jouët and we will sip and chat on your veranda as if on the shores of the Seine. If I close my eyes, I can still see the flower shop where long stems of irises and roses were held in the most elegant vases high above a black and white marble floor. Your description takes me back to a time and place …ah Paris in the spring is never forgotten.

    • Sounds wonderful… especially the Perrier-Jouët part! But then, my dear, dear friend, you know I am a sucker for good champagne. We’ll have fresh strawberries and a particularly fine duck pate to go with the bubbles, and ignore the sirens as they wail past my verandah 🙂

    • Oh, Susan! In a heartbeat!! You’ll be forced to watch me eat escargots at least one night for dinner, but otherwise… There would be much cooking, much drinking, much walking, and lots of people watching. If I ever save up enough money… we’ll talk.

  4. There are sirens even in Paris. To get the mood of my first experience there – watch American Dreamer with JoBeth Williams, Tom Conti, Giancarlo Giannini, Coral Browne. I had the most unusual week – conference by day, black tie dinner every night, a three-hour one on one discussion with Arthur C. Clarke at La Conciergerie in the middle of a huge reception. The next night a televised dinner for 750 at Le Bourget, with “Les Cages aux Folles” dancers on the catwalks above; even a marriage proposal from a very inebriated Swiss journalist …while Paris is never boring, it has yet to compare with that week …

  5. Dia,
    Similar to yours, my only experience of Paris is 4 hours at CDG airport, waiting to know if the volcanic ash cloud of 2010 would dissipate quickly enough to allow me continue on to Moscow.
    You paint an almost un-matchable picture of Paris, and I hope when your time comes, Jeff will join you, and that it turns out to be everything you want and dream of – plus more.

    • Dear David –

      Imagine how much fun you might have had if the ash cloud had kept you in Paris for even one day!! As for Jeff coming with me… only if we go to France in winter so he can escape for a few days to Tignes to go skiing with Alexis & Natacha & Matteo in the Alps while I continue to stalk the museums and marches.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the story – when my brother the poet likes something, I always think I might be on to something.

  6. My experience in Paris is one overnight stay on the way home from Morocco and Algeria. My travel agent had recommended a hotel near the airport, a bit prosaic but oh so practical; from the airport I hopped on a train right to downtown Paris. It really was April, and it was lovely. I watched handsome young men playing music on the banks of the Seine and laughing with passing girls. Strolled across the Pont Neuf. And, it was a mistake to go into the Louvre, not because of the crowds, just because its a big, confusing labyrinth of art; but the lowest level where the ancient foundations have been excavated was wonderful. Thanks for the blog. It took me back!

    • Dearest Cuz,

      I am so glad my memories-to-be sparked old ones for you! I have myself decided that I will by-pass Le Louvre on my first visit to Paris (if it is for only a week; my friend Maggie insists, after reading this blog, that I move there!) in favour of d’Orsay and Rodin but really… if all one did was simple listen to young musicians and watch the passing parade, maybe drink a little wine, chew a little cheese & bread, that’s all one needs to do in Paris, isn’t it?

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and write to me… we are an awful family at staying in touch but now that I have your e-address, I will try to do better.

  7. Susan proposed a threesome, I propose a foursome…you, me, Jeff & Dave. Paris has been on my bucket list since I got out of high school. Someday, indeed and the experience would be that much better with you…but first, we must plan a trip to Buffalo 🙂

    • Oh yes!! I’ll still go with Susan… but then you & Dave can help me gang up on Jeff, with Susan on the sidelines saying all those things that she says best 🙂 to encourage him to enjoy the City of Lights with his lovely wife, and we’ll do a couples trip. I even have the perfect 2-bedroom apartment all picked out in the 7th arr. with a full kitchen (I can cook! I can cook! In French!) with a washer-dryer (so we only have to pack half-full suitcases, the better for bringing home treats!). And now that the housing question has been settled, we just have to figure out when. Sometime after I’ve saved up enough money, of course….

  8. OK I had tiime to go back and look for the correct place to comment. Great story – makes me want to go to Paris, though it was never on my list. Just go…

    • Ohhhh, I’m going. It’s the when, which in turn is mostly about the money. But then, somehow, it’s always about the money, isn’t it?? I have had a number of offers of travelling companions – NOT including your brother – so we’ll see how that works out 🙂 I am so glad you like the essay… I do keep trying.

  9. Pingback: Charlie Bone Tabloids: Manfred Bloor Found in Paris! | The Charlie Bone Blog

  10. Intoxicating image of a beautiful city. I spent 3 days there when I was 14 and I don’t think I slept more that 6 hours over the entire weekend because there was just too much fun and exploration and cheese to be had!

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