Having a sweet tooth, the sign that read “Come to the 6th floor for candy” grabbed my attention instantly. I started walking up the circular stairs that were surrounded by brightly colored murals stretching from the steps to the walls, doors, and ceilings of this artsy building on 59 Rue de Rivoli, and trendy building which hosts 30 artist’s studios in heart of Paris. “The earth without art is just eh,” illustrated one of the murals. Once I arrived on the 6th floor, there were no candies. Even so, I was glad I entered because the building itself was eye candy and each floor had a different style and flavor. I was feeling the passion that artists were putting into their art, but were they going to shape history?
My eyes landed on the work of Linda McCluskey’s. I liked her paintings representing distorted crosswalks, shops and signs of cities like Paris and San Francisco. They were realistic and surreal at the same time. With my eyeballs jumping from one corner to another of her space, I read John Lennon’s words “You might think I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one,” written right next to the window facing Parisian rooftops and working chimneys that billowed out a constant stream of smoke on a late January late afternoon. The contemporary artists of 59 Rue de Rivoli weren’t painting the next Mona Lisa, but they were creating art without feeling the pressures of the past as I was, ever since I had landed in the French capital.
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, near the Seine river, housed the door that dragged me inside the elapsed world of Hemingway, Joyce, Fitzgerald, and Pound. Shakespeare and Company is an independent bookstore opened in August 1951 by traveler George Whitman, occupies the building. Born in America, Whitman traveled to China, South America and beyond, all experiences that taught him something special and precious. It was an isolated part of Yucatan that especially seemed to leave a lasting impression. After getting sick with dysentery, Whitman walked for three days in a forest without eating or drinking. A Mayan tribe found and nursed him, despite the poverty they were living in. Here, he learned the philosophy of “give what you can, take what you need,” which became one of the bookstore’s mottos. While walking on the right corridor, studying the cozy space, I felt the vibe of the motto especially when reading quotes on the wall such as “my country is the world, my religion is humanity,” by Thomas Paine. I was thinking about the 50,000 people this magic place has hosted since its opening when I got to the second floor. Wood benches were arranged all around the main room walls, except one, where space was left for a window facing Notre Dame from the left side. I stared at the view, sat down still looking outside and breathe. I closed my eyes and inhaled the atmosphere, the air of this bookstore that had so much history, passion. I wanted to capture all this because the bookstore felt holy to me, especially having studied literature for many years. Still, I felt little compared to the writers that used to mingle here.
Going back downstairs, I bought the book “Saved by Beauty” by Roger Housden and a postcard of George Whitman to keep as memory. I opened the green wood door and time traveled to the present. Picture, walk, picture, walk. Stop. Like a Parisian, I was wearing black-and-white chess pants, high heels and pearls as I was standing in front of Chez Julien one of the oldest standing restaurants in Paris, on 1 Rue du Pont. Behind the left side of the restaurant, there was a visible side of the Gothic church Ènglise Sant-Gervais with its triangular tips. Lights created shadows on the church and enlightened the blue-gray sky. My imagination started over again, and I felt transported to the past, as I knew Chez Julien opened in 1780. I started to hear the sound of carriages with the recognizable rhythm of hoofs pounding the ground. I felt I wanted to enter one and take a moonlit ride around the architectural wonders of Paris. Instead, the door of the restaurant opened and I was guided inside. I was sitting in the main room together with local Parisians. The space had around ten wood tables perfectly set, each one with a white candle in the middle. The room was elegant with mirrors, white roses and big windows that made me gaze in awe at the street lightened by lampposts. The ceiling was a work of art. Painted glass blocks recreated a rich and elegant old style ceiling. Angels, green leaves and flowers were floating around the golden frame, which was leaving space in the middle for a soft blue to represent the sky. A chandelier was hanging in the middle.
I imagined the restaurant full of mad and dedicated artists, of passionate people with their carriages patiently waiting outside. I thought I would have loved to see this with my own eyes. I wondered what characters came to have dinner in this mason where I was sitting 233 years after its opening. Just like in Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris” where screenwriter Gil Penders finds himself in a 1920’s party and encounters Josephine Baker, Scott Fitzgerald and eventually Ernest Hemingway, I wish the experience could have had been possible to have. If that were real, I would have sat down with them and asked questions such as “Do you feel successful?” “Are you able to support yourself through your art?” “Can you picture yourself being still mentioned in 2015?” Even though I don’t have the answers, I have the feeling they would have said “no” and this should be a reminder to all struggling artists that very few of the people who shaped history were aware of their value.
Paris Travel Information:
WHEN TO TRAVEL:
“The best time to visit Paris is from June to August when the weather is just about perfect. Average highs are in the mid-70s and there are long days of sunshine. Unfortunately, summer is also the most crowded time — and the most expensive. For a significant drop in tourism, plan a trip in the fall or spring. To save some money on your flight and hotel, pack your most stylish heavy jacket (this is Paris, after all) and visit in the winter.” – U.S News
There are direct flights to Paris from just about every country in the world. The earlier you book your flight the better. You could find a flight from NYC to Paris for about $500. Check out sites such as Skyscanner.com, or kayak.com.
HOW TO GET AROUND & WHAT TO DO:
Use the Metropolitan to move around as much as you can. Also from the airport into the city.
Walk around the famed neighborhoods of Le Marais, St. Germain, Ile Saint Louis, St. Paul, Rue Mouffetard for a true Paris experience.
Take Passage Verdeau.
Visit Centre Pompidou, the largest museum of modern art in Europe.
Buy a book at Shakespeare & Company.
Buy cheese at La Fromagerie de L’Isle.
Grub fresh pian-au-chocolate at any Boulangerie.
Weekend brunch at Egg’s & Co.
Afternoon tea at Mariage Frères.
Dinner at the cozy and eclectic Derriere.
Taste Fondue at La Grange.