Paris is a beautiful, mysterious, exciting, and sexy woman. When traveling to visit her, you can never be alone or bored. She will fascinate you with her different moods around every corner and down each boulevard. I walked with her yesterday, and she did not disappoint me.
Lee needed to remain in the apartment for the morning to handle the exhausting business of locating her lost luggage, one among thousands of lost black Tumi bags at Charles de Gaulle Airport. She was doing an excellent job of remaining calm, despite arriving in Paris during the holidays with no clothes. I Map Quested my walk from south of the Eiffel Tower on the Seine to The Galleries Lafayette near the Paris Opera House. I am not a good map reader, but the nineteen clearly defined steps from the internet seemed simple to follow. Paris was calling me, so I went out for our rendezvous. I would meet Lee at the Guerlain make up counter at noon.
I veered from my directions immediately. The wide pink gravel path that follows the Seine was more alluring than the sidewalk along Quai de Grenelle where I began. I was instantly transplanted into a Manet painting. The path curved with the river and the dark globe street lamps reached over the green wood garden benches that lined the walk. No visitors paused or sat to watch the barges on the river, hold hands or talk. It was a cold day and the gravel was covered in an invisible sheet of ice. I stepped carefully so that I would not fall. Paris was dangerous this morning. With the exception of one figure in a dark coat who walked in the distance before me, barely visible in the fog, I was alone on the path. The sweet gum trees which lined the promenade were thick with seed pods that hung like holiday ornaments. There was no need for tinsel or garlands. How can you improve something so beautiful? I could have stopped my day’s journey by the Seine and painted in the fog and cold. Without easel and paints, and slipping on the invisible ice, I made my way back to Quai Branly, heading toward the Eiffel Tower.
At the Musee Quai Branly where the glass walls on the sidewalk announce the Teotihuacan exhibition, is a building whose façade is covered in ferns and grasses. The architect discarded the typical large block limestone that decorates most Parisian buildings. He had used simple windows which opened into the living shell of the structure. No ornate wrought iron balconies or carved keystones broke the simplicity. If you laid this façade on the ground, you would have the illusion of walking through a garden of bear grass, cinnamon fern, moss and ivy, punctuated with the pond-like windows. Ivy grows up city walls whether planned by designers or planted by birds. Architects create rooftops with grasses for insulation or decoration; however I had never seen a building designed with walls of nature. If moved to the country, this façade would have disappeared into the landscape like a carefully painted Trompe l’Oeil artist’s trick. Thank you Paris. What a delightful surprise.
I neared the Eiffel Tower. The anticipation of being beside her heightened with each glimpse above a roof top or through a line of leafless trees. On my previous trips, I had driven near this incredible icon by taxi, but I had not stopped to stand under the delicate ironwork. She grew taller and taller as I approached. The crowds wander around the base snapping photographs from every angle. I took a picture for a Parisian couple who cuddled on low wall. They photographed me as well. I watched the red elevators angle up the support legs as it they ascended to the fancy Jules Verne Restaurant. The Eiffel Tower is like a holiday advent calendar made of tiny windows that open one at a time to reveal surprises. Today was my first window treat to open. In the evening I will see the magical light show flashing with colors. On New Year’s Eve, I will press into the street with the crowds to celebrate the 120th anniversary of her creation and the special fireworks display. In the New Year, I will dine in her famous restaurant. Before I leave, I will rise to the top in an elevator hung on a single cable to savor the best view that Paris has to offer. With all windows open, and the holidays over, this is where I will reluctantly say “au revoir” to Paris.
I walked over the Pont de l’Alma and photographed the misty river and the barges. I continued on through streets and round-a-bouts, to Avenue Montaigne. Ooh la la! My camera clicked as I recorded for my friends the chic storefronts. Simple windows displayed choice treasures; a Versace purse with pink leather flowers, a silver glittering sheathe on a faceless manikin, a tiny cream child’s dress embroidered in crystal bugle beads. These are boutiques for the world’s stylish shoppers. Embassies and exclusive apartments lined the boulevard. Restaurants with red awnings, red velvet chairs, and brass railings welcomed diners at the intersections. The Hotel Plaza Athenee tastefully twinkled with small white lights and potted Christmas trees. I will be there before church on Christmas Eve. Paris, Hotel Athenee, and Notre Dame, all beautiful ladies.
I arrived at the Galleries Lafayette with fifteen minutes to spare before meeting Lee. I walked along the crowded sidewalk peering in the windows which were a sumptuous display of glitter, snow, fashion and gold. Ribbons of purple and red hung from the awnings as well as giant red globes and white lights. The façade was covered in gold and red lights that dimmed and waved along the boulevard. It took your breath away.
The Galleries Lafayette is famous for the large center dome of stained glass which is the centerpiece of the main building. Underneath the dome stands a four story Christmas tree decorated with enormous pink bows and giant strands of pearls. Huge wrapped presents tumble in the air around the tree’s star. Shoppers stop on each level to photograph the sight.
As I waited to meet Lee, I watched the shoppers, especially the women. Many looked like ballet dancers with slim figures and delicate features. Every woman was stylish, shopping in heeled boots, short swing coats and perfect makeup. I immediately had a makeup artist freshen my lipstick. I noticed that every woman wore perfume. I bought the new Chanel scent and doused myself. I hoped that I was becoming a Parisian woman. One shopper asked me for directions as I leaned against the glass counter, but sadly, I had to respond that, “Je ne parle pas Francais.” I have a lot more work to go before becaming French.
Lee and I missed each other, so I ate lunch at the sky restaurant and looked over the rooftops of Paris. I spent the afternoon investigating the fashions from floor to floor. Paris is so sexy. Provocative underwear adorned the displays along the escalators. Manikins posed in red and black lace stockings and garters. I found a tiny black velvet boustier from Italy. It was perfect to peek out from under a blazer. I was astounded to read the price tag of 450 Euros. I would not be opening this for Christmas. With an unlimited bank balance, this velvety secret would have jumped into my shopping bag with my perfume and new flat iron.
Lee and I rendezvoused at our apartment, had a quiet dinner at a neighborhood bistro, and walked out to the sidewalk in time to see the Eiffel Tower perform. At 7:30 each night, the ironwork radiates in patterns of colors, flashing like a laser light show. Red, white, and blue changed to red and green and then to gold with white shimmering lights. Vendors tried to sell small lit replicas of the tower, but nothing could reproduce the tower’s magic. The old carousel by the Bir Hakim Bridge spun and glowed in light. Decorated barges cut ribbons through the colored water of the Seine. We were bathed in the scene, and this kept us warm in the cold night air. When the show was finished, I sauntered down our street on the Seine, unlocked the large outer apartment door, and leaving the elevator for Lee, walked up the seven flights of stairs, enjoying the creek of each wooden rung beneath my heels.
“C'est un bon Paris de vie. Merci pour partager il avec moi aujourd'hui.”