A beloved to fall in love with again and again


by Flying Solo

Paris – not a word, but a sentence, a statement – nay, a novel, a trilogy – an anthology, an intricate and detailed mélange of stories, short and long, events unraveling along winding roads and narrow sidewalks – lives, moments, glimpses of miracles – definite and infinite, eternal and ephemeral. Paris more than words – much more.

The plane approaches Charles De Gaulle airport. Captain’s voice comes on to announce the descent of the Air France flight from Washington to the City of Lights. It is close to 6 a.m. local time as I peek out of the window to watch the Femme Fatale wink and welcome me into her arms once more.

Paris at dawn – the Grande Dame waking up in its aged beauty. As the plane taxis before landing, floodgates of memory burst open to let loose pages of my history in this city. I start remembering my French even before the flight attendant announces her Bonne journée. Oh, the mysteries of the mind, the mental switches that get toggled on a whim. I host a wistful smile as I watch my favorite city – in the early morning light. I can barely make the traces of the Seine, which meanders, dividing and joining the left and the right banks. I imagine the residents rising from their slumber, leaving warm beds, stretching their bodies with a yawn or two, and preparing for another day.

The first time I visited Paris was on a school trip via ferry from England and train from Calais. I could not have been older than 13. We were a hoard of hormone-driven teenagers from a British boarding school with rebellious, fretful hearts and bodies set to frustrate the house-mistress who was so desperately trying to bring order to the collective unruliness. I still recall the pure exhilaration the first time I found myself at the base of the Eiffel Tower – looking up to the bundle of steel. My secret juvenile thought - “What’s all the fuss?” It was years before I understood the complexity and allure of that structure.

I had my first cigarette in Paris at a sidewalk café in Montmartre at the ripe old age of 14. No filter-less Gitanes for me – but instead a dark brown, long and slim Moore. I did not know how to inhale back then; one puff and I was coughing a raucous. It took years before I mastered the elegant ritual of placing a cigarette deftly in between glossy lips, bending towards my companion to have it lit, leaning back and dragging deep before throwing him a playful glance and exhaling a long straight white plume, while maintaining a gaze into a future that had yet to arrive. But nothing can quite describe the sophistication I felt holding my first cigarette in that street café, tipping off the ash; pretending to be a Parisienne – at least for a few moments.

There is a picture of me – pensive on a Bateau Mouche lazily gliding on the Seine - presumably engrossed by the tour operator’s recount of the 32 bridges – the most notable Pont Neuf, Pont de l’Alma, Pont de Grenelle and Bir Hakim. At 15 I was already well on my way of dreaming up the romances sparked above and below those bridges. I imagined the loves celebrated and lost – promises made and then broken – in the city of romance – the river holding their many secrets.

I had my first encounter with wine in Paris in some café off Avenue Montaigne. Dad raised his glass and clinked it against mine before I sipped at the vin sec - gingerly. I was 16. He made sure I knew how to order, receive, treat and share a bottle. Where better to teach his protégé than the capital of France – the lessons of femininity – handling a long stemmed glass, maintaining balance, wishing the companion a ‘bon santé’ and relishing the elixir of heaven.

I once hitchhiked from my college town in England to Paris – on a dare, or was it for charity. So long ago – I don’t recall but in the good old days of trust and a simple world it was not unheard of to stand by the side of the road with a male or female friend and stick a thumb out for a car, a van or even a truck to pull over, embark and head to the unknown. Little did I know then that one day I would write about it in a world where taking a ride with a familiar face let alone a stranger would prove dangerous.

I have had my fair share of cultural visits - to tour the museums - D’Orsay, Rodin and Louvre to name a few, and the architecture which greets the visitor everywhere. Paris – the city which itself is a museum, where an artist has been let loose on every street corner. April at Jardin Luxembourg, December at Pompidou, Summer at Versailles, and the nights in Quartier Latin or Montparnasse. Memories – tasteful morsels of pleasure, laced with the ordinary as well as the gourmet, the beauty of plain asymmetry, the simple elegance of proportion – a tapestry of color, motion and emotion – rolling into one irresistible joie de vivre.

Paris – a city which exudes excess of every kind but how easily one forgives her vices for the élan she brings to the mundane – a cup of coffee, a glass of beer, a bored street walker, a lonely singer, a dirty peddler. Somehow she looks delicate engaged in the coarsest of acts – human behavior in all its splendor and ugliness - sanctified, glorified, dignified, simply because it takes place under the Paris sky.

Paris - like an old lover being undressed anew, affectionately, caringly as one comes across a mole, a wrinkle or a scar previously missed - under a chin, in the folds of an elbow or the bridge of a nose – the signatures of an individual. And as one places a kiss on each – tenderly delighting in its discovery, one lets go hoping that there will be another chance to love it again.

Paris – an old friend, new at each rendezvous. A beloved to fall in love with again and again.

Over the years I have taken many trips to Paris with family, friends, colleagues, and my little girl. I even once took a team of Japanese car makers who wanted nothing more than to be dropped off at Pigalle and be forgotten about for an hour or two. There is only one person that I have never taken to Paris. A very special person whose path has yet to cross mine – an amour.

There have been men – for sure who have wanted to go with me, men who have been close to me, loved me even. The question has been for me – “Is this the person with whom I want to remember the Paris of romance?” And so far the answer has been no. I don’t have my youth any more to share with a man, nor my energy of the years gone by. I can’t think of a better place than Paris to take a love – for the city is older than me and yet a reminder that youth is not the sole prerequisite to beauty. Perhaps my wrinkles may be forgiven against the shears of well trodden streets of Paris and just maybe my features may appear attractive to him in the twinkling lamplights of a Paris night or its daytime soft blue sky. There is no innocence in me anymore nor in Paris and yet there is still the naiveté of the heart in me and her both– and that will be there for my love and I to loot – to feast upon – to celebrate.

Who will it be? How will he be? Will I lock eyes with him – search in him the answer, convey the urge to share the moments with him and whisper softly “Will you go to Paris with me?” Or, will I greet him with a bear hug and a toothy grin and declare confidently “You are going to Paris with me”. And what will his answer be? Will he refuse me my wish? Will he be the seeker of adventures just like me and agree to join me on the roller coaster of a daring ride? Or will he be a timid-hearted soul trembling at the thought of loving and losing? Time will tell.

Where will I meet him? Will I just one day run into him at a café, on the beach, in the mountains? Maybe I will see him in a bookstore or at my local breakfast hangout. Will it be at a friend’s house or at the park? How about a museum, a dowdy library or an airport? Will I bump into him and demand his company or will I walk up to him and surreptitiously cajole him into taking the sojourn? More than likely it will be like everything else in my life – a complete surprise. He will materialize out of nowhere – drop out of the sky into my lap, smile and nod. “Yes Solo – I’ll go to Paris with you.”

And when the time comes will he have high cheek bones that I can caress and gaze at? Will he have the sort of hands I would want to hold, shoulders I can wrap my arms around and a soul I would want to dive into with my mind and my heart and be assured that it won’t drown me? Will he be shy or will he be brave? Will he be the chuckling type or will he laugh unabashedly with abandon? Will he be a sprinter, a long distance runner or merely a stroller – and how will we take our steps together in the streets of Paris?

In my heart of hearts I know that when he does come he may not be as tall as the man in my mind or as swift or sophisticated in delivery. The cheekbones, hands and shoulders won’t matter. He may not speak a word of French nor have ever heard of Fontainebleau, Sacré-Cœur or Rive Gauche. But one thing for sure, he’d have stolen my heart and with it the Paris of my imagination. In its stead he will fulfill my dream – a love affair with a friend.

And we will go there together – he and I. We will take that walk along Champ Elysees to Place de la Concorde through to the Tuileries Gardens. We will marvel at the trees in full bloom. We will wander along Rue de Rivoli, take pictures, dip our toes in the round pond across the way, tell tales, crack jokes, laugh and talk till there are no words left. We’ll sit at one café after another, sip wine or beer, watch people and guess their life stories - funny stories, sad stories, real stories of the French who have the knack of looking chic while doing nothing special.

We’ll go and visit the symbol of love and beauty – Venus de Milo. Every Monet in town will come alive as there will now be two pairs of eyes to unravel the mysteries of Monsieur Claude. We’ll take the Metro to Saint-Germain-des-Prés stroll along the streets that generations before us have walked. We’ll buy postcards, pick up souvenirs, pose for photos and act silly. Maybe we’ll go to Café de Flore where de Beauvoir and Sartre met – nibble at fois gras on toast and sip champagne. Or maybe we’ll wander over to Café Les Deux Magots and sit among the many patrons, imagine the ghosts of Camus and Hemingway approach and sit next to us. We’ll converse without words – letting our glances and fingers convey our thoughts and feelings to each other and to the world around us.

And when night time comes whether it be a feathery bed at George V or a creaky one in a hostel on San-Michel, we will wrap our bodies around each other in the warmest embrace; limbs, minds and hearts entangled – becoming one, making history, cherishing the moments that fate has gifted us. We will delight in the discovery of each contour, fold and mole, and humbly accept the blessings of a delicious love affair - defined in the flesh –be it to last a season or many.

And of course every love affair has a start and a finish. Will we profess our undying love to each other at Île de la Cité? In celebration of that magic sentiment will we light candles at Notre Dame? Or will our Paris romance come to a close with a good bye at a train station as I blow him a kiss and turn to face my destiny once the train pulls out of Gare du Nord, Gare de Lyon or Saint Lazare?

And there may be other visits with him, or possibly other trips to other places, or perhaps other men and women who will be my companions to Paris of a distant future still. But never will there be a replacement for him or our time there, for there is ever only one time for a first – my one and only.

The plane touches down on the runway. I close my eyes and make my wish and blow a kiss into nowhere. A love affair can wait, for now I have a friend waiting for me in Etoile.


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more from Flying Solo

The beautiful music by

by Anonymously on

The beautiful music by Gabriel Fauré (Pavane, Op. 50) in the video below is made even more beautiful, and apropos to the current piece, by the haunting words of H.A. Sayeh.

بگردید ، بگردید ، درین خانه بگردید
درین خانه غریبید ، غریبانه بگردید

Listen to Gharibaneh here.

Flying Solo


by Flying Solo on



A tad cliche perhaps?

by Madame Bovary (not verified) on

Just a question!

Azadeh Azad

Sous le cile de Paris

by Azadeh Azad on

Thank you, dear Solo, for this delicious daydream. And here is what F. Scott Fitzgerald says about the City of Lights:

"The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older—intelligence and good manners."

Hmmm.... good manners!  Parisians? :-))






Wonderful writing

by Abarmard on

How romantic and poetic. I didn't want it to end.


Fantastic style!

by Mehman on

I have rarely seen in an English prose writing more ellegant, exquisite and eloquent than Flying Solo's writings! Her prose style enchants my soul!


Flying Solo


by Flying Solo on



Ahhhh, Paris

by tissa on

Wonderful essay!  Makes me miss my student days in Paris.



by iranian blogger (not verified) on

I was so happy to see you're sharing another beautiful short story with us. It brought back a lot memories of Paris.


Everyone ...

by Guy, from Paris (not verified) on

Please enjoy this:

Merci :)

Jahanshah Javid


by Jahanshah Javid on

What a delicious, delightful read. I feel the same way about Granada, Spain, even though I've never set foot.


Such a great depiction!

by Jaleho on

I can never decide if my favorite city is Paris, Tehran (this one less objectively of course, connections and personal history and mountains makes it comparable), Istanbul or NY. When I am in any of these cities, I always think of it as my favorite! But, your wonderful depiction of Paris is all that I love about the city too. Like you, one memorable trip for me was with my not so little girl. But, she was 11 close to 12, was obsessed with the book Da Vinci Code, and from the time the plane got close to Paris her anticipation of following the exact route of events in that book made her go nuts with excitement! In the Louvre, she ran away from the signs for Mona Lisa, keeping the "best" for the last, and I thought after 4 hours her heart would stop as we approached the event! Add all the great fun you're describing to having a great cheer leader as a companion. Unlike you at a similar age, she made me go to Eifel tower 3 times, adoring the pile of steel and running down the stairs!

You also write:

"Where will I meet him? Will I just one day run into him at a café,"

I tell you, a darling young lady friend of mine precisely found the lover that she goes to Paris for in exactly that way! She doesn't want to marry him or leave the US for France, but does everything you describe with this charming Parisian she ran into in a cafe! You might just run into him, yes, and maybe in a cafe!

Flying Solo


by Flying Solo on


Red Wine


by Red Wine on

Eh ... Paris ... !


Thank you Flying Solo

by Feshangi on

A beautiful essay that brought back lots of memories for me. there are few things in life as satisfying as meeting up with a newly found good old friend. 



I am all soft and gooey!

by Princess on

Have you read "Paris was a Woman"? I think you might enjoy it. What a beautiful portrait of the Grande Dame. Paris is a very special city. It makes me feel so womanly and I sense a lightness in my gait when I am there. So sophisticated... :)

I devoured this piece. Thank you, Flying Solo! 


Flying Solo


by Flying Solo on