Moving from Rome to Paris allowed me to compare the cultural cousins. Both tribes are chatty and both have been talking for an awfully long time. Each talk about food at lunch and dinner and most of the time in between.
When on a walk with Colette and Godot in Rome the Italian women would coo with half a dozen names for the little papillons – in Paris – I would pass a man and he would quickly offer a nod our way and say, “c’est petite chien” and continue walking towards his destination without missing a beat.
If I was hedonist and I was back then, Paris was a city of distractions, for anything you desire. I used to sit outside La Comedie Francaise at the cafe at Place de Colette, perhaps eating a Salade Nicoise, and watch the handsome actors relaxing over their coffee or aperitif before heading into the theater to act out Moliere, with their seductive canes and long, heavily curled wigs flowing down their backs over period dress on stage. And yet, so incredibly sexy.
We lived in the 5th and across the river in the 4th there’s Opera Bastille, down the street, in the 9th sat Palais Ganier and as much romantic ballet as you can imbibe at the Opera de Paris – tickets were easy to obtain back in 2006-2009. The ease of going online not yet available. I didn’t mind. Just grateful for another excuse to get out and walk the dogs, or put them in the basket and cycle around the city. There was true joy to experience, sensory overload to overwhelm, and yes, it was definitely Paris
Time passed so quickly I couldn’t catch up but the cycles of life and death caught up with me. But in the meantime it was such an intense social experience, people came to dinner, everyone showed up, they never ever said no; because it was Paris. Jim Haynes hosted informal weekly dinner gatherings at his flat in Montparnasse. He’d been hosting this Sunday gathering since the 60’s when people like John Lennon showed up. By the time I arrived it was just full of expats like me who missed their accent. And worth the trip.
I was given tickets in return for my own little soirees at our flat in the 5th arrondissemente. Special events like couture shows where you could see the craftmenship up close which felt magical. You could sneak into a vernissage, an art opening and one of my neighbors, from Vietnam had his own show full of landscapes. When he invited me down to his flat to view his art work my body automatically relaxed and was put into a meditative mood without even knowing it.
There was a famous soft porn actress who lived just below our horse-shoe shaped apartment, located at the top of the building. There wasn’t a straight angle to be found within and Notre Dame, the Patheon and the Eiffel Tower were easily seen while looking out. When friends came to visit and used the bathroom at the back of the flat next to our bedroom they would say, “Bailey, have you seen this?” I could have been entertained in that way but preferred theatrical drama on the stage.
I wrote about my life extensively in my book, “A European Odysey; How a boxer’s daughter found grace”. The cross section of characters I met was as colorful as any place I lived. There is something unique about the social opportunities in Paris. Everyone so open to meeting new people, to share their experiences, to get an invite, to dance along the Seine in spring when picnics are laid out.
Summer is when the Parisians let their protocol go and when musicians get together for Fête de la Musique on summer solstice. Every corner in the center of the city is filled with every single kind of music you can imagine and the sounds linger well past midnight. There’s no reason for anything as tedious as sleep – music is surround sound until the wee hours of the morning.
We’ll always have Paris where there is something for any pleasure you desire.