Le Paris d’Ariane
As I return to Paris after a lengthy boomerang journey that took me to different cities for almost 3 decades, I rediscover this city- called in Persian “ the Bride of all Cities”- with even more delight and enchantement.
Though, to have a better sense of my juvenile enthusiasm, I must add that I lived in Paris in the 80’s when I was a student in Architecture and working part-time in retail. OK, the retail was the posh Christian Dior Boutique on Avenue de Montaigne however, it didn’t change much to the fact that I was a student struggling to make both ends meet while studying.
Paris has always been good to me. Be it when I lived in the capital while my father was Consul at the Iranian Embassy in the late 60’s or while I was an architect student when the regime changed in Iran.
I have hazy memories of my first stay in Paris. We lived in Boulogne Billancourt where I went to primary school. Paris is very well positioned, a wonderful layover when travelling to North America or simply a destination in itself! We had company almost every day. After school, I would very often find a note left by my mother on the dining room table telling me to get myself a “goûter” from the boulangerie, do my homework,take a bath, watch some TV and a promise she’d be home in time to tuck me in.
There were also those magical days when she would come and pick me up before the end of class.I’d climb in the back seat of her red Fiat 500. She would take me to luncheons and sightseeings with friends, family or guests visiting. I have climbed the Eiffel Tower more times than any Parisian and it has never occurred to my parents that my reluctance translating in turning as white as a sheet or as green as spinach might have to do with vertigo. It was a given that all children love climbing on top of the tower. I must say being in the back seat while fashionable and overly perfumed adults smoked in the car did not help either. To this day, the mixed bouquet of smoke and perfume sends me back to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I guess this would be my “madeleine”. I remember the May 68 events thru dinner conversations my parents had with our guests and the tangible tensions it brought. Mind you, it did not stop them form going out for dinner and drinks in the Quartier Latin where all the action was. Driving down there in a Corps Diplomatique Mercedes was perhaps not the wisest and most discreet move when one evening, while having dinner in a dainty St Germain restaurant, the waiter asks my father if the Blue CD Mercedes parked in front of the restaurant belongs to him and if so, it’s burning in flames.
Woodstock had also a visual impact on me as my brother had a huge poster in his bedroom.A bedroom where, of course, I was a persona non grata! Music had a huge place in my family. Music and books. My dad loved La Variété Française and I have been rocked with chansons of Aznavour, Piaf, Becaud and his favorite, Sylvie among others. I must confess I had a soft spot for Clo-clo but let’s not hold on to that thought …
“Hair” was the it show in the US and it was revisited in French with Julien Clair singing “Laissons entrer le soleil” … sounded corny but had a great energy about it. I recall going to Matinées at La Comédie Française to see mostly Molière’s plays-“Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme” or “l’Avare”. These outings were organized by my dear grandmama when she was visiting. In warmer weather, my young and mischievous aunt took us to the piscine Molitor . She was already in her early twenties. My parents would ask her to take my brother and I along so they’d have their a break from their hectic life of young diplomats:entertaining, cocktails and dinner parties. Dure-dure la vie! Back to the piscine, I always had the sense that “quelque chose” was happening without quiet understanding what was going on. Remember we are talking about the late 60’s when an 8 year old had an 8 year old understanding of the world.It’s only later I could put words on the “things”. It was “les jeux du hasard et de l’amour a la piscine”.
But most importantly,when looking back, when I close my eyes and recall those memories,it’s with a pinch in my heart that I see a fairy evanescent creature who seemed to have stepped out of a Botticelli painting dressed in a Balenciaga Haute Couture gown. “Un flou artistique”, poise, grace and dignity emanated from her slender aura. She was fair and blonde. Her voice sounded like chimes dancing in spring breeze and she would always leave a flow of precious scent and floral perfume to all she touched. Maman.
I have the strong sense that nowadays, parents bend backwards to gravitate around their children trying very hard to fulfill all their own shortcomings whereas when we were kids, we’d tag along and settled with our parents’ agendas. At that time, parents didn’t know any better and it was all about their choices.Funny how in just one generation, the powers shifted.
Ten years later, I am back in Paris studying Architecture. Every day, I was bewildered when walking in the midst of what we studied the same day in the classroom! There was no need to look into books, at pictures when I was actually surrounded by or walking thru all the magnificent sites.
Paris has been the stage for all my major life events and experiences.
I have always been infatuated with the French language and culture. My father was the instigator for this long tradition that perdures with my own children. We all love Paris!
I strongly disagree with common places such as Parisians are rude, Paris is dirty, Parisians are obnoxious or else…
It takes two to tango: if you offer a smile, you are reciprocated by a smile, a clin d’oeil or a considerate word.
So here I am. Sitting in a typical Parisian café in the 13 arrondissement, writing my first blog.
The circumstances of my life are much different from both previous scenarios. No longer do I have to study,prepare exams and spend sleepless night doing charettes to meet a deadline and work while I study.
Today, I have the blessing and the happiness to focus on what pleases me while I take a breather, sit back and unwind or other words, I hold the biggest gift of life: Time. So let’s not waste that precious gift and enjoy le Paris d’Ariane!