Under The Paris Sky
“Somewhere in Paris / A quaint café / Quiet and soundless / A starry night / The city it sleeps / The Frenchmen await / A small revolution / Tonight / Somewhere in Paris / A quaint café / Waiting for change / Dawn of a day.” (Café Paris, Arthur Q. Kromwelle)
By this time Paris must have already been “touched” by the dawns of a new day and thus we may as well roam across its streets in search of that je ne sais quoi it certainly holds in it. Every or almost every person who has been there once had two options at hand, namely to like it or not to like it, to come back or just decide that it’s not worth revisiting it. Though I guess there also comes to exist a third option, namely to love it.
What inspired me to roam if only in writing now on the streets of Paris must have been the words once uttered by E. Y. Harburg “April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom, holiday tables under the trees.” This and the charm I once encountered there…To me, the language sounds melodious, the people welcoming you at no means with a “bonjour” that you cannot hear but in France, one that certainly involves some rolling of one’s r’s and the whole city of Paris coming over you and dazzling you with a whole army of lights, lights that could not escape one’s eyes even if he wished for this to happen have certainly made their way towards my mind and soul. A city respiring in culture, traversed by magnificent bridges displaying equally magnificent architecture, the water course of Seine carrying with it stories known by itself only, stories a step away only waiting to make themselves heard…
Much like Victor Hugo once said “Respirer Paris, cela conserve l’ame”, in translation “To inhale Paris preserves the soul.” Inhaling Paris in fact supposes inhaling elegance, poetry, glitter and either love it or feel suffocated by all these things coming at once. Not many of those planning to cross again the boundaries of Paris have knowledge about the fact that Paris was initially not called Paris but Lutentia Parisiorum, a place inhabited by Celts, inhabitants often referred to as “Parisii”. Nothing strange till now…yet if we follow the path of Latin we discover that “lutum” literally refers to mud and thus the “city of lights” that we all know under the name of Paris gets to be identified on the map of Europe as “the mud town of the Parisii”.
Yet, it looks to me that the “Parisii” and the “mud” certainly managed to conquer the heart of many. Paris certainly did not always looked like today and certainly the bridges uniting the Right and Left banks of the Ile de la Cite assuredly did not always had today’s aspect, mainly because there was a time when they were nothing but two wooden bridges. And I am referring now to the amazing stone made Pont Neuf and to the nevertheless interesting Pont St. Michel.
Speaking about bridges, bridges which certainly borrow Paris a certain air of elegance when stepping on Pont Neuf you’d better envisage it as the “eldest existing bridge in Paris”, a bridge which has certainly witnessed a whole bunch of things ever since King Henry IV made up his mind to set the foundation of it in 1578. A place of promenade, a place which got to be traversed daily by many people having in their mind a definite well established destination or just meaning to politely salute the crossers-by, thus getting to satisfy their socializing needs.
Mentioning bridges in Paris I may as well stop to notice the Seine River. And while in Paris, one cannot but choose to cruise down this river in search for enticing views over the many amazing sites Paris shares with its visitors and locals as well. What better way to grasp the poetry of Paris if not by choosing to swallow it bite by bite at sunset? And while doing this, meaning, while devouring the Parisian night, you may simply do it at the board of a boat, cruising Seine at night and watching the sun setting over the by now representative Eiffel Tower. Bateaux Parisien certainly holds the secret of such a cruise and you’d better ask them when getting for the first time or again to Paris. Therefore, let’s set our clocks according to the time when the sun makes up its mind to go to sleep!
And as the sun sets over Eiffel Tower one may as well choose to see the Paris from the heights of this tower, being offered a nevertheless amazing if not breathtaking panorama. Yet, before getting on top of this tower and feeling like enslaving Paris for a moment only though, you have to have patience and make your way through the crowds wishing to get there too, just like you. At least this was my case…it may as well not be yours. When there I witnessed people simply shouting “Paris je t’aime” as well as people who seemed to transmit by means of their attitude or face only that it was a joy to be there, yet they expected much more from this trip to the heights of Paris. I know not which your case may be…yet when in Paris your steps should take you there, in the direction of the Tower known under the name of Eiffel or in this direction too as there are assuredly many other places to be explored while in Paris. And just to sort of spice up the heights of Paris I may as well feed your curiosity, if any of course, and tell you that I did manage to read on some internet site that “there have been 200 suicide attempts from jumpers off the Eiffel Tower, 198 successful.” Talking about suicide attempts and romance in Paris there steps in a story telling us that “One man actually fell on an awning that eased his fall, but the other survivor, a woman, fell on the soft top of a car, the owner of which she went on to marry.” Doesn’t this simply spell romance?
And simply if you like heights more than anything else in the world and you prefer looking at things from upside down, if I am allowed to say so, then you may equally well search for such places as the top floor of the institute du Monde Arabe and while there have a panorama over things tasting like mint and carrying the flavor of pastries in it or on the roof of the Printemps department store as Paris connoisseurs often recommend the beginners into Paris matters and places. These matters may carry such a name as “Paris from High up”…it all depends just how high up things get to be…
A visit to our lady or Notre Dame as the French refer to the cathedral one may track down sitting peacefully on “the eastern half of the Île de la Cité ”should certainly be included on your list of To do things while in Paris. Early in the morning could be the proper time for you to wish to see the cathedral closely, as this comes to be a moment when even the sun caresses it gently with its rays of light (the western façade certainly knows what I am talking about) and a time when things tend not to get that crowded as they may in other moments of the day.
I shall end this part by choosing to quote John Berger who once said that “Every city has a sex and an age which has nothing to do with demography. […]” and in this equation “Paris […]” gets to be envisaged as “a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.”11