Memories of Paris

The city of culture was my spiritual home for 25 years. Paris was my lover and my mentor. A city of books and literature, conversation and observation, art and culture, fashion and style.

The city where I met foodies, food writers, poets, photographers and myself. Moi-meme. Where collectors and dealers gathered at the weekend at the antique fairs and flea markets in our crazy non-reality world of antique collectables. My favourite was the antique paper fair. I was an Ephemerist, a dealer in juvenilia, the performing arts and packaging. I loved my world. The real world of war and peace was outside my safe international bubble and I was oblivious to the news unless it influenced my tax returns!

I changed my style of dress. Away with long maxi skirts de rigeur in the 70s. Trousers enticed me throughout the 80s and still does today in one form or another. Back then it was especially the label Sonia Rykell that inspired me. Velour tunics and trousers with the inside seams outside. Black and gold, the colours of the 80s. Always black with another colour combo, black with red, black with silver and of course statement fantasy accessories. I was frenchified. I was Parisian. I was chic with my own style, always with a felt red beret. I was even called by the dealers ‘chaperon rouge’ or ‘Little red riding Hood!’

Unfortunately I put on weight eating not only creamy Normandy food and steak with frites but also Japanese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian and Korean food. My palette became more discerning. More Parisian.

I recall meeting a sophisticated American woman in La Coupole in Montparnasse who invited me to her flat in the 14em for lunch. I recall the day well as a bomb had gone off in the cheap department store Tati in the 18em and there was a suspected bomb alert in the post office right next door to the woman’s flat. The police had cordoned off the road and I took refuge in a jewellery shop. I really wanted to spend time with this New Yorker who seemed so knowledgeable and chic. Lunch was simple. A good crisp baguette from Poilane with Brie de Meaux and red wine.

‘Servez-vous!’ Said she pointing to the Brie.

That was the end of our superficial friendship!  I took the cheese knife and cut diagonally through the pointed end of the portion on her olive wood cheese board. She exclaimed with disgust at my ignorance.

‘Jamais on fait ca! Mon Dieu! One slices down the side, a sliver of cheese otherwise you would be left with la crotte!’

I left. Wiser. Never to return!

I became an Alpha woman in business, travelling between London and Paris before they had thought of the tunnel. Eventually it was the collectables triangle including New York, the ultimate city of my materialistic dreams. Yes, in those days I thought of business 24/7. Money and profit. Profit and money! Acquiring more than I needed. I was in a relationship with objects and visual images, not people! I was not a writer or a creative in those materialistic days I am now ashamed to confess.

The enticing smell of roasted chestnuts on the Boul’Mich in autumn, wafting aromas emanating from bakeries early morning, warm flakey crispy butter croissants as only the French can bake. Oh how I miss my morning fix with filter coffee but without the dunking! Jamais!

The romantic stroll chez les bouquinists searching for that hidden first edition within the exciting literary chaos of the new and the old. Looking in wonderment at the glory of Notre Dame and the nearby Shakespeare and Company bookshop founded by George Whitman in 1951 and renamed in 1964 forever an institution.

The Left Bank with its smell of coffee, the clatter of cups and the familiar hiss of the machines in Montparnasse at The Select, Dome or La Coupole.  Or another corner of coffee culture in St Germain at Les Deux Magots or Cafe de Flor next door. I would hang out at my local Le Select where I met my lifelong friend Arlene. How I miss her, my American Outsider artist and poet friend, New Yorker Arlene Hiquily. Gone! Willy Maywald, the fashion photographer and his salons, where everyone creative would go. Where I learned how to introduce myself with confidence to a complete stranger, where I learned the art of more meaningful conversation and observance of people walking their talk. Gone!

Yes, I became a cultural snob, a culture vulture thirsting for knowledge and education. I became an international collectables dealer and began in Paris. If I had to relive my life and chose a city, it would be Paris. A city that one can always return to.

Vive Paris!

Written in at the Casa Isabel hotel, Cartagena, Colombia on  26/1/18.