A Love Letter to Paris
Has anyone ever asked you where your mind goes to when it wanders? Mine often goes to Paris.
When I was nineteen, after watching Moulin Rouge with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, I decided to go backpacking. To seize the moment. And I wanted to visit Paris.
I was never one who’d had a romantic notion about Paris. My grandparents spent a lot of time in France and I’d been to Menton in Provence several times, but I’d never fantasized much about going to Paris. Actually, I probably did have a romantic notion or two about the city, but I wasn’t intent on going there like I was New York. It didn’t draw me in. It wasn’t a place I planned on living, just visiting.
After seeing Moulin Rouge though, I decided either to backpack or move to Paris for a while. The bohemian revolution in that film spoke to my heart. I settled for backpacking, but I still ended up living in Paris because that’s where my journey stopped. I didn’t use my ticket to Italy. I stayed in Paris.
I still remember when I first came to Paris. Those first couple of days, walking around the city. I thought to myself that the city was nothing special. I couldn’t see what had made people oh and ah so much about it over the years. It just felt so…normal to me.
I think that was…is…the magic of Paris. To me it felt, and still feels, normal. Back then I guess I felt like I’d finally come home. Not the way I felt when I one day came home to Los Angeles, but the way you feel when a city matches your heartbeat somehow. It’s as if it’s a reflection of a part of your soul. That’s why it feels so normal.
The Paris I See
If someone asks me to describe Paris I don’t know where to start, or what to say even. Paris, to me, is a feeling.
Paris in a sentence? I fear I paraphrase, but as Hemingway said, you can’t be poor in Paris, because you have Paris.
Paris to me is high up in the hilltops of Montmartre at night, walking around, getting lost in the alleyways. As you do, you spot a light in a loft apartment, with big windows, that in the day let in the light and at night allows you to see what little you can see of the stars in the city of light.
As you look in through those windows you see easels. Tubs of paints. Paintbrushes stuck in different jars. Old wine bottles used as candle holders. In a corner there’s an old divan and various sheets to cover it. In another corner there’s a desk with a typewriter.
If you keep walking you’ll stumble into a bar, sooner rather than later. Most likely a French café, which is both a café and a bar. Here you can be served coffee, wine, absinthe, or pretty much anything else you want. This is where you’ll find the heartbeat of Paris. People talking over wine or coffee. Talking about art, about philosophy, business and the meaning of life. People sharing plates of cheese and olives.
In the morning, the same streets will be washed clean by water, as pigeons bathe. The scent of freshly baked goods will float into the air from the different patisseries. People will be walking in the streets to catch the metro to work, as others try to drive in the Parisian traffic. Paris will be alive.
There are other sides to Paris. Walking along empty streets at night, looking into the windows of well-lit art galleries and ateliers. Mingling with the masses of people outside the Louvre and along parts of Rue du Rivoli. Sitting in grand old apartments with high ceilings with intricate details and wooden floors. It’s the view of the city at the top of Galleries Lafayette and Sacre Coeur. It’s the elegant streets surrounding Champs Elysées and my grandma’s reminder to look at the chestnut blossoms along said street in spring. It’s lunches by the Seine where people sit and talk over baguettes and wine. It’s the scent of roasted chestnuts on winter nights. It’s the fog and the rain, making the grey city even grayer, yet making the colors stand out so much more. It’s the nicely dressed Parisiennes and the sound of the French language. It’s the little bookstands along the Seine and the taste of baguettes dipped in hot chocolate. It’s the contrast between the scent of rotten eggs on the metro and the hopeful writers in Shakespeare & Co. It’s cobblestone streets lined with patisseries and shops with walnut bread.
The Essence of Paris
Maybe more so than anything, Paris, to me, is where the artists and thinkers gather. It’s a city filled with art and thought. It’s a place where I feel at home. Sometimes I don’t know if it’s because I grew up with French brands and TV thanks to my grandparents, or because I just fit in with the intellectuals and artists. It just feels right. And when I write, I often end up in Paris. While I may not daydream about it much, when I start typing a plot, the characters tend to find themselves in Paris. Sometimes it’s planned — if I write a film set in Paris it means I have a chance of going back there to make the movie. But ever since I was a kid, my plots were set in France. Provence. The alleyways of my heart where artists lived and saxophones played. Those.
My personal brand, Magique, is inspired by Paris. By the Moulin Rouge. Everything I do, appears to take me back to France.
Los Angeles is home. The place where I feel I belong — the hills, the lights, the stars, the ocean, the movies…but Paris. How can one live without Paris? And a little bit of Provence?
This is a poem I wrote a year and a half ago when I visited Lautrec, France.
The Heartbeat of Paris
empty bottles dancing midnight waltzes
crooked stars singing lullabies
above the hills in montmartre
where paintbrushes are making love to canvases
and typewriters are making out with dreams
back alleys of swirling romances
where dreamers are lost
and artists are found
have their own merry tales
of charcoal smudged fingers
tracing the sensual outline of bodies
and the wrinkled realities of the soul
secret streets have seen
wine dipped poetry
falling out of tipsy pockets
only to be stolen by the wind
and read by the city
under some old streetlight
where you can still hear the violin of romance
fueling first kisses
and improper conversation
amidst philosophical arguments
and the ever-present heartbeat
of the city of paris
If you want to read more of my poetry, you can find my business, Magique, on Insta, where I try to update poem weekly.