Thursday, January 9, 2014

Love of Paris

There was a foot of newly-fallen snow on the ground when we left Michigan. The temperature was -15F (-26C), but the howling wind made it seem much colder. The departure board at the airport was littered with cancellations, but our Air France flight to Paris was marked "on time." That was a bit optimistic and turned out not to be true. Our plane was not on time, mostly because the electronic equipment on the first two fueling trucks froze up. The third one worked, but very slowly. 

Once on the plane, there was another delay when the passenger count came up one person short of the number of passengers checked in. Someone checking in and then not getting on the plane is a red flag in today's security-conscious airline world, so the count had to be taken again and each passenger checked off by name. That seemed to resolve the problem, and with one more de-icing of the plane, we were off - just three hours behind schedule. Eight hours later, after dinner, a film, a couple of hours sleep, and breakfast, the pilot announced that we were cleared for landing in Paris, where it was a balmy 54 degrees (12C).

We arrived at our apartment late in the afternoon, which gave us enough time to unpack and unwind before meeting a friend for dinner. A Thai restaurant was suggested, but when in Paris, especially your first night in Paris, it's French food you crave. So off we went to a nearby bistro for a hearty lamb casserole. 

Ordinary life goes on even in Paris, which meant that my first day was earmarked for setting up the apartment and shopping for food and supplies. But when it's 60 degrees (15C) in Paris in January and the sun is shining, ordinary life can wait. 

A long serpentine walk brought me in the late afternoon to the Hôtel de Ville. Besides being the city hall of Paris, the Hôtel de Ville often has great exhibits, free to the public. Right now the facade is adorned with an iconic photograph of two lovers kissing with the words: "Brassaï Pour L'Amour de Paris." The line to get into the exhibit was not long so I decided to go. 

Brassaï, who was born Gyula Halasz in Brasso, a Hungarian town that is now in Romania, came to Paris in 1924. He took the name Brassaï to honor his home town.  He became a French citizen and until his death in 1984, he took black and white photos of the adopted city that he loved. He specialized in Paris by night, roaming the city, photographing the famous and the infamous in cafes, bars and brothels. In his photos, the monuments of the City of Light often emerge out of a misty darkness that renders them romantic and mysterious.  His images, many of which appear in the exhibit, beautifully capture Paris in the mid-20th century. It's a great exhibit and if you're in town, be sure to see it.  If not, click here to see a sample of Brassaï's work. 

When I left the Hôtel de Ville, darkness had fallen and a light fog had begun to settle on the city. The photos in the exhibit showed, I thought, a Paris that was no more, but on my walk home, I passed a cafe on a small, dark street. There, at a table in the window, were two lovers kissing. 

A bientôt,  

(All photos featured above by Brassaï are in the public domain)


  1. Last year I took a snow covered flight from New York to Paris. It was five hours late. I know how you felt. Was glad to make it to town. Enjoyed your post.

  2. What a lovely, evocative post, Geraldine! Every word rings true.

  3. Perfect. Thought I was there with you.

  4. Another terrific essay. In a mere eight hours you leave the tundra and come into the city of lights and warmth.

  5. What a sweet arrival (never mind the delay)!
    Just makes you want to get on a plane and GO. But.... Someday. A.L.

  6. Glad you have your priorities right! The photos were fascinating. Vicky

  7. Tres romantique!! M.L.

  8. Cheap Paris tour ticket from euroafricatravel!!!


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