You’ll only find one obligatory photo of the Eiffel Tower here. 🙂 Instead, I want to share a few offbeat places I visited on my recent trip to Paris.
I went to Paris for the first time in 2010 by myself. I found the city so inspiring that I wrote an entire book of poetry during the week I was there. The day I returned to work, I handed in my resignation letter (which was 7 years ago yesterday). With my professional life transition aside, I felt my time in Paris was perfectly timed. I loved the weather, the long stretch of daylight (sunset is around 9:30PM in mid-May), and the neighborhood where I stayed, which was more residential than tourist. So I booked the exact same days, hotel, and flight times for my recent trip with my love. We lucked out with fantastic weather, long days, and the street was so endearing that it brought tears to my eyes–again. More on that below.
One major difference between my two trips to Paris is that I left my laptop at home this time. Not only that, I left my journal at home too. Yes, I vacationed like a non-writer! I’ve come home with a meditative calm and a renewed excitement for my writing projects.
Aside from visits to the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Musee de l’Orangerie, Cafe de Flore, and Shakespeare & Company, we visited places that get a little less attention. I discovered Parc des Buttes Chaumont in a guidebook a few months ago. When I read that the park had sequoia and it was in Paris I knew I had to take my love there. Whenever I plan a trip for us, he acts mock-disappointed–but he really is disappointed–that it’s not to Yosemite. (He would not complain if we spent all our vacation time in Yosemite, but I like to visit new places!) As an olive branch for planning a trip to Paris, I decided to surprise my love with a visit to Chaumont. However, a few days before our trip, I couldn’t contain the surprise anymore and started showing him pictures of the park. It was one of his favorite spots that we visited.
We stayed on Rue Daguerre in Montparnasse, just a block away from the second largest cemetery in Paris. Montparnasse Cemetery has dozens of notable graves, including Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, Man Ray, Samuel Beckett, Charles Baudelaire, and many more.
The few graves I visited were those of French filmmaker Jacques Demy and actress Jean Seberg. My degree is in cinema and the very first film class I ever took was on French cinema. I have a deep love and appreciation for the French New Wave. Jean Seberg is the star of Breathless, one of the first films associated with that era. (I own the Criterion Collection edition.) A few of Jacques Demy’s films are Umbrellas of Cherboug (I’ve never seen a film with more color) and Donkey Skin, an adorable fairy tale full of whimsy. There’s a scene in the film where the princess is wearing a huge bouffant dress, which was made from a movie screen so that he could project images/colors on it. I saw a 35 mm screening of Umbrellas at a local theater when I was in college, and I was able to view a 35 mm edition of Donkey Skin at a museum in Raleigh a few years ago.
In an unexpected and random internet search during our trip, I somehow discovered that French filmmaker Agnes Varda (Jacques Demy’s surviving wife) lives on Rue Daguerre, the same street where we stayed. Not only that, she lives two doors from our hotel. She’s lived there since the 1950s, according to several interviews. I am kicking myself for not knowing this sooner because she used to maintain a shop across the street from her home where she sold her movies. (One of the first French New Wave films I saw was hers, Cleo From 5 to 7.) The shop closed in the past few years since my last Paris visit, but I had walked past it obliviously dozens of times on my first trip.
Rue Daguerre is full of character and life. One end features local market vendors: poissonnerie, fromageries, bouchers, and the rest is sprinkled with boulangeries, patisseries, and restaurants of multinational cuisines. On my first trip to Paris, I was sitting in the hotel window one afternoon writing in my journal when I heard a man singing like Pavarotti. He walked past below and his singing made me tear up. On our recent visit, I was sitting in the window sketching and I heard a trumpet – a musician was walking below while playing. The sound mixed with the warm spring light and the smells of baguettes was dizzying and I teared up again.
I’m not the only one who finds the street inspiring. Varda herself made a documentary about the people of Rue Daguerre in the 1970s: Daguerreotypes.
My love said he would go back to Paris. I’ll plan another trip, but I told him I would make sure we return to Yosemite first.