Paris through an American Eye

Years after I left my native France and my beloved Paris, my ears and eyes identify in a heartbeat a word said or written in French. French language is and will always be mine. And in a jealous way, France and Paris belong also to me even if I am far away from them.
So there was no way I could miss A Paris Farewell in The New York Times (March 27)
Ah! the cover picture! La Seine, the queen of all rivers.
The article tells of the Left and Right Banks, divided by the Seine. According to the writer, the two banks are more a travel guide thing than a real tangible frontier. She makes a distinction between east and west of Paris and she has a point.
As a former Parisian, I relate even more to arrondissements. Since I have lived in the 18th, the 13th, the 11th, the 12th and worked in the 14th, I am from the Left and the Right banks, from east and west.
Paris as any major city is ever changing, pushing its frontiers as the population grows and evolves. Living in Paris, I saw the death and birth of entire quartiers.
Beaubourg and the Halles, first “mall” looking shopping area, replacing the traditional food market where my father unloaded his truck several times a week until the early 70s. The first café Coste. The modern and then controversial Centre Beaubourg, launched through Georges Pompidou’s presidency.
La Villette, the old meat market, giving place to museums with the local brasseries and cafés attracting a younger crowd.
The Bastille area and the arrival of ethnic and hip restaurants when l’Opéra Bastille opened during François Mitterand’s presidency. The typical working class quartier evolving into a trendier and seek after neighborhood.
My working class 12th arrondissement, now home to exclusive art galleries and expensive apartments, while the Marais and its small restaurants with menus prix fixe, where the owners knew me and my husband before we were married, has become an upscale overpriced area.
My first neighborhood, tucked a block away from the Boulevard Rochechouart in the 18th arrondissement, is now home to the largest African community in Paris.
La Sorbonne where my husband and I were students has closed its doors to unannounced visitors.

I wasn’t too nostalgic when I finished reading A Paris Farewell. But it made me definitively hungry since it is an article articulated around food. And, no offense to anyone, and certainly not to California and its bounty of fresh produce and innovative chefs, or New York with its creative cuisine, but no other city can rival Paris when it comes to food.
Although most restaurants mentioned are unknown to the American I became, I felt a pang of envy for the Canal Saint Martin, one of my very favorite parts of Paris, way before it became the trendy neighborhood it is now.
But in the end, perhaps more than nostalgic or hungry, I felt lucky.
Lucky that Paris is intimately part of who I am, regardless of the distance between us.
Lucky to have known a Paris that was still affordable, that was unlike any other city, not quaint, not over sophisticated, still dirty and grey, before the façades of the buildings were restored, before the sanisettes (Decaux chemical toilets) replaced the dames pipi and the urinoirs.
A Paris I have never been able to say farewell to yet.

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