We’ll Always Have Paris

Published in the Battle Creek 4/1/2012

Some 40 years ago, my father took me to Paris, France. At fifteen years old, the City of Lights was a magical place. When I returned to Paris this time, I took my father.  It was a bittersweet visit, my father at 82 was having difficulty walking long distances and an afternoon nap was a required stop. Forty years ago, we went all day without stopping. While we aged, Paris fundamentally hadn’t changed.

We rented an apartment, right off Boulevard Saint-Germain in a very nice neighborhood in the 7th Arrondissement (AR).  In classic French fashion, we shopped every day and cooked most of our meals in the tiny galley kitchen.

We retraced our steps to Notre Dame Cathedral and sat quietly in the pews looking at the famous rose stained glass windows. Across from the church, we looked for the restaurant where we ate the final meal of the last visit. It was still there, a typical brasserie. I remembered every detail of the meal, steak entrecote, frites and haricot verts but Dad remembered exactly where the restaurant was.

We reminisced about our last night in Paris so many years ago. I just had to see the Arc de Triomphe one last time.  Neither of us could remember why it was so important. We madly dashed through the fabulous Metro system and ran up the stairs to see the historic arch built in 1806 to honor the war dead, lit up against the dark night sky. We barely made our train. No running in the subway this trip, just a slow walk with my father leaning heavily on my arm.

Each morning started with a café crème and a fresh croissant. Our daily routine included buying a fresh baguette, and who could resist a small pastry too? Éclairs, flan ancienne (custard pie) tarte citron were our choices. We shopped for cheese in the shop downstairs, picking out cheese by guess since we didn’t have any idea what everything was.  We drooled over everything at the Marché Raspail (open Tuesday, Fridays and Sundays) four blocks from our apartment. From cheese, to fresh seafood, to mounds of fresh fruits and vegetables—one of the city’s most famous open air markets.

Dad wanted to treat me to lunch so we headed to the two block Rue des Grands Augustines. Upscale restaurants like Guy Savoy’s Les Bouquinistes where the tasting menu dinner started at $150 per person to the more affordable and also charming restaurants like Roger La Greonouille (Roger the Frog) where the fixed price lunch was only $35 per person with a ½ bottle of wine.  The Frog was more in our price range. We nibbled on filet de Bream, a flaky white fish.

While Dad napped in the afternoons, I visited my favorite museums. At the Rodin Museum, I sat in the garden soaking in this masterful sculptor of the 19th century, Auguste Rodin. I thought about my Dad, resting a few miles away and his love of travel, music and art — loves he had passed to me, starting with that first visit.  For a few hours in the Musee D’Orsay, I immersed myself in the most complete collections of Impressionist painters in the world. The new installation was a much better grouping of artists than I remembered from past visits. I’d visited this museum with my Dad on that very first trip to Paris.

We walked slowly together through the Paris of 2012, remembering our first trip together. For my Dad and me, it wasn’t just a line in a movie, “We’ll always have Paris.”