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After They’ve Seen Gray Paree

Snow flurries came down yesterday and then turned into a freezing drizzle keeping “Gray Paree” living up to its name. It’s the norm for this time of year for the Paris sky to sport a blue-white glow under a solid mass of clouds, creating a very even-toned smoky-colored “City of Light.”

That’s the ironic part…”City of Light.” Still, the lighting is very special and unique to Paris, if not all that energizing.

When my daughter was young, she’d laugh at me for verbalizing the visual awe experienced by the multi-faceted Paris sky…that excited me, but may have bored others to tears. She’d say (in so many words), “Paris is the perfect city for you. You see every detail like a jewel.” Then, when her own photographic eye matured, she finally understood what I meant and sees it now, too.

The Christmas lights on the major streets, on the department store facades and in various apartment windows help brighten the rather somber scene…and for now the Eiffel Tower is still lit a bright blue like an Yves Klein sculpture. From up close, it’s drop-dead stunning. From a distance, it’s hard to discern from the cloudy gray skies and seems to blend in to the landscape.

The doors and detailed trim in my 17th-century stairwell, once a beautiful Bordeaux red, have been newly repainted a “greige” — a gray-beige that is so very Paris. Every time I exit or enter, the smoky color drives a stake into my heart. How I miss that beautiful deep red!

Naturally the people have taken on the tones of the city quite personally. If you wear anything other than black, white, gray, taupe, beige, ivory, cream or ecru, they will think you are a tourist from another land. One can easily spot the Italians, Germans and Irish, who aren’t afraid to “Day-Glo” even on the darkest of days.

What happened to ‘color’ in the City of Light? Have the Parisians lost their ability to see color outside of their stone-colored walls, so that anything brighter seems “gauche?”

I wonder. I wonder in color. But today, I’m wearing gray, naturally.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. Read all about our “Family” gathering yesterday at Parler Paris Après Midi by clicking here: /parlerparis/apresmidi.html


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