Paris revisited 2021

Photos by Asus Zenfone 8.

It was lovely to be there. As so often before. The particular smell of the Metro was filtered out by the face masks, and I missed it. Echoes of Covid 19, together with the need to book museums up front. Though in fact it wasn´ t an absolute requirement.

We stayed in an airBnB – actually LivinParis, would´ ve been cheaper – in Rue de l´ Echiquier, close to Porte St Denis and the Bonne Nouvelle Metro. Up a crumbling staircase with wires hanging out, and inside it was brand new and very comfy for 9 people. The rest of the house inhabitated by ordinary residents.

And the weather was magnifique, and the people of Paris were friendly! Maybe tourist fatigue hadn´ t set in yet. I talked to a cop, shopkeepers, security guards, taxi-drivers, waiters, Metro-staff and museum staff in my decent French, and everyone was friendly, patient and forthcoming.

We did the sights, and they delivered. I missed Notre Dame. Sitting in that cathedral it´ s easy to feel humble. We will be back.

@Louvre the Victory from Samotrace always talks to me.

Mona Lisa is more of a study in sociology than a study in art; how do humans behave in front of a famous piece of art? The description of the painting, how it came about, that it´ s unfinished, was more interesting! And so was reading about the impressionists at Musée d´Orsay and seeing the contrast with what was then comme il faut – huge paintings of past heroics. Did the impressionists use the camera? I hadn´ t noticed “Camille sur son lit de mort” by Claude Monet before. Look it up on the 5th floor at the M´O. Haunting.

Sacre Coeur. I sat there a rainy December evening many years ago with a Parisian girl who was mourning the recent loss of her grandmother. The aisles were sparsely filled with people past their first youth voicelessly mouthing their prayers. Very different to rushing in and out with the tourist crowds on a sunny October day.

Catacombs. La tour Eiffel. Walking along the Seine, and the hop-on-hop-off bus. Awful coffee. Lovely pain au chocolat and more awful coffee. Great falafel in Le Marais. Mediocre Boeuf Bourgignon in Le Marais – but great wine, again from Burgundy (“Bourgignon”).

I did a short pilgrimage to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Talked to a French couple in their early 70-ies and strolled around the small, unusual park. Visitez-le!

The monuments, the avenues, or should I say Boulevards. The stolen art. This is the capital of an Empire, built by Napoleon III and Eugène Haussmann. Napoleon also oversaw a major colonial expansion – Vietnam, Cambodia, and islands in the pacific. How much of Paris´ splendour was financed by this?

Around the corner from our flat, Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis. Streetside cafés, cigarette smoke, beer and beggars. The one who accosts me hardly speaks any French, but great English. He´s from India. The next day in a neat, clean well-stocked small supermarket the lady at the counter hardly speaks any French, but some English. She´ s from Colombo, Sri Lanka. “Paris no belle ville”. She longs for Colombo.

I suppose that´ s how it´ s supposed to be. The ugly and the beautiful side by side. But you got to hand it to the French – when it comes to taking care of the patrimoine culturel, they are up there with the best.

“Paris vaut bien une messe” still rings true.

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