I’ve been thinking back over my Paris trips in recent years, musing about the special moments, those times sans pareil. If I had to choose, which would be my peak experiences ?
It’s a tough call, there have been so many magical memories … like the Vivaldi concert at St Chapelle, with the setting sun igniting the blues and reds of its delicate stained glass.
Or the after-hours tour of the Opera Garnier, walking through the gilded halls and peeking into the box of the famed Phantom.
Then there was not one but two late nights spent listening to jazz and sipping Armagnac in Le Caveau des Oubliettes, the cave of forgetting. It’s located in the Guillotine Pub, with a famed centuries old device on display.
And, of course, there are the breathtaking night views of the CIty of Lights from aboard an open air boat ride on the Seine. And the not-to-be-forgotten ride through the streets of Paris. The take-away-your-breath tour was chauffeured by my French friend Jean-Jacques, with all of us in the car crooning Oh Champs-Élysées — “.. in the sun, in the rain, at noon or at midnight, there’s everything you want on the Champs-Elysées!”
But I think the signature moments, the memories I will always cherish, are those that combine the panache of Paris with a personal connection to Parisians. Two years ago I took a cooking class, taught by a lovely young Parisian chef-in-training. In the class with me was a local French woman and her adult daughter.
We didn’t have a shared language that day, but we certainly had shared enjoyment. We pieced together French and English while learning how to peel an onion and make a melange, then we sat together around a counter to savor our creations and sip a glass of wine.
The second peak moment was on this trip. An afternoon in the Montmartre garden of Marie-Sophie Boulanger, where we painted and “salted” our own silk scarves. Mine is a special souvenir of Paris that I will always cherish and with it the memories of that afternoon.
Marie-Sophie is a well regarded fabric artist. Earlier in her career she worked as a journalist and she is the author of several children’s books. She is also the mother of 12-year-old identical twin boys. Needless to say, with so much in common our connection was warm and the conversation was rich.
Emma was my cohort that day, the only other attendee. And with fairy tale serendipity, synchronicity, or just plain bizarre coincidence, it turned out Emma is a native of — yes, Burlington, Vermont !! Here we were, Vermont “neighbors”, meeting in this lovely garden, thousands of miles from home, on a warm Paris afternoon. It really is, a wonderful world ….
The process of making the scarf was quite fascinating. It involved wetting and painting silk that was stretched on a rack, then randomly “outlining” the design with coarse salt. The salt draws out the paint and the result is explosive, beautiful — and a total surprise.
Here is the video I made of that special afternoon.
Once again, the more time I spend in Paris, the more I love Paris. And it isn’t just because of the monuments and museums, though they are incredible, it’s because of the people I meet, both the Parisians and fellow journeymen.
How wonderful, too, it is to have all of you along on my journey. I hope you are enjoying the trip as much as I am — the company certainly couldn’t be any more enchanteur !