In the series Five Photos Five Stories, voici Paris.
Although I had been several times to Paris when I was a student in Caen, Normandy, this is not before I moved for good to the French capital that I really discovered the city that is still considered today one of the most beautiful in the world.
I got lost countless times in Paris during the very first weeks I spent there. Later I did it on purpose. Without a car or a bike, I relied on public transportation (metro and bus), occasional taxi, but mostly trusted my feet. I wouldn’t do it another way.
Paris is a city that can only been understood after long walks along its large avenues, popular streets, narrow alleys, and covered passages. For almost ten years I made Paris mine, sometimes hating it for its grey rainy days, sometimes adoring it for its magnificent light, always marveling at its rare beauty.
I missed Paris terribly when I moved to California. Much more, to my shame, than my friends. The reason being that I had very few friends in Paris when I arrived there. Paris became my constant companion.
Like most immigrants I didn’t return to my homeland for several years, due to work, young children and immigration paperwork circumstances.
During these years Paris was perched at the periphery of my mind and vision. I imagined what I would do when I would walk along the cobble streets, how I would feel when the metro would rumble under my feet, what I would drink at the café, what I would eat at the brasserie. Mostly: Would Paris still make my heart beat faster?
The answer is yes. I didn’t have to imagine how I would feel, what I would eat or drink when I returned. I was instantly back to where I belonged. At least for the time of my visit.
Although Paris was still as beautiful as in my dreams, I was also sharply aware that I had changed. Several years abroad had transformed me. My husband and I showed our children a touristic Paris we had never really seen. They loved it and their awesome response was a gift and also the realization that Paris would never be the same. Neither for them nor for us.
One afternoon, we took off, leaving the children to their delighted grandparents. Together we stepped backstage.
In 2000 we did not yet live with sophisticated phones, tucked in our pockets and within immediate reach for a snapshot or a selfie. Also that day we didn’t feel the need to take pictures of a city we knew so well. My husband, a native Parisian, certainly didn’t want to photograph his hometown. Yet he took this one picture.
Place des Victoires is one of the oldest royal plazas in Paris. In its center stands a statue of the King Louis XIV (also called Roi Soleil or Sun King). This is not the original statue that was melted to make canons during the French Revolution.
Neither my husband nor I are royalists. In fact I was proud to live feet away from the Bastille when we met. Really, this setting would have surprised anyone who knew us.
Yet I wasn’t surprised when my husband, in 2000, asked me to stand in the center of the plaza to take a photo.
Years before, at the very beginning of our story, we stopped on the Place des Victoires, on our way to the gorgeous neighborhing covered passages/galleries. Neither one of us knew that we would leave together, only a few years later, for the other side of the Atlantic.
And for now we were at the top of the world.
Like a king and a queen.
I’d like to invite Jennifer to this Five Photos Five Stories. On her blog and in her novels, her Asian-American culture is palpable through her writing.
The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are simple:
1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!