I know that declaring my love for Paris isn’t the most contentious thing I’ve said, nor the most original, but after the atrocities at the Charlie Hebdo offices and elsewhere in the city last week, I think it’s the right subject with which to start my new blog. Paris is a monument to pleasure, joy, beauty, art, music, thought, conversation, gossip, love, sex, fashion and good food. It is a place where frivolity is taken seriously and seriousness is worn lightly. It is all the things that I love most. It is all the things that make life good. In short, it is everything the psychopaths with AK47s hate.
The first time I went to Paris by myself was the time I really fell in love with it. It was an unusually warm May. I fell for the spring air, the spring in everyones’ step, with the boys, with the girls, with a glass of kir at six, with bars and cafés and restaurants, the shops, the streets, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Place des Vosges; I fell in love with the city that light-filled May. Every view is breathtaking in its beauty, every patisserie has a counter of pastel-coloured eclairs. Florists gild their lilies by strewing the pavement in front of their shop with petals from yesterday’s roses. At every café you see men leaning close and speaking softly to women, at every corner you see couples kissing.
Trains on, I think, the number 4 line on the Metro, Mairie des Lilas to Châtelet, have thick, pneumatic tyres to muffle the noise and make your journey smoother. You’re allowed to decide when to open the doors letting you, thrillingly, jump off while the train is still slowing down. And if you alight at Arts et Métiérs the platform is clad in copper and has trompe l’oeil portholes like a submarine from Jules Verne. Visit the museum outside the station: it’s full of detailed models of medieval bridges and working eighteenth century computers and usually empty of visitors. Hundred year old airplanes are hung from its ceilings. Or go to the Musée de la Chasse in the Marais, a museum of hunting in the middle of the city. Of course you know of the Louvre, but there are many world-class galleries. On the fifth floor of the Pompidou Centre you’ll find my favourite museum of modern art in the world: international, thought-provoking, beautiful.
You may be one of those people who finds Parisians aloof and standoffish, but keep a sliver of froideur and, paradoxically, they will warm to you. Someone, somewhere will tut at you but they just want you to behave like they do. I have had bad times in Paris but it was never Paris’ fault. Bravely, I went to meet someone on a blind date. He’d been living there for five years and told me he hated the red checked tablecloth side to Paris. It was doomed from that moment. Other times I went with the ungenerous, the bad tempered and the sensibly shod. Paris is not for them. One of them, while sitting at a café, glass of cold rosé, des glaçons and a bowl of des cacahuètes in front of him, compared Paris, unfavourably, to Brighton. Anyway, he continued, I prefer Spain. He went on to compare me, unfavourably, to Brad Pitt. I think this shows exactly what he knew. In my will I have left a sum for my executors to take my ashes to the Luxembourg Gardens. I want them to empty the urn and let the gentle breeze blow me all through the park. That’s how much I love Paris.