“The last time I saw Paris
Her heart was warm and gay
I heard the laughter of her heart in every street cafe
The last time I saw Paris
Her trees were dressed for spring
And lovers walked beneath those trees
And birds found songs to sing..”
I woke up this morning thinking of Paris. Did I dream of it in the night or was it just a random thought. And then I opened this post from Hallysan at Photographic Memories and just knew that I had to write about that city today.
I have been to Paris several times over the years and really love it.
I have touched on seeing Charles Aznavour in Paris, but let’s go back to the beginning.
As a 15-year-old school girl and part of the French class, I was given the opportunity to visit Paris. I was so excited. I had barely even been out of London then – oh the usual annual holidays to the seaside but really no further than Southend-on-Sea. Money was short at home but somehow my parents managed to let me go on the trip. I probably begged and hassled them until they gave in. Seriously though, they wanted the best opportunities for their girls.
I remember going to have the passport photos taken and then after a couple of weeks, going to Petty France to pick up the passport. This is where the Passport Office was located all those years ago. The Passport Office was relocated in 2002.
I clearly remember turning up to school in school uniform to board the bus. I think we probably wore our uniform for the whole time we were away . It was June 1953 – how very long ago and you ask can anybody really be that old? We were very smug watching the other girls going into the school grounds and envying us. So we were off. The bus (which we called a coach at the time) took us to Dover and then we were on the Cross Channel Ferry to Calais. What excitement. Can you imagine the 20 or so 15 year olds going on a ferry ride for the first time? I wonder how our teacher and her one assistant coped.
I don’t remember where we spent the night but I am sure we didn’t drive on to Paris that night – it’s some 470 miles.
We arrived in Paris – that glorious city and what a marvel to my young eyes. Cars travelling on the wrong side of the road, smart people moving around, we passed the sights of Paris which I had only read about up to then. And then we arrived at our lodgings. This was a school closed for the summer holidays. We were shown into a long dormitory with curtains around each bed. What an adventure. I had never stayed away from home before. But what a commotion when the teacher discovered that the custodian, an old man by my standards, was to sleep in the dormitory too. She couldn’t have that and so set about finding us some other accommodation. Not easy as people had begun to take trips after the war that had recently ended.
I don’t know how she managed but three of us were put into a small hotel and pretty much left to our own devices for the next couple of hours. Across from the hotel was a fire station and we watched these gorgeous young men going about their business. I have always had a thing about firemen since.
We stayed in that hotel for the time we were in Paris. We were taken to the Louvre and I shall never forget the first glimpse of the Mona Lisa, that wonderful painting by da Vinci. I have been back several times just to revisit it. We of course, went up the Eiffel Tower, saw but couldn’t enter the Moulin Rouge. We visited Notre Dame and Les Invalides. We traversed Pont Alexandre and the Champs Elysee.
On one glorious day we had a trip to Giverny and saw the works of Claude Monet. This was my first introduction to this wonderful painter and over the years I have collected many prints of his work. Perhaps one day when I win the lottery…
Then, all too soon, the trip was over and it was back to dull, dreary London. It was still dull and dreary after the long war we had just survived. But the trip had sown in me the love of Paris and I returned, as I have said several times later.
I believed in love at first sight then (and still do) and that city totally captivated this 15-year-old and has held her in thrall ever since. I most certainly do Love Paris and as I have said, I have returned several times over the years.
Perhaps another post?
“In Paris you learn wit, in London you learn to crush your social rivals and in Florence you learn poise”
Virgil Thompson, American composer,
1896 – 1989