Jean Luc Godard’s Breathless is one of my favorite French new wave films. It’s a bit of guerilla filmmaking at it’s finest. Mostly, I loved seeing Paris in all it’s glossy glory splashed across the screen.
Experiencing the French capital where painters, filmmakers, fashion designers, writers and musicians found inspiration lured me years ago for a visit. Like any great destination, I had to overcome a case of jet lag.
My father and I had a marvelous flight on Air France. It was my first time on the second floor of the 747. As the plane approached Charles De Gaulle, France appeared with it’s fields of green and subtle rolling hills.
It was amazing to think that one of the world’s most sophisticated cities was nestled in somewhere in these fields. We had a smooth landing. Then reality hit. Traffic, highways sprawling and cheesy eighties ballads overwhelmed our senses. Unlike most traffic-ridden cities, something beautiful appeared from the grey.
The Eiffel Tower like a glistening croissant at a café towered over the modern outdoor advertisements. We arrived in the city center and in no time were walking the legendary sidewalks. Being close to the Champs Elysees equated tourism and chains. Somehow, I ignored the corporate aspect and found beauty in the city’s architecture and pedestrian culture.
We couldn’t stop walking and ended up in the Place de La Concorde. Traffic horns complemented the austere square with its obelisk as a centerpiece. Sycamore trees, Le Arc de Triomphe and elegant architecture surrounded us.
At that very moment, I felt inspired and understood the allure of the city. There are great cities in the world that offer amazing stimulation by just stepping foot in it’s soil. Paris is one of those places.
Throughout the city, my father and I were impressed by everything. We loved the Jardin de Luxembourg, which was covered in fogs and Parisians enjoying a Sunday afternoon stroll. The cafes and shops of St. Germain Des Pres were bustling with fashion and coffee cups. Even the street musicians in front of the Opera de Garnier provided both wonderful memories and enjoyable moments.
In America, I can travel to Paris anytime I want. Through the writings of Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, I can travel to cafe society. In many French films from the likes of Francoise Truffaut and Luis Bunuel, one can experience a stylized and sometimes surrealistic view on Parisian life.
Even observing the art of Pablo Picasso gives me a window into the city that inspired him and many of his artists. French accents, the smell of crepes and Edith Piaf’s voice reminding me of Paris past, I miss it all.