There Have Never Been So Many People on the Streets of Paris. Never
There have never been so many people on the streets of Paris. Never.
Maybe it’s because it’s Fashion Week (when you see a lot of tall skinny not-so-pretty women, men dressed silly and fashionistas wearing all the wrong shoes…for Paris) or because Saturday night was the annual festival of “La Nuit Blanche” and everyone was out being cultural for free…either way, Saturday felt like Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
I returned to Paris from taping a House Hunters International episode in the Champagne town of Epernay on Tuesday night and barely settled in when the fun in Paris started without stopping.
Wednesday night we had complimentary tickets to see Asa perform at La Cigale, and there was no way I was going to miss that! She came to me years ago to consider purchasing a property and we’ve been connected ever since. Born in Paris to Nigerian parents, she grew up in Lagos, but returned to Paris at the age of 20 where her life as a singer, songwriter, and recording artist really took off. She has a smoky, powerful voice and a particular sound that spans a broad range of music styles that fits all ages and musical tastes. In fact, the audience at the concert was the most mixed bag of spectators ever. They were old and young, white, black, brown and yellow…they were everyone! And they loved her!
Bernard Burch was with me and we were just as blown away as everyone else. So much so that she did a couple of encores. They wouldn’t let her leave the stage. But don’t believe me, check her out for yourself on Youtube.
Author Cara Black is in town. We met up for dinner in the 6th arrondissement to catch up on what’s new. She is always writing, writing, writing…any one of her mysteries. She has a new book coming out in March 2023—”Night Flight to Paris”—not one of the Aimée Leduc mystery series, but a sequel to “Three Hours in Paris.” In this newest page-turner, “it’s once again up to American markswoman Kate Rees to take the shot that just might win—or lose—World War II. Three missions. Two cities. One shot to win the war.”
Cara loves to talk about her characters who for her are just as real as she and me. She promised to come to speak at Après Midi in May 2023, so stay tuned for that and plan to be there. Her tales are always delightful and her books are just as wonderful. My library has every single one of them, as should yours!
The following evening at Au Petit Fer a Cheval, while downing the best Confit de Canard one can get in Paris, poet, teacher, and storyteller James Navé and I caught up on life. Au Petit Fer a Cheval is a story in itself, but it’s a bistro one needs to know about as it’s hidden behind its horseshoe-shaped bar. It boasts of a couple of daily specials at a bargain price, but no other restaurant can top its Confit de Canard, served with crispy fries and delicious salad. One can’t help but go off their diet sitting in this cozy corner of Paris. Ask for Bouba, the waiter with the big beautiful smile, and be sure to tell him I sent you!
Navé is in town to host an Imaginative Storm Creative Writing Weekend October 7-9 at the Ramakrishna Vedantic Centre Gretz-Armainvilliers. It’s not too late to sign up! This is a chance to “write what you don’t know.” It’s for writers at all levels.
Navé and I discussed what it means to “write what you don’t know.” His answer: “The same way you live, moment to moment—not knowing exactly what will come, but curious, engaged, open to experience and inspiration.”
You won’t regret spending your weekend writing what you don’t know…and be sure to tell him I sent you.
An old friend from the other side of the planet came to visit for the weekend and that meant non-stop visiting Paris. On Saturday, we fought the unusual crowds on the street and wound our way across town on foot, down rue Vieille du Temple, bumper-to-bumper with tourists and shoppers. One gentleman, playing guitar, dressed in a warrior’s helmet and yellow vest, had a built-in microphone and speaker, singing politically targeted songs to whoever would listen. We just chuckled.
Walking past Notre-Dame, we were certainly not the only ones awed by the massive scaffolding, the incredible restoration taking place, the exhibition of photos along the path, plus the hordes of people on the Parvis…and everywhere.
No, I’ve never seen Paris so insanely busy with tourists…never.
We stopped on the Ile Saint-Louis for my favorite sorbet in the world, Berthillon’s Cacao Amer (that I wrote about recently) and worked our way over through Saint-Germain-de-Prés and Odéon, eventually landing at the Musée du Luxembourg, just in time to get in free to see the Miroir du Monde exhibit as part of La Nuit Blanche. There were too many choices of exhibitions and museums as part of the annual festival to make it easy, but this one stood out for us for timing and location…on route to dinner not far away.
I had a hard time making sense of the exhibit and decided that even after reading the description, it still left me wondering: “The exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg brings together around one hundred remarkable artworks and objects collected between the 16th and 18th centuries by the powerful Prince-electors of Saxony. During a period marked by the struggle for imperial power between the Electorates of the Holy Roman Empire and the courts of Europe, this dazzlingly rich collection demonstrates the political power of the Prince-elector.” I suppose it’s my lack of knowledge about the Prince-electors of Saxony that left me wondering, but the “objets d’art” are still worth a visit.
Dinner was at Toyo, just south of the Jardin du Luxembourg…a Japanese restaurant that limits diners to 20 people maximum, run by chef Toyomitsu Nakayama from Kumamoto. He offers a 99€ extravaganza that I consider a bargain for the quality of the meal…eight to 10 courses of small, but beautiful and delicious delicacies (we lost count).
It was supposed to rain Saturday, but never did. The weather stayed perfectly warm and sunny, in spite of having schlepped an umbrella with us all day long. Sunday we had our chance, as we trekked over to the Musée de la Liberation, to see the Women War Photographers exhibition, displaying the work of Lee Miller, Gerda Taro, Catherine Leroy, Christine Spengler, Françoise Demulder, Susan Meiselas, Carolyn Cole and Anja Niedringhaus…on until December 31st of 2022. That’s when the rain came down in buckets and thankfully, we still had our umbrella in tow.
The exhibition and the permanent display in the museum could take you a whole day if you really wanted to learn about France’s role in World War II and the Resistance Fighters. What fascinated me most was how the exhibit allows France to clearly take responsibility for its collusion with the Germans in an attempt to keep the peace, but discovers that the only way out of the occupation and the war were the underground resistance fight. When you understand the French and their culture, it’s completely believable how and why it worked out that way.
The excuse for the overwhelming number of visitors to Paris can surely be blamed on “Revenge Travel.”
“Revenge travel is a term that means traveling as a way of making up for lost time during the pandemic. There isn’t one concrete definition or origin, but it generally refers to the frustration and anger that people felt towards COVID-19 for canceling their plans and disrupting their lives.” (Source)
In a recent article in Le Monde, Paris is expecting 33 million tourists this year compared to 19 million in 2021, although 2019 saw 38 million! The hotels are back in business with higher rates. Short-term rental apartments are much fewer and harder to find, so we’re bombarded with requests, even though we don’t represent any anymore. The price of everything is going up.
My friend visiting for the weekend remarked that he’d never heard so many different languages in so short a period of time, but I know for sure Americans are back. The dollar is strong and they mean to come and spend it! You hear their loud voices everywhere. We noticed that a young American woman at Toyo was much louder when she spoke English than when she spoke French and we wondered if the language itself contributed to its sound quality. I get stopped now on the street daily, recognized as “that lady on House Hunters International.” That’s how I know they are back!
Yep, there have never been so many people on the streets of Paris. Never.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
Adrian with author, Cara Black
P.S. I will be taking a week off. From October 17 to 21 there will be no freshly-written Nouvellettres®. We may rerun some past issues…if you prefer not to miss a single issue!