Last weekend I took a little trip to Paris for my birthday. I went there solo, stayed in the 18th arrondissement, and had the most magical time.
Me on the train …
Song of my trip : Jefferson Airplane “Today”
On the Sunday morning I went to the Hotel Amour on the Rue Navarin for breakfast (see below) and got chatting to the most fascinating woman next to me named Bernarda. Upon first glance I had assumed she were French, reading Le Parisian with such Gallic style, but as soon as we began talking I could hear her wonderful mix of American and Franco tones. It turned out that she had grown up in New York, and moved to San Francisco in 1968. Can you imagine? A time when you could hitch-hike around the country and when people really believed in positive change to come.
The weather was beautiful, so I spent most of the afternoon enjoying the Autumn sunshine the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. It was my first time there, and felt stuck by how different the landscape is to the other, more manicured, parks in Paris that I had seen before. The nature feels more overgrown and wild in Buttes-Chaumont, and made me yearn for Yosemite in California. Right now I am reading Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur, which likely magnified my impulse towards some sort of earthy and celestial connection with the world.
Upon a friend’s recommendation I then went to Le Comptoir General just by the canal. It is a very cool and well-curated spot with exotic, laid-back interiors. I was there on a Sunday afternoon, and would like to go back at night next time.
Back in Montmartre on Sunday night I met a young photographer who took a few pictures of me as I sat on the Rue des Abbesses writing. I learned a new phrase “parentheses,” which similar to the grammatical context means a moment that is inserted within, but separate to, the bigger story. A unique pocket of time. I like the sentiment a lot.
The next morning I went to Bernarda’s for breakfast of coffee and bread with honey. She showed me her incredible apartment in the 10th arrondissement and we continued to chat about our Paris, London, San Francisco, a shared love of film, and to share life stories. It was remarkable that we had only met 24 hours previously.
I then sat and wrote at Les Deux Magots for part of the afternoon, before exploring Saint Germain des Pres in the rain. I passed the Cinema Etoile, and remembered seeing the brilliant Portuguese film Tabu there in 2012.
It turned out I left my hat at Bernarda’s, and so returned to the 10th to collect it. This time her husband was home, and the three of us sat drinking tea, laughing and discussing John William Waterhouse, happiness, atheism, and family ties. It was all very unexpected and wonderful.
That evening I went for dinner at Buvette in Pigalle – a delightful spot I recommend whole-heartedly – and got chatting to a writer (and fellow vegetarian) from Boston named Diane. We talked about creative processes and travel, and she let me try some of her Croque Forestier. We parted ways on the Rue Henry Monnier, and I hope we reconnect when I one day get to Boston.
On my last day (Tuesday) I explored Montmartre and visited my favourite vintage boutique Chine Machine. I found some vintage YSL flats for $12 as well as a Maison Margiela blazer for $45.
On the Rue Des Martyrs I somehow got talking to a charming gentleman who asked to take my picture. He wore a tweed jacket and possessed a very unique aura and way of asking questions. He asked what I did in life and we talked about both being writers. He turned out to be Francois-Marie Banier, the notable Parisian photographer, novelist and bon vivant. I feel incredibly honoured to have had my photo taken by him, and hope to one day see the images.
A glorious twist of fate rounded off my trip, as a friend I made at Washington Dulles airport in 2011 got to Paris a few hours before I was due to leave. Lauren: a magnetic free-spirit from Pittsburgh who I hadn’t seen in nearly 5 years. I busted a move on the metro to meet her at her hotel in the 7th arrondissement (so exhilarating), and we enjoyed strong cocktails while catching up. I love that lady – so fun, ambitious, and dreamy – and hope it isn’t another five years before our next rendez-vous. The perfect end to a magical trip.