Once upon a time I wrote a short story. It’s about a midlife woman who found her heart on the lounge room floor. Neglected and hidden amongst a pile of art books. She hadn’t even realised it had gone missing. Her first impulse was to hide the thing. So she wrapped her heart carefully and put it under her bed. This was where she kept those special private things.
However on some days when she was alone she started spending time with her heart. Maybe doing art making or sewing. Sometimes just sitting with it. Later she started taking her heart out on daily walks. It was on one of these walks that she realised she needed to get away. By herself. Well not exactly by herself. It was to be with her heart.
Of course it’s about me. And mon cher couer. My dear heart. This was the beginning of My Paris Story. And after that all sorts of things started happening. And changing. Still are. It’s actually a little bit magical.
Here’s another thing. In that story I imagined a room at the top of an old building. In Montmartre. There was an inner courtyard with rose bushes and pale green chairs and a resident cat. There was a winding sloping wooden staircase. No lift. The room was on the top floor. And the reward at the end of the steep climb was a simple beautiful room with a view unfolding across the rooftops to the Tour Eiffel. The proprietress was one Madame Maubert.
Now I don’t want to totally freak you out. So I hardly dare reveal this. But guess what. I just stayed in the exact place. Like the very exact place. Totally. It is five years after I wrote that first draught of my story. It was as I imagined. Everything. The aged patina on the pink wooden door. The secret garden. An old Parisian building. All a bit crooked and wonky. Perfectly imperfect. Yes. I know. Amazement. And whats more the owner was Madame Maubert. Hard to believe. Madame Claire Maubert.
So may I suggest that you start now. Book a room. Maybe the actual room. I reckon it’s truly a magical room. Une Chambre a Montmartre. So email Madame Claire today. She is the most delightful of hostess. She lives across the hall in what I’m sure is a gorgeous apartment. A la Bohemian. With Paris brocante finds and old worn rugs. Sloping wooden floors and piles of books. A velvet chair by the window. Herb pots on its edges. I admit to being a wee bit envious. And letting my imagination run wild. Peeped in when I could. Every room with large windows opening to that view. Wow.
Anyhow Claire is warm, helpful, and totally available. Without being at all intrusive. Knows you want privacy for those Paris pleasure moments. For sleeping and weeping with your heart. It goes without saying she is passionate about her city. Willing to help you make your dreams happen. Did I mention her English. Perfect. Makes it all bit easier.
So here’s a perfect start. Imagine this. You will slowly awaken to Paris out the window. Breathe it in. Become aware of others at their windows. Coming to life. Claire is heading out. Her sneakers on the stairwell. It’s to get you fresh buttery croissants and un baguette from a local patisserie. All across Paris people have been toiling for hours to make these moments happen. You will read for a bit. Later breakfast will be wheeled in to eat in your bed with a view on a lovely vintage wooden trolley. And there is a generous pot of fresh coffee filling the air and your nostrils with a burnt caramel aroma.
Then you shower in the spacious bathroom. It’s modern and just right. Out the window near are views of Sacre Coeur. You ponder the presence of military figures as you brush your teeth. A fact of modern Paris. Notice the particulars of the weather. A light touch of makeup. Apply the Chanel lipstick you purchased duty-free. Maybe you can leave the umbrella behind today. Time to go. Shoes sweet enough for Paris yet sensible enough for walking. The crowds are already swelling.
Whatever you do don’t plan too much. You have Montmartre and all of Paris at your doorstep. There’s no need to rush. Take time. Allow yourself to tune into some local rhyme. Otherwise you will be out of sync. Miss the moment when it turns up. The Montmartre magic. Fail to notice that the musician playing classical music on the stairs off Rue Gabriel to the street above is the same handsome younger man who resides in one of the ground floor apartments overlooking the rue. And because you have noticed this you will stop later this evening on the way in to greet him. Be invited to share a beer sitting on the window edge. That’s when you find out that he is also the mime at Sacre Coeur in the afternoon. That his lover cheated on him and he really is a sweet heartbroken artiste.
It’s the heartbroken musician mime who tells you about the petit jazz venue nearby. Seats for twelve. Petit Theatre du Bonheur. No charge. Just a donation in a topcoat passed around at the finish. Starts later in the evening. The locals notice you come in. You are discreetly welcomed. People shift in their seats to make room. Later a song in preformed in English. It’s for you. You will be welcomed again in a couple of nights when the next event is planned.
And this is how it unfolds. Most of your plans forgotten. Filed somewhere for another time. You let go and lean into each moment. Surrender yourself. Allow the experience. Most of your time is walking and waiting and watching. And all the time you are filling up with Paris. Mainly Montmartre. You plan to go into the city but find yourself sitting in the garden of Musee de la Vie Romantique. Inhaling the scent of green and pink. You walk home past the sex shops towards the Moulin Rouge. Notice all the small business that support the show. Wigs. Shoes. Costumes. Take a few photos. You wind up the hill along rue Lepic. Have a long apero at Le Relais de la Butte the cafe near the Bateau-Lavoir. Perhaps Picasso took a drink here too. Indulge in some people and pet watching. Well everyone else is doing it too.
Later you round the corner into rue Gabriel. Your home stretch. You make a note that the life drawing class is on tomorrow and think you should risk it. It’s your chance to be an artiste in Montmartre. Even if it’s just for one afternoon. And as you push the code into the wooden door you feel strangely at home. Because you wrote it all that time ago. Then climbing the stairs a little weary now. To arrive in your room. Just in time to sit at the window as the tower sparkles. As it does on the hour after dusk. And it’s always a bit magical.
This is how it started. And some of what has happened. All because you imagined it. Put it in a story. Or a poem. Or a picture. Even la chanson. Others have done the same too.
Yes this is Montmartre. And the Rue. That is the actual room. The garden. Even the cat. And the view. It’s breathtaking. Sorry I can’t guarantee that a gorgeous French man will be there. That’s where you and your imagination need to get involved.