visits Paris in France


Stewart Collins

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Blinded by the City of Light — Paris!

Stewart Collins

Article © 2007 Stewart Collins

T/T #80
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Feature Article

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The people… the sounds… the sights… I was blinded by the city of light

Carousel and Sacre Coeur, Paris - click to enlarge

Carousel and Sacre Coeur, Paris

An innocently angelic complexion, juxtaposed by the crimson vivacity of her Parisian smile. A beauty: her lips gilded by the Montmartre sun, her carefree countenance demanding intrigue. What a feeling! To be blessed with my own, personal, real life “Amelie”. The easterly wind channelled the sweet sounds of the carousel, its hypnotic melody captivating the young ones and revitalising the old. From the west emanates a spectrum of colour, at this point, my eyes tingling with fizzing hues and dazzling shades. “The City Of Light” beamed before me, it’s enigmatic side streets converging into the pulsating heart of the bustling market place.

I ambled amidst the mazy boulevard’s, my movement somewhat fatigued: perhaps I was drunk on such a sensory overload? Suddenly I arrived, bedazzled by the inexplicable passage of time. My apartment, rented from a traditional Parisian family, had a quaint subtlety, merged with a splendid, antique grandeur. From the balcony, a spectacular, man-made view could be seen. The delicious aroma’s of the bistro lingered, intertwining with the ancient charm of the Gallic Tavern.

My room mates: a mishmash of cultural diversity. The Scandinavian, self-proclaimed “free spirit”, called Kaiser, embarking on a quest for enlightenment. Pete, the stereotypically extroverted American, searching for fun and craving adventure in it’s purest forms. As day turned to night, a calming sense of security surrounded me. Our backgrounds? Completely different. Our paths? Leading to totally contrasting places, and yet, a feeling of familiarity and togetherness hooked us all. By now, the street’s were paved with energy and an array of eclectic instrumentals filled the twilight air. The time for exploration had come!

From one cobbled stone to another, each street contained it’s own hidden jewels and surprises. The notorious “Pigalle” displayed it’s bawdy vigour in a vibrant mix of musicality and sexual undertones. In an instant, the “Moulin Rouge” fluttered it’s alluring eyes. I had briefly been captured by Romantic notions. In a stunning spot of time, I imagined. Myself… the famous scenery… and Toulouse-Lautrec, immortalised within the decadence of a painting. After this surrealism had subsided, the pilgrimage commenced.

Steps up to the Sacre Coeur

I tackled the myriad of streets and ascended the hillside, choosing not to ride the “Funicular” to the top. I was now in the artistic district, skilled practitioners earning a trade, producing scenic delights or creating witty caricatures. Irregularly scattered freelance musicians could be seen, transfixed in what seemed an ecstatic trance, lost forever in their own melodies. All at once I was in awe of these men, unspeakably envious of the liberated way of life they had chosen.

We all observed a rather eccentric mimic display, the mime managing to evoke an amazing level of emotion, from ridiculous comedy to poignant tragedy. The narrow streets seemed to expand and converge in unison, as if welcoming us as guests. The proximity of it all created a warmth, a warmth manifesting itself in the faces of the crowd. Before long, the need for food overwhelmed us and we settled down to a meal underneath a marquee, surrounded by trees and candlelight. It seemed the spectacle of a traditional French dance was on the menu.

Appetizer. To awaken the taste buds were intricate costumes, meticulously hand crafted designs were woven into a majestic tapestry. Golds and blues glistened in the moonlight as the dresses caressed the night air like waves.

Main Course. The dance reminded me of Medieval stories, a form of elegant Baroque dance. The precise movements personified grace and proceeded to convey words through an artistic medium. Opera, dance… I haven’t exactly been their biggest fan, and yet, this piece of art seemed to suit the moment perfectly. The pirouettes created silhouettes that danced across the restaurant floor, seemingly with a life of their own. As I gazed across the parade of people, I observed their faces. Some were laughing, others almost driven to tears, truly apathetic with the characters on the cobbled stage.

Dessert. The visual feast was enhanced by vocal power. No doubt, the meaning was somewhat lost in translation for me, however, the sweet notes of the French language sounded beautiful, an instrument in themselves. Only now could I understand the wonder of languages, although expressing the same literal meaning, they can arouse a unique and special emotion.

The darkness eventually became absolute and the momentous figure of the “Sacre-Couer” dominated the distance. Even a non-religious individual like myself could almost feel the spirituality and potency flooding from it’s saintly white structure, and appreciate the exquisite intricacies of it’s every crevice. We settled below the structure, seated upon a hill, overlooking the vast metropolis that is Paris. Superlatives struggle to describe the prize I received at the end of my journey. The panorama was epitomized by “La Tour-Eiffel”, protruding forcefully from the ground, a fitting symbol for such a splendid city. The view was a collage of famous attractions, basking in the luminosity of the city lights. That moment will always remain embedded in my mind. Below me we’re French students, conversing in what seemed a regular meeting place. Directly above were the sounds of a momentous musical collaboration. The rare sounds of American Mid-West country music, combined with a French, accordion accompanied Ballad. That night, no one person was a stranger in a foreign land.

Suddenly, an electrical tempest took over the skies. The altitude made the weather almost touchable by the human hand. The sky was speaking, alit with colours I never knew existed. The watery terrain was illuminated, every droplet of rain seemed to be coated with colour. The river “Seine” consumed the image of the skies, its banks awash with light. We all stood, facing the elements head on, the tranquility all at once becoming playful commotion.

Montmartre had accepted me into its theatre of dreams. A place abound with the charm of bygone days. A place expressing commercial vibrancy, without the strangulation of a Metropolis. The people… the sounds… the sights… I was blinded by “the city of light”.

Paris at night from Monmartre - click to enlarge

Paris at Night — from Monmartre

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