I knew that Paris would be different – no place stays the same, and with the passage of over 30 years I was a different person than I was in my 20s. There are a lot more chains and franchises now, the ubiquitous Starbucks, KFC, and Subway; the seedy areas I remembered from long ago are now upscale and stylish. There was also a heatwave, with temperatures in the 30s (Celsius), and almost as much English and Chinese spoken as French. It was, after all, the height of the tourist season, and not the optimal time for experiencing “typically French” atmosphere – if, in fact, there ever is such a time in the most-visited city on earth.
I was gripped by melancholy a few weeks before my trip; memories and regrets of my youth , a Christmas spent in Paris with my brother and our mother in 1979, worries that I would confront fragments of my lost self at every turn. Instead, I simply enjoyed myself. Yes, Paris is in many ways just another big and indifferent city, but my focus this trip was to see things I had missed before, and to enjoy the first trip of my life not regulated by constant money concerns. Above all, I wanted to eat.
I was actually in Paris twice, for 4 days each time, bookending my visit to Provence and a week in Marseille in between. It’s just the way it worked out. I stayed at the Pavillon Opera Bourse, just across the street from the Folies Bergere, and near two monuments of my youth in the Rue du Faubourg Montmartre: the restaurant Chartier and the theater Le Palace, formerly the famous disco where why brother and I spent New Years Eve 1980, and where we saw Divine in person.
I can’t go into all the details of the trip at the moment; they’re still too fresh in my mind and it will take weeks to sort them out, at about the same pace that I’m editing the photos from my trip taken with my fabulous new Fujifilm X-T1. My days were usually divided in two: a morning walk from about 8 to 12 or 1:00, lunch, then a return to the hotel for a nap, followed by more walking and eating in the evening. It didn’t get dark until 11:00 p.m., which was disorienting, making the days seem endless, and I never really saw Paris by night.
Le petit déjeuner
Some of my favorite things: snacking throughout the day, or what I called my eternal “menu dégustation;” exploring the covered shopping passages, especially the close-by Passages Verdeau, Jouffroy, and Panoramas; visiting epiceries to sample delicacies; and three meals in particular, at Restaurant Astier (I’ll post photos later), Chez Denise for the perfect steak-frites, and at Le Trumilou (see photos below).
I’ll continue to post in the days ahead, with details of my 3 days in Arles, including Les Rencontres de la Photographie, a week in Marseille, and a day in Aix-en-Provence, where I spent 6 months of my scholarship year of study in my 20s.
Le Trumilou, French home cooking
Selections of patés as a starter
Salmon with spinach and carrots
Selection of 3 cheeses