Friday Diary: To Paris with Love by daintydora

I'm lucky to have visited Paris three times, and each time has revealed a new layer of beauty, culture and inspiration. A week on from the attacks in Paris, I wanted to revisit my favourite Parisian places and the memories of it that I cherish: to (and for) Paris with love.

Art Deco Metro

Bubbles outside the Centre Pompidou

Wandering around Paris, even in the finger-numbing biting cold of February in the snow, is an inspiration. For me and so many people, Paris is the perfect place to visit at any time:

For romance, for writing, reading, life, living, being in love, thinking about love, dreaming of love, experiencing everything in exaggerated technicolour (tricolore). The sting of cold cheeks and the emotion of the city, absorbing it all: faces, places, spaces, the dark streets laced with wet streaks of rain and snow, freezing, freezing into the ground and preserving memories in footsteps and in photographs. The Seine and the lights of the Eiffel Tower and a wander through the Jardin des Tuileries.

Le Notre Dame

Odette Patisserie

Street Art at the Place Stravinsky

I remember wandering around and every few steps I had to stop and take another photograph to capture the moment; so elusive yet vivid, and filtered through my own romantic perceptions.

On my third visit in 2013 I wanted to experience my own version of 'literary Paris', following in the footsteps of greats such as Hemingway, Joyce, Scott, Camus and Oscar Wilde.

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On my 32nd birthday I had lunch in Les Deux Magots. While I was there I thought of Hemingway and wondered whether he would still pop in to write if he was alive today?

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I hadn't thought to look up the address of the Shakespeare & Company bookshop until the morning I was leaving Paris, but it turned out to be just round the corner from my hotel. I think I could have seen it from one of the windows in my room if I looked hard enough. I should have looked.

Instead, I had maybe half an hour to browse the literary gems in what I consider now as my favourite bookshop.


I knew that one of my friends had hidden a little note in one of the books at the back of the shop, but I didn't look for it; it wasn't for me to find after all. Instead I snapped a few pictures of the poetry section using my phone, knowing it was forbidden but unable to resist (I bought the book about the bookshop, so that helped to salve my conscience).

Upstairs I adored the teeny writing cupboard complete with typewriter, and the children's books and the reading areas and the old creaky floorboards where the famed writers of yore walked before me. Windows opened out onto a literary reading nook, complete with plastic dinosaurs and all sorts of funny objects adding to the aura of magic.

I had brought George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London to read while I was in Paris, but in Shakespeare & Co I wanted to read everything.

I bought postcards and left change in the 'well' for starving writers. Everything about the place was wondrous.


And then there was Gertrude Stein - 'A rose, is a rose, is a rose.'

And the plaque commemorating her and Alice B Toklas above the entrance-way to number 27, rue de Fleurus:

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Not far away, in the Cimetière du Montparnasse, I searched for Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre.

The graveyard was serene and beautiful, unlike Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, which I had visited previously to see the graves of Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison, (and to satisfy myself that I had been to all the places referenced in Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind).

It was a place I would have liked to spend a bit more time.

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And then there were the after-dark shots.

The streets were slick with rain which caught the lens of my camera resulting in this, my favourite Paris photograph:

Amber, red - romantic

I think it is one of my favourites because it reminds me of the glamour of this City of Light, even in the rain. And the unexpected moments of wonder that happen when you aren't really looking for them.

Notre Dame (artistic)

A distorted blur of Notre Dame, the magic caught in that second that I pressed the button and moved, because I couldn't stay still - spinning, spinning - with happiness and shivering from the cold and the champagne and being right there; midnight in Paris.

Paris will always be a multicultural montage; a cosmopolitan city, fizzy with adventure.

I look forward to returning for a fourth visit (and a fifth, and a sixth...) and delving further into this wonderful city that will not be cowed into submission, into fear, into anything other than showcasing its magic, wonder and strength in the shining bright white of the Champs-Élysées and the proud tricolore of the French flag, echoed around the world.

Paris: It's a Moveable Feast by daintydora

I said I was going to read A Farewell to Arms, and I am, but first I was lured by the much slimmer volume of A Moveable Feast. (I'm not scared by big books - I got through The Goldfinch in a week...)

But who wouldn't be tempted by these first words on the back cover, so evocative of a carefree youth; a wistful existence, smoked in a thousand cigarettes, fresh from the lips of literary giants, and immortalised in film, music, art and iconography the world over?


Paris: A Moveable Feast

I've been to Paris three times, (once as a student, once with a lover, once with a husband...), though I've just realised: never in summer.

And I like to think that the implied resonance applies equally to 'young women'. Thanks Ernest.

Still, in my head I can imagine the French musicians and the artists with their easels around the Montmartre and the Sacré-Cœur.

I can see the pigeons and the crêpe vendors, almost taste the chocolatey squidge of Nutella in my mouth, as elegant Parisians stalk the streets, stopping in little cafés to drink coffee and wine and smoke and talk in their language of love.

Ahhhh. I'll leave you with that thought!

Bon samedi, mon amie.


Friday Diary: (Flashback) Amour à Paris by daintydora

"Everything feels heart-shaped in Paris."

Padlocks at Passerelle des Arts in Paris

I've been lucky enough to visit Paris three times so far, experiencing completely different sights and sounds and inspirations each time.

It was by chance that the last time I was there, my husband and I discovered the Passerelle des Arts, or 'Lover's Bridge', which has been a romantic frivolity for the last few years.

The idea is for couples to lock their own personal cadenas d’amour - love padlocks - to the fence, etched with their initials, and throw the keys into the Seine to 'lock their love together forever'.

Yes, a bit cheesy, but the kind of thing you do as a tourist in the city of love. So we did.

At first I wondered where we were going to get a padlock, but luckily all the tourist shops are well stocked on this front, and from the prices - I saw one at 9 euros - make a nice profit selling to star-crossed lovers.

Padlocks at Passerelle des Arts in Paris

We opted for a heart-shaped red version with 'Paris' in white lettering (tres chic!). There was no ritual of throwing the keys into the Seine while locked in a passionate embrace however, as it was a combination lock.

I've got the photographs so that's enough. I'm also glad we didn't contaminate the Seine any further, but also feel a bit bad that we contributed to a part of the bridge collapsing last year. Not romantic. And now the padlocks have probably all been moved. C'est la vie.

I was fascinated by the variety of padlocks on display though and took a load of photos. It was like a mini art installation that everyone could participate in. Some people had gone to a lot of trouble writing their names and love messages in permanent marker or nail varnish or Tippex, and a few even had proper engravings on. Yes. I know. Engravings - pre-meditated romance!

Padlocks at Passerelle des Arts in ParisPadlocks at Passerelle des Arts in Paris

The trend has sprung up in other cities now too. We spotted a similar padlocked bridge in Helsinki last year.

The Seine through branches

Everything view, every sight or sound in Paris is a cliché, but it doesn't matter.

Passerelle des Arts - Lover's BridgePadlocks at Passerelle des Arts in Paris

After locking our love together we wandered into the Jardin de Tuileries, where swans skimmed the pond (were there really swans? Or did I just make that up because it felt like they were there? Maybe it was just a few oiseaux. It seemed like there were swans.)

Pond in the Jardin des Tuileries

Beautiful tree etched with love heart

In the cemetery at Montparnasse, initials and a heart were etched into this tree, just metres from the graves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.

She was ready to deny the existence of space and time rather than admit that love might not be eternal.”
Simone de Beauvoir

Waiting to cross the road in the rain by daintydora

It's raining. And it's Sunday. And I found this observation I wrote a few years ago about waiting to cross the road in the rain. It feels very apt for today:

Leave the train station and hope the lights are red for cars, green for me.

They're not.

Stand, shift, put one foot into the road, puddle, taxi, step back. Want to cross. Not yet. Waiting. It doesn't normally take as long as this. Lights change. Car in the wrong lane. Buses don’t care. Crater in the street. Full. Murky waters splash.

Finally cross. Run. Dart. Skim across slippery pavements dirty with oil and the pollution of the city. Footprints washed away. No trace.

Another road to cross.

Lights change to green - for them. Waiting again.

Teetering off the kerb. Criss-cross of flagstones and paving, an expanse to cross, nearly there. Boots letting in. Soggy-sock-sensation. Quick strides. Scarf wet. Tendrils of hair on cheek. Glasses dotted with blur.

If only the lights had been on green.

I love it when you find something that you didn't even know you had, didn't even know you had written, or capture something that you didn't mean to. That's when the creative magic is truly at work.

Midnight in Paris

This image is from a trip to Paris last year, taken on the night of my birthday. As I pressed the button on my phone, two droplets of rain landed on my screen refracting the lights in an artful blur of colour which I couldn't have recreated if I tried.

The observation was in Glasgow. The image taken in Paris. Yet they fit together like a rain-soaked street.