l’Amérique, or Paris?

My fellow blogger, Heather, and I seem to be on a common wavelength at times and her most recent Blog post, Marcia’s Paris Top 10 (Part 1) is no exception.

Today, our son flies back to America to start his sophomore year in college and last evening he, his mother and I went out to dinner together. Without booking ahead or even deciding beforehand what kind of food we wanted to eat we walked to our own little quartier which comprises a wonderful art deco cinema and too many restaurants and cafes to count. For some reason, my wife suggested we try a recently opened bistro simply called Montparnasse and with no alternative suggestions to offer, my son and I simply agreed.

Now, in Australia, it’s not uncommon to find that French Restaurants are in fact faux French with the wait staff being students from Malaysia and the cooks being Chinese; but Montparnasse, we soon found, was French to the core. The waitress who greeted us at the door was French, all the other wait staff were French, the menu was in French, the cooks were all French and there was a cabaret singer setting up in the corner who also turned out to be…French. Mon Dieu. Que’est-ce qui se passe?

When the singer had finished assembling all of his accoutrements and plugged his iPod, furnished with his backing tracks, into the amplifier, he launched into his first offering of the evening: L’Amérique, by Joe Dassin. It could have been our son singing:

Mes amis, je vous dis adieu
Je devrais vous pleurer un peu
Pardonnez-moi si je n’ai dans mes yeux
Que l’Amérique

Je reviendrai je ne sais pas quand
Cousu d’or et brodé d’argent
Ou sans un sou, mais plus riche qu’avant
De l’Amérique

And this is where the connection with Heather’s Blog comes in. Next to our table was a large picture of the Eiffel Tower. My wife, who has never been to Paris, pointed to the first level of the tower and asked me: “What do they have there?”

I replied that I didn’t know, that I had never been there, and she looked at me disbelievingly. “How long did you stay in Paris?” she asked.

“Altogether, about 5 months,” I replied.

“And you never went up the Eiffel Tower?”

“Nope. Jamais.”

But to tell the truth, the Eiffel Tower still wouldn’t make it onto my top 10 list of things yet to do in Paris. I’ve done most of the things on Marcia’s top ten list, with the exception of the Moulin Rouge, which I’ve passed many times and photographed on occasion but never visited; and the sunset cruise on a Bateau Mouche; although I have my own fond memory involving a Bateau Mouche, a crazy girl from Denver Colorado, and an impromptu recreation of the life and times of Henry Miller and Anais Nin. But that’s another story.

One day, I hope I can go back to Paris. My wife has broader ambitions for Europe, never having been there before; but there is only one place that I must insist on visiting. To paraphrase Joe Dassin: Pardonnez-moi si je n’ai dans mes yeux que Paris. And will I then acquiesce and climb that infernal tower?  Maybe…maybe not. Franchement, I always preferred my Paris at street level.

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6 thoughts on “l’Amérique, or Paris?

  1. Dreaming of Paris while having to say adieu, perfect. I totally understand not going in and certainly not up the Eiffel Tower, I never got up the Empire State building in my 4 years of living in Manhattan. Interesting post as always. Good to get a sign of life from you.

    • He’s gone (again), and I feel empty. Better I should stay away from tall buildings for a while. Thanks for your comment, Om 🙂

  2. Quel homage parfait à Paris ! I’m very glad to hear that you’ll insist on going back to Paris, if only for a day or two. And although I agree that Paris is best enjoyed at street-level, I hope you’ll take your beloved to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and then on an evening bateau-mouche cruise. I think that even an accomplished traveler like yourself will be moved by contemplating the city from on high in the afternoon and then watching the lights sparkle along the river as the sun sets. It gets me every time.

  3. You probably already know my feelings, in that I largely agree with you. However, I do recommend to people who ask (or, on occasion, even if they don’t ask) that they walk to the first and second levels of the Tower. Step-by-step as you climb, and on each landing you stop to catch your breath (which, for me, is every landing) you see (or is it experience?) a different aspect of Paris. Looking out from within Eiffel’s iron-knit wonder I really feel a part of Paris and its history.

    I also recommend that you don’t eat at Jules Verne, the Eiffel Tower restaurant, but that you dine somewhere you can see the tower, and its light show, at night. The restaurant on top of Musee Branly is pricey and a bit overblown, but the glass walls and ceilings afford a magnificent view of the Tower.

    As for boats, my friend, I urge you (on your next month in Paris) to take the leisurely trip down Canal St Martin, starting at Villette.

    Finally, please let my know when that month will be so that I can be there to learn from you the art of street shooting, with a French twist.

    Best of luck to your son.

    • Thank you for your comment, Mark. I’m not sure why it is that I have never climbed the Eiffel Tower, except perhaps that to do so has become something of a cliche. But then cliches become so because they appeal to people. I have visited the top of the Tour Maine, and the Arc de Triomphe and of course the Butte de Montmartre and feel no remorse about having done so. So, if I ever visit Paris again, and the opportunity arises to climb the Tower, I promise that I will not eschew it. And your account of the trip down the Canal St-Martin in your blog has already whetted my apetite. So if and when that day comes when I see Paris again, I will let you know beforehand and with the best of luck we might be there at the same time.

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