Paris est une fête

Paris Ferris WheelA moveable feast, as Hemingway wrote in his memoir of Paris in the 1920’s. That title, ‘Paris est une fête’ in French, has topped the best-seller lists here since the November attacks.

I returned to Paris for a few days following a long absence and found it to be just as I’d remembered, despite a great many changes. Let me share a few impressions.

Paris is a feast for all the senses. Perhaps the most alive city in the world, its every patch of sidewalk is taken up by people and pigeons, scooters and cars, street cleaners and sidewalk cafés. It is a city in perpetual motion, yet in which time somehow seems to stand still.

There is always something happening on a Paris street. Banal things, extraordinary things. Scenes that play out before your eyes as you sit and sip your drink. A backdrop of light and noise that never rests, only lulls for a moment.

Amid the relentless flow of traffic, it is a surprising oasis of peace and tranquility in the intense green of a city square. It’s that pâtisserie shop window with its perfect array of bijoux sweets, just next to the fromagerie that wafts raw-milk cheese to your nostrils. And the urinal smell that pervades every dark corner.

Paris is the fresh mound of dog shit that you are about to step in. It is the homeless man sitting by the curb who smiles when you give him a coin. It is a couple in a passionate embrace by the steps down to the Métro.

It is, encore et toujours, a city of tourists. Where the French seem to be making more of an effort to speak their language.

Paris is protests. The ‘Nuit Debout’ events going on at Place de la République right now are the latest in the series of demonstrations that sprout in the spring. Or perhaps the start of a new world order. In Paris, anything is possible.

Paris is sirens. The ‘pin-pon’ of police cars, CRS and emergency vehicles has always been part of its soundscape. Perhaps with a slightly more worrisome edge of late.

It is a city of strong smells and postcard moments, beauty and the beast. Anger and love. What you experience of Paris may not always be pleasant but it will be memorable.

Paris is a moment in time that stays with you forever.

Quel est ton souvenir de Paris?


  1. Lisa @ cheergerm · April 17, 2016

    Having visited Paris only once, you have captured it’s yin and yang really beautifully Mel.

    • MELewis · April 19, 2016

      Merci! 🙂 Seems that once is all it takes to have a lasting impression, Lisa!

  2. Mél@nie · April 17, 2016

    I lived in Paris for 8 years and our 2 “old babies” were born there… c’est ma ville de coeur, et j’y étais encore last month… 🙂 yeah, Ernesto loved it, too! ❤

    • MELewis · April 19, 2016

      And here I was thinking of you as a pure ‘Toulousaine’….Thanks for sharing your ‘ville de coeur’. 🙂

      • Mél@nie · April 20, 2016

        not at all, I’m kinda global citizen: born in Romania, naturalisée French 35 years ago, I lived in Paris(France, not Texas!) and in Houston, Texas… accent du Midi en français and Canadian(Québec!) accent in English! 🙂
        * * *
        N.B. I ❤ your avatar photo… 🙂

  3. davidprosser · April 18, 2016

    You certainly make it sound like a city alive Mel, certainly not one that bent it’s knee to the events of November. Slightly stronger and more determined maybe.
    I raise a glass to the resilience of the French and to the beauty, light and dark, of Paris, their Capital unbroken.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • MELewis · April 19, 2016

      Lovely sentiments, David, beautifully phrased. I can only join you in that toast! Big bises! xx

  4. Kat · April 18, 2016

    I agree…on one hand, it’s beautiful and romantic, but on the other hand, it’s also dirty, littered with cigarette butts and sometimes smells of urine especially at the train/metro stations. Hahaha…I might return to Paris some day but it will be late autumn/early winter when it’s not so crowded with tourists.

    • MELewis · April 19, 2016

      Hope you do get a chance to return, Kat. Autumn is a lovely time to be in Paris, and maybe next time you’ll find it not quite so dirty as they’ve started a new campaign to get people to pick up their cigarette butts – with an associated fine for offenders!

      • Kat · April 19, 2016

        Oh really? Well it’s about time! Yep, one day i shall return to Paris 😊

  5. Suzanne et Pierre · April 18, 2016

    Wonderful description of all sides of Paris (the good, the bad and the ugly). I certainly don’t miss the urinal odors…Thanks for expressing so well all that is Paris. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · April 19, 2016

      Coming from someone who spent so much time in Paris, and captured the city so well photographically, that is high praise! So pleased it hit the mark. 🙂

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