Today I found Ernest Hemingway to be inspiring.
Hemingway writes: If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.
Currently a “moveable feast” has transcended to mean “something that changes over time”. Paris has changed over time but not much. A mon avis, Baron Haussmann seems to have made the biggest impact on the landscape of Paris; tearing down the old and putting up the new. Although to most Americans Paris IS already old and rich in culture and architecture.
Paris is not only a city but a way of life that sucks you in and envelopes its inhabitants so completely. When you live in Paris you become Parisian, no matter your nationality. You change. You acclimate and then you surrender.
I surrendered to its wiles a long time ago. When I was a sheltered 20-year-old, my semi-strict parents put me on a Pan Am flight to France and sent me on my way for an adventurous year abroad. One whole year. Equipped with several suitcases full of stretchy pants, Dry Idea deodorant and other essentials – like a French / English dictionary, my Daddy’s Visa (his first) and my incredible charm, I boarded the plane knowing only 2 other girls from Montclair State and Madame Stern – our advisor from U. Mass Boston.
On the plane Madame handed us an index card with our address, phone number, SOS numbers, our code porte and the time and place of our next meeting. I was going to live “Chez Madame Lajeunesse” at 55, rue Geoffroy-St. Hilaire a droite in the 5th arrondissement of Paris.
When I arrived I was so excited that I didn’t even notice that was living across from a botanical garden. In the lobby we were greeted by an elderly woman who was la concierge. Straight ahead I saw an ancient elevator and a huge spiral staircase covered in thick red carpet. I was hooked.
After stuffing our suitcases in the rickety, old elevator, we were greeted by Robert. Robert was a tall, lanky, effeminate young man who we followed blindly up to the 5th floor – really the 6th floor in the USA (The French don’t count the ground floor as a floor number). He opened the giant double French doors and we entered another century.
The furniture was quasi deuxieme empire but with so much old-world character. There were 4 bedrooms. The salon had been converted into a bedroom in the front of the apartment and there were 3 more in the back. It was a very large flat. I chose the last bedroom facing a small courtyard. It was equipped with a sink, a pantry, a fridge and a small propane tank for cooking. I dropped my suitcases on the parquet floor and wanted to sleep for days.
Even with jet-lag bearing down on me, I managed to go out and shop for supplies that I would need to survive. When I returned home I cleaned and organized for hours before passing out in my small, lumpy, twin-sized bed. Little did I know that this would be the best year of my life.