If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. Ernest Hemingway
My grandfather was one of those lucky young men who Hemingway speaks of in his famous quote. Grandpa Haskell traveled to Paris the first time in 1897 when he was twenty-one and lived there for over a year. He joined the American Association of Paris, studied the works of Manet, Daumier, Degas, developed his own curriculum independently in the Musee de Louvre, created lithographs and liquid graphite drawings. And I imagine him walking the cobblestone streets, basking in the golden light, mingling with the artists and writers of the day, creating his art with passion and fervor.
I, too, was lucky enough to spend time in Paris. Six years ago, in January, my husband and I rented an apartment for a week, and we, like my grandfather before us, walked the cobblestone streets, basked in the golden light, mingled with artists and the artists of life, and breathed it all in with passion and fervor.
Here is a journal entry from that trip:
In the Latin Quarter
It is late afternoon and there is a haze over the city, a soft winter glow on the golden buildings of Paris. The air is crisp and I can see my breath as we wander the narrow cobblestone streets in the Latin Quarter. And I love walking briskly and I love exploring the streets and I love feeling a bit lost. And my husband, Cam, is mumbling something under his breath – panicking because he is looking at his map and he doesn’t know where Rue Bonaparte is and he doesn’t know where Rue De la Bucherie is and he doesn’t know where the bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, is, and he is lost in this winding maze of streets and he doesn’t like being lost. He is lost among the galleries and creperies and patisseries, lost among the boutiques and the store filled with toys.
“Look here, Cam!” I squeal. “Just look! A tin ferris wheel filled with tiny people spinning round and round and round!” Cam is lost and he is spinning round and round and round, and he is looking at his map, and I am spinning round and round and round, too, and suddenly I am found, here on this street as the sun sets behind the buildings. Because it is here in this cobblestone alley beside a gallery that I am engulfed by my grandpa. It a feeling. A sense of him. Even a smell of his thick tweed coat and the pipe that he smoked. He is not on the map. Cam has not found him, but I am having a grandpa moment nonetheless. He is no longer an etching or a biography in a book. He is no longer an ocean breeze or the familiar granite mica-flecked rocks of Sister Point in Maine where I know that he, too, lived. He is here in Paris, across the sea, in an alley in the Latin Quarter that Cam can’t find on his map.