A mon Seul Desire. Personal Diary of my Journeys to Paris

Valentine’s Day in Paris. I am wondering: are people falling in love more with each other in Paris than anywhere else in the world? I desperately want to believe so … It’s Valentine’s Day; couples of all ages are queuing for everything: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, cinemas or the Sacre Coeur. I am not sure if Paris is romantic, but it certainly is beautiful; fascinating. Blending several architectural styles, medieval, Gothic, baroque, classical, modern and postmodern, it makes up a box full of jewelry coming from different epoques, each as beautiful as it renders choice of the best extremely difficult: the Bridge of Alexander the Great, Champs Elysees, the Church of Mary Magdalene. The view from Sacre Coeur is breathtaking, Paris lies at my feet like an island inhabited by microscopic houses. It’s so much history, faith and art … all in one, a twisted story of a town that has charmed me and made me promise that I’ll be back. Love in Paris, or just in love with Paris?!
Paris night Eiffel tour
Spring-Summer Collection in Paris: I left at 7:30 in the morning with a TGV running like wind to the much desired destination for a four-day holiday.

The first day is dedicated to heights, thus I start with Mont Martre and Sacre Coeur. The view is amazing: the sober temple is surrounded by a cemetery seeming a collection of art rather than a sad place, commemorating the dead. The Neo-classical cathedral sharply contrasts with the Gothic style of the medieval churches. From here, Paris is reduced to a panorama of the world in a post card, swarming of life. It is a Lego game in which a naughty child has put some odd pieces. Dawn has downed its velvet curtains and I arrive to the Eiffel Tower. Pick-pockets and queuing cannot stop me from climbing. From the top, Paris is bright and lovely. If its name comes from Paris, one of the most handsome mortals, then it definitely fits and gave the young Trojan the right to eternity. The Tower lights up in the cheering of the curious crowd and shines like a torch. It is the Tower of Babel, reaching the sky and all languages on earth meet here. Man has reached heavens but not God…

The second day I dawdle in the Louvre. The controversial Pyramids lie at my feet. I pass from an era to another, through a journey in the times of human kind: from the ancient Egyptians, to the Greeks and the Romans (Venus from Milo is staring with linger eyes, and just around the corner, Amor and Psyche live their eternal love story), the Middle Ages (boasting with their tapestries), the Renaissance (Mona Lisa mysteriously smiles from no matter which angle I admire her). Statues of Michelangelo, Leonardo’s paintings (such as “Saint John” or the “Virgin of the Rocks”, heavily spoken about recently), or Rubens, all spread just in front of me. Then, I reach Baroque, Classicism, Impressionism … Renaissance and medieval themes are reinterpreted and brought back to life. French statues with gods and kings are discovered in a sanctuary-like courtyard. I get out through the inverted pyramid, not without thinking if indeed the tomb of Mary Magdalene is hidden under … while peacefully enjoying the Tuilleries, surrounded by art and nature. In the evening I arrive in the very heart of Paris: Place de la Concorde, the Bridge of Alexander III, The Seine, The Obelisk then I walk along several brand shops close to the Palace of Fine Arts and the Champs Elysees.

The third day is dedicated to churches, gardens and museums, and starts in front of the statue that marks the former site of the horrifying Bastille. Then, I get to Notre Dame, arguably the most beautiful monument dedicated to God by the human kind. Her enormous statues, the strained glass-windows, the jewelry and reliquary, all carry me in a holy place while eager to see the Hunched sneaking to admire his mesmerizing gypsy-girl. Later on I visit La Chapelle. Here I find out where the tapestries of the Unicorn are. I descend in the Conciergerie: from the gorgeous chapel I sink into the emptiness and sadness of the famous prison from the French Revolution, bringing tales of terror, death and guillotines – the least beautiful side of history.

After having escaped, I go straight to Cluny, the Museum of Medieval Art, to see the lady and the unicorn. In front of me the six tapestries lay: “A mon seul Desire”, “The Sight,” “The Hearing”, “The Taste”, “The Smell”, “The Touch”; in each tapestry there is at least a lady and a unicorn. They have been given plenty of meanings; a lot of books have been written in the quest of other lost tapestries. The first interpretation is that the set of tapestries ends with the lady’s renouncing: after having enjoyed pleasures, she give up the passion and reason wins, symbolically depicted though the gesture of taking off the jewelry, showing her the way of free will. If “A mon seul Desire” is the first and not last tapestry in the set, then passion is the one winning over reason, as she is actually putting on the jewelry and not taking them off. Both versions are perfectly possible. In the second case, some writers say that there should be a seventh tapestry to show us the destiny the character has had in the context of an austere Middle Ages where reason was gloriously winning over emotions.
After plunging in the heart of the Middle Ages I get back in the middle of town in the Luxembourg Gardens. History and art intertwine here: the center is of the ancient statues, all eyes staring on Goddess Diana, then writers and queens, all dressed in flowers and scents of summer. The evening is all over in the Champs Elysees, Place de l’Etoile, l’Arc de Triomphe marking the triumph of my dream of coming back to Paris.

Paris Pyramid

Autumn in Paris: The return to Paris does not make me feel either the autumnal sadness, or the endless rain, but fine perfumes of past roses and of an aromatic tea from La Durée, along with some tasty macarons unique in the world. I find its elegant streets, Dior and Channel, the Galleries Lafayette and a stylish restaurant serving berries with whipped cream. Night has come up with a stroll through the books in Shakespeare’s store followed by the Moulin Rouge and Mont Martre where I enjoy the famous moules.

Paris Arc
For the ending, I make an imagination exercise proposed in my former advertising classes: to bring to life a product, in this case being the city. Paris must be the most handsome man in Europe: a guy with a Gavroche hat, stylish, a bohemian writer, spending his time in the most chic cafes. It has slightly longer bangs, he does not speak too much or too little, and he’s extremely attractive. We meet at night when I least expect it, in an elegant bistro, while he’s smoking and sipping mysteriously from a glass of good wine. He invites me to get closer, but neither an evening nor even a lifetime will be enough to discover him. But he is too hard to get forever just for me. However before leaving I make sure that part of him remains in my heart forever. Old and young, handsome Paris always seeks another Elena… Are you ready to meet him?

Lavinia

I am a communication professional and a passionate traveler around Europe. Living and working in Brussels, I am happy to share my experiences of interacting with different cultures. I love reading, writing and discovering new fascinating people and places.

87 thoughts on “A mon Seul Desire. Personal Diary of my Journeys to Paris

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  • 1 November, 2010 at 14:43
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    Hi Lavinia, thanks for sharing this beautifully written account of your travels to Paris. I hope that there is more to come…

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    • 1 November, 2010 at 15:53
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      Hi Barbara! I am so glad you like it. I will come with some more. Thanks for the appreciation, for me it is very important :).

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