Planning a trip, it occurred to me recently, is a distinctly abstract exercise. It’s always a shock when the departure date looms and I realize that soon it will no longer be abstract and I must actually do it. I know now from long experience that the most unsettling day will be the one of my departure, I’ll have a sinking feeling, asking myself what have I wrought. Then, I lock the door behind me, the negative feelings begin to melt away as I leave home and fun in the present tense begins, lighting my way without fail. I even like flying, it means I’m being carried toward my heart’s desire, especially when it’s a place I’ve been before and love.
This particular journey has been longer than usual in the making, 50 years. I was 20 when I was offered a job in Europe, not the first time, but knew Paris was the one I must accept. I turned 21 in Paris in 1966 and when I returned this year, 71. We’ve changed, Paris and I. But, despite it, we’re both more the same than we are different, the changes mostly superficial and it makes me happy to be reunited yet again, to acknowledge that we both survive largely intact.
Looking back on Paris in 1966 and Paris in 2016, the 50 year-old memories are every bit as vivid as those of several months ago. I don’t know how it can be, but it is. Maybe it was a particularly colorful time in my life, six months in a place so alien to the 20 year old me, I can stare back at that startling time and see it clearly, burned into memory. Is that what’s meant by shining youth?
What follows are photos of some places I visit every time I’m in the city, some new to me. I walked a great deal, as I always do, and tried to steer myself off my usual paths. I’ll show you more places in greater detail in the weeks to come, but here’s an introduction.
27, Rue Tholozé: This is where I lived in 1966, a room on the 6th floor, a curtained corner that passed for a kitchen, shared toilet down 1 flight and paid shower on the ground floor next to the concierge’s apartment. The short street on a Montmartre hillside ended at a wide staircase very near the front door of my building, and just above it the Moulin de la Galette beloved setting of the Impressionists. A working-class neighborhood then and Rue Lepic its traditional market street, my love of coffee dates from this time and goat cheese, bought at the corner shop, now part of a Comfort Hotel.
9, Cité Véron: This is where I stayed in 2016, a 3rd floor studio room in a gated building on a cobbled pedestrian lane. Tucked behind the Moulin Rouge, if you weren’t looking for the entrance on Boulevard Clichy, you’d miss it. I realized, after visits spent staying in other parts of the city, I cannot stay anywhere but Montmartre and feel I’m in Paris, more at home there than anywhere, including my hometown, San Francisco. I became an adult while living in Montmartre and that must be the reason.
The Casino de Paris: This is where I worked, a theatre on Rue Clichy and home to performers Mistinguett, Maurice Chevalier (who I met), and Josephine Baker. Line Renaud was our headliner, a personable cabaret-style singer beloved by the French of a certain age. I was the lone American dancer in the company among the French, English and Dutch.
Chinese Lunch near the Palais Royal
Last, but by no means least, I admit to a fondness for discovering
laundromats wherever I go. Laundromat, Rue Vintimille.
Next week, the Albert Kahn Museum & Garden.