On Paris, Sacred Heart, Vogue-overdose, Our Bright Young Youth… and the Unforgettable Karma of Rain.
Breakfast in Paris.
Looking out of those windows, down at the streets of Paris below, in our Montmartre Hotel
…that’s a breakfast I’ll never forget. A large part of my life concerns a lust for travel and culture, memory and experience. This post is given to such things.
This post is given entirely to Paris…
We stayed in hotel Roma Sacre Coeur – forever now our ‘Sacred Heart’ in Paris – a suitably romantic/shabby hotel in the famous Butte Montmartre quarter. We drank Champagne every morning after our coffee and croissant, that naughty English Rose and I, after our morning jam to Peter Sarstedt,
Joni Mitchell and Edif Piath.
We were young. We were free. We were truly in the heart of Paris!
We smoked in our hotel room, committed sinful vogue-overdose, paraded around naked, were totally guilty of bringing too much luggage – each with a suitcase full of dainty vintage clobber which we carried with great effort all through the metro in shoulder-busting antique leather suitcases. I even had a three-piece set of tails in mine… What a fantastic mistake to make! Indeed, it seems Paris really does have so many stairs, so many that one could probably spend an entire holiday panting in and out of Metro stations, with the occasional muttering of “désolé/ je suis anglais/ je suis très fatigué” everytime somebody tries speaking to you, and miss the famous romance of the city altogether…
But oh, Paris, it seems like many dim years ago since I saw you face-to-face… and, today, I miss you.
When I think of Paris I think of youth – I think of love and friendship – I think of truth and freedom – opportunity, decadence – bright lights and hedonism.
I wore a vintage lady’s fur coat that a friend had given me all through Montmartre and Paris – smoked all but a thousand Vogue cigarettes. I was happy, childish, wild and vain – I was also a recipe for disaster… walking round in black sunglasses by day for the Champagne-pain behind my eyes.
But when I think of our Paris I don’t really think of day at all – I think mostly of those Nights in the City – the City of Lights and Romance…
My favourite areas of Paris are around Bastille and Pigalle, especially the Rue de Lappe in Bastille. Our mutual friend, Fabien, became our guide to the city. Being shown where to go by a local is always the best way to get round in places where you can easily get snubbed by tourism.
There’s one very special bar on the Rue de Lappe – all plain and red on the front with no signs or writing – but once you open the door and step beyond the heavy red curtains you’ll find a sort of speakeasy – the old Paris style – simple, odd chairs and low tables – Persian and Moroccan rugs – gilded mirrors – full of odd nooks and crannies – only candlelight reflecting off the red walls and the air filled with the mellifluous sounds of the French speaking sweet riens and joies de la vie ! There’s a rustic wooden bar with owners who don’t speak English, making cocktails using pestle and mortars, no alcohol measures or dodgy straws, ripping mint up with their bare hands.
les choses simples…
(Above – at Le Bazar Egyptien, Rue de Lappe – a heavenly Egyptian bar where we slammed down a few tiquilla before having a good old dance to a lot of not-so-authentically-middle-eastern club music. Bliss…)
We got so enthusiastic in Pigalle, in fact, that we were actually asked to leave a few bars one night for
accidentally smoking inside. It was too shaming. Paris is not so liberal afterall, it seems. Some bars did let us smoke inside, however – regardless of European law… but then we also got kicked out of another bar for bringing in our own booze! …like a couple of hopeless bums. Suffice to say – that didn’t stop us stomping our way around every bar in sight – making friends along the way – always avoiding tourists like a couple of perfect snobs.
Oh, the arrogance of youth!
But there was room for exploration by day, too – long walks alone the Seine, musing at the Musee d’Orsay, we took coffee by the Eiffel Tower, I kissed Oscar Wilde’s grave at Père Lachaise cemetery, we took a shine to the fountains in Place de la Concorde (but didn’t dance in these ones…)
…we paused at the Notre Dame Cathedral, before ice-skating Under Paris Skies at night fall. I donned my fur and tails for the occasion, spinning round and round in ecstasy, the starry night swirling above. Heartbeat, love and magic of night. A moment, a memory – shared, but not halved.
Yes, I’m sure I thought I looked really grand in my mole fur coat… thing is – nature got me back!
Karma can be a bitch, and in this case, karma came in the form of mother nature’s R-A-I-N.
On the last night, already feeling worse for wear after a week of such decadent behaviour to shy-make any Bright Young Thing, I threw on the fur coat one last time, and dragged my sorry arse through the streets of Europe’s gayest city once again.
But, as soon as my littlest toe passed over the threshold of the hotel doors, it started to rain. Torrential. Sort of like a monsoon, but shorter and more intense. I don’t think I’ve ever been so moist in all my life. Mole fur, it seems, is not even the slightest bit water-resistant, which is probably why they spend most of their time underground. It was like wearing a big heavy sponge… Divine. I have to say I was slightly vexed, but I refused to cry. Not in Paris. I powered on, Champagne in hand, through to the morning, spending the entirety of the next day sneezing my way back to England on the Eurostar, my mole fur safely in a bin bag by my side.
So was it worth it? Well…
Overall, I don’t think either of us could be accused of not making the most of our time in Paris, and we certainly created plenty of memories in the place.
Just remember, Paris is a place of liberty – a place to be silly, childish – a place to throw your head back, drink too much Champagne, to look to the stars, dance when you want to dance, smoke when you want to smoke, laugh, make friends, throw off your clothes and sing in your hotel room at the top of your lungs to the annoyance of everyone around. Forget the taxis and the queues for the Eiffel Tower – walk the streets of Paris until your feet can take no more – try everything once, and if you fail, laugh at your mistakes and walk proudly to the next bar, or the next street. Take a friend, go alone. Feel the fear, leave it all behind, take a chance and just go!
Find the sacred heart of Paris. Find your liberté.
But if you do go on a jolly to Paris be warned – make sure you get some solid wheels for your over-sized luggage, take a handsome umbrella, and do try smoking in as many bars as you can.
All photos on this post are copyright James Dee Clayton and Rose Greenfield respectively.
All photos on this post were shot on film cameras.
All rights reserved.
Paris Paris at last. My most favorite city. I’ve read plenty of articles on Paris and each one portrays a different experience, unique to the person. (Plus my very own, of course). I’ve been visiting pretty much the same sites in Paris on all visits, since I was accompanied by different people, still the charm was as fresh as ever. Nice to see you’re as much at home in the most cultured part of the world as in the wildest.
Paris is a gem. Like London, for me Paris is somewhere, as you say, can be revisited time and time again and it always seems like the first time. How could one ever get bored of Paris?
Such a lot of fun! Gosh you’ve been everywhere I want to go!
You better get started then!
Wow, what great description-made me feel as if I were there. Especially with background music. Super fun post to explore. Thanks. I’ve never been to Paris, but can’t wait to get there-with or without a friend 🙂
Thank you, Tracy. I’m really so glad you enjoyed it. It’s funny – sometimes I wonder if people will be able to visualise my stories clearly enough – having lived it all myself I obviously have no trouble walking back through the streets of my memory. It’s utterly charming when other people can dive into my thoughts, too… so thank you. Hope you make it to Paris and dream up your wildest fantasies soon. J x.
I hope that when I go, my adventures are as lively as yours.
They will be! Make sure they are 😉