This summer, I spent the month of July in Paris. It was so awesome to get so emerged into a completely different culture. If we are all being honest on here, I did not experience the Paris I expected to, but that could definitely just be due to the amount of attention and glory that City of Lights is branded by media and society.
The thing about Paris is that it is a place full of history. I mean only the greatest literary and art movements were either born or grow tremendously in that city, but the thing is, that was in the past. Going to Paris was not like in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, no matter how much you tried to imagine it was. But, this can also have to do with the fact that I, at least, have not really identified this generation’s “stamp” on the art and cultural sphere. Did the flappers and Jazz Age writers in the 1920s know that they were a part of one of the greatest literary and art movements in the 20th century? I don’t know the answer to that question. But, personally, I cannot put a finger on my generation’s “mark,” so Paris’ historical glow was sort of dampened for me.
That is not to say that Paris isn’t the place for writers, artists, and musicians to be. In fact, I felt that in Paris I could write much more easily. Maybe it was the *polluted* air, maybe it was the 2 AM espressos, probably the extreme changing weather conditions (thunderstorms at night and deathly hot sun rays during the day).
Nonetheless, I had a blast in Paris, and here are a few of the highlights of my trip (photos included)!
Okay. The architecture was fabulous.I mean look at the blue rooftops. The black iron railings. The cream and white plastered walls. And lets not forget the cobblestone streets. The architecture, 17th and 18th century Classical and Rococo, can be seen all throughout the city. These buildings were definitely the trademark and even though I was surrounded by them, heck I even lived in one for an entire month, my jaw would keep on dropping every time I took a moment to just look at the buildings. Together, they form unison, and the whole city just seems to match one tone, one fashionable scheme. As an admirer of buildings and structures of aesthetic sorts, I definitely had a great appreciation for the elegance of the city as far as how it looked.
Montmartre: Art Nouveau / Belle Epoque
I’m not going to lie. For a while I thought Art Nouveau and Art Deco were the same things, oops! Now less naive and older, I found so much of this beautiful period still not completely overshadowed by the Jazz Age in Paris. Specifically, we found the more Art Nouveau and Belle Epoque history in its traditional birthplace–Montmartre. Montmartre, whose citizens did not want to associate themselves with the filthy Parisians. Cocky, much? Also, the home to many of the Impressionists like Toulouse-Latrec and Van Gogh, Montmartre definitely has a difference ambience, and you can feel it. This is where the phrase, “Life through rose-colored glasses” comes into play. I don’t know if it was just me, but everything seemed pink. I mean to say that not everything was literally pink, but I definitely had the “rose colored glasses” vibe going on (Inner Californian tries to explain things but epically fails). Anyways, the Belle Epoque, also known as the “Beautiful Era” was named so because of the prosperity involved. If you look at any of the era’s painters, life was described colorfully, which is exactly what Montmartre exudes: color. This is the “Paris” that you see in the movies. You can still see the Belle Epoque in Montmartre with the street artists ceaselessly at work to try display their skills by drawing your caricatures. Anyways, going up and down Montmartre was definitely a blast, I mean you could seriously say you walked the same path as Van Gogh (although not to idolize Van Gogh in any way *the man did cut off his own ear *). The Art Nouveau movement also originated in this region of Paris. Art Nouveau was different. It had organic shapes, flowing lines, completely undisciplined movements. My favorite example of Art Nouveau were the old Metro station stops, and especially one called Abbe
ss in south Montmartre.
Jazz Age History
Okay, for those of you unfamiliar with the Jazz Age, the era was dubbed so because of the complete reversal in societal norms. After WWI, people sought an explanation for the travesties that occurred and turned to expressing literature in a completely new way. Some authors, like Hemingway, stripped their subject-matter to the bare minimum, leaving out all the details found in Victorian literature instead. This translated into art and culture, and the rise of the flapper age. The 1920s being one of my favorite eras, it was so exciting to see all the places where my favorite authors had had their first drinks together, or wrote the first draft of their best-selling novel, or moved out because the rent was too high for the Starving Artist. I think one of the coolest things was going through the Paris flea markets and looking through authentic vintage items. I even found a beautiful feather cap from the 20s and some great dancing flapper shoes! Now if only there was blue fire in my soul for some spirits at La Rotonde, where I could get the bees knees of a drink!
Hemingway’s walk to his favorite cafe every morning.
You know the saying that little things are what matters? Well. They are. In Paris at least, it was those little things that made Paris seem like the “Paris” we all see on the movie screen. For me, the little things were as simple as watching the Seine river with a little picnic basket while hanging my legs over the ledge or going biking through small side streets in the rain, playing the dainty piano at Shakespeare and Co, or waking up to a magical view. These things added up and one by one made the trip more and more magical.
When people tell you there is a certain attitude the Parisian people carry day to day, they are absolutely correct. Maybe its the droves of tourists that pour in every season, but we can never know for sure. The attitude I am referring to is the distinct Parisian “I am too good for all your basic stuff, so I’m going to be intelligent, richer, more famous than you just to prove my point.” I think its similar to the Italian “sprezzatura,” or effortless nonchalance. Except the nonchalance in the Parisian case is not effortless at all. In fact, it seems to me to be very forced. I mean, can you really be reading Sufi poetry at a vociferous cafe at 1 AM meanwhile maintaining your sunglasses on, those 6 inch stiletto heels, an uncomfortable outfit, and the rest of the package? Well, chances are it may look like a superficial effortlessness from the outside, but I definitely wouldn’t want to live my life abiding to those expectations. That being said, I do in a way admire this attitude. Maybe its the person’s position in the chair, maybe its pseudo “elegance” of those long Audrey Hepburn cigarettes, but the thing is you can’t just put your finger on it. I think it invokes confidence and encourages the artistic atmosphere. It’s almost like a game, and so much fun to play if you are with friends. Try it the next time you are in Paris: Where can I spot the Parisian?
Museums, always museums
My favorite part of all was going through Paris’ museums. L’Orangerie, Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, etc, etc. I think I am most at myself in museums. I probably has to do with the fact that I am infatuated by beautiful things and beautiful people and being near them give me a sort of energy. If I could choose to do as many careers as I wanted, I would definitely have art historian on the top of the list. Museums are where history, culture, and art collide into one grand showcase of the lives of people in the past. I think its so amazing, that every individual piece allows us viewers to look into the actual mind of the artist himself. Plus, art museums, or at least those in Paris, are absolutely beautiful (here goes the architect-Anashe again). I think my favorite was the Orsay, not only because it held the Impressionists (my favorite art period), but it is an old train station. I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, but I was instantly transported to the world of Hugo Cabret.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post! Any feed back or things you are interested and have questions about, please leave a comment or contact me xx