I first fell in love with the concept of Paris around the same time I started learning about and watching Audrey Hepburn films. As an adolescent, Audrey’s roles epitomized everything I wanted to be: beautiful, elegant, sophisticated, and stylish.
I looked at the common denominator of my favorite Audrey films and realised… It was Paris. I loved her transformation from a dowdy bookworm to a glamorous model in Funny Face. I adored her plucky character in Love in the Afternoon. Her amazing scenes around Montmartre while clad in Givenchy’s finest for Charade were fantastic. She was absolutely adorable paired with the dashing Peter O’Toole in How To Steal A Million. Paris When It Sizzles showcased her comic abilities (without losing an ounce of poise or the Givenchy dresses).
Bien sûr, my all time favorite Audrey Hepburn movie has always been Sabrina. It mixes several of my favorite things: Food, style, language, and the idea of Paris.
I use the terms “concept” and “idea” for this part of my story because I am talking about a point in my life when I didn’t have much money, and when any idea of traveling to Paris was out of the question. Paris, back then, was an aspiration.
Fast forward several years later… I began to develop a preference for wine, studied it, and taught it to people who listened (or otherwise). I fell in love with Chad. Changes, changes… Through it all, Audrey Hepburn’s Paris stayed in the back of my head. I bought books about her, including one that had her favourite Parisian places. I made it a point to own DVDs of her movies that were set in Paris, just to keep my hope alive.
Then, Chad and I got married in December 2011. As a surprise, he gave me the gift of a lifetime: a trip to Paris. We had to postpone for several reasons (one of which was my need to finish my WSET), but eventually, he gave me Paris.
When we got there in May 2012, I realized… Paris wasn’t anything like it was in the Audrey Hepburn movies. It was dirty, people didn’t smile as much as they did in the movies, there were so many petty thieves (also not present in the films), “bonjour” and “merci” only got me condescending looks from the locals, and people didn’t walk around decked in Givenchy.
It was BEAUTIFUL. It was REAL. It was ALIVE.
Paris was so enchanting that Chad and I vowed to come back (and take a side trip to a European vineyard) every year.
Over the years, we have basked in the sense of history around the Champs Elysées and the Louvre (my all time favorite painting will always be the Wedding at Cana). We went up the Eiffel Tower (like a tourist). We went through Les Catacombes, got books from Shakespeare and Co (which introduced me to one of my favourite authors, John Baxter), ogled at masterful Impressionist paintings in Musée d’Orsay, marveled at the majesty of the windows of Sainte-Chapelle, traced famous graves in Père Lachaise and Les Invalides, walked up and down the Seine, and most importantly, drank and ate.
Paris is the capital of the country renowned for mastering the art of food and wine. Chad and I have spent many glorious hours living the flâneur lifestyle, drinking a café or a carafe du vin in a restaurant, preferably with delectable fromages, patisseries, crêpes, and/or escargots (we always find something amazing along Boulevard Saint-Germain).
I guess the reason why I wrote about this is because I needed to both explain my disdain about the recent terror attacks and unload my grief. The need to explain stems from people thinking, “you’re a Filipina, you have no part in what happened” (the French have always made me feel at home and welcome in Paris and in the countryside), “what about (insert other country here)?” (as was stated above, there are more reasons for me to feel an affinity for/at home in France, and I feel the same about places like Hong Kong), and “but you didn’t study/live in/spend enough time in Paris” (I don’t think someone needs to spend every waking moment of his/her life with someone or something to love it, but, as Chad and I have discussed, given the opportunity, we wouldn’t mind relocating to France if his job calls for it).
I grieve because the Paris I know is such a multicultural haven for anyone… A Filipina foodie/wino like myself is accepted there as much as the likes of Lost Generation, or a person of Islamic faith. For extremists to use their warped notion of “god” (thanks to Singapore’s very welcoming mosque, I learned that real, authentic, true Islam is one of the most generous religions) to terrorize and murder people living the typical Parisian life on a Friday night (enjoying les vins, musique, and le sport) is just barbaric and sick.
The French (and France) I know of are strong, resilient, brave, and very proud. There is a high probability that, just to shove it in these demons’ faces, they’ll continue to find ways to make everything beautiful and joyful. They will go on, in a united front, enjoying life, freedom, and the art of a good drink with gastronomic delights.
When I had Chad look this over before I posted it, he told me that the ending seemed tapered off… I agreed. The thing is, I’d love to leave it that way, because I don’t think that this is the end for Paris (or the Parisian lifestyle, or their ideologies). 😉
*We stand against hate, discrimination, senseless killings, terrorism, suppression of freedom, and harmful ideologies. We don’t ask anyone to pray for (insert country here) or otherwise, we ask for people to contribute whatever they can to make this a peaceful, united, loving, free, joyful, and safe world. 🙂