My Paris

(This blog is written in the third person, as are all Paris blogs.)

Non, non et trois fois non! I will not descend into that strange, sinister, underground. I will not venture down into a place paved with another woman’s past—a past which whispers secrets and hums loudly with her happiness.

Zut alors! Where will it take me?

But wait.

What if I am not alone?

What if a gentle hand were to take my own and lead me down those wide ancient steps and into the cool passageway where I can hear the echo of her heartbeat?

A hand tightens over mine. Suddenly I’m no longer afraid. I step down those well-worn steps and leave my own world behind.

A vast silence engulfs me as I journey backwards into the dark mysterious passage of time.

Back, back… until a soft beam of light appears before me and leads me into brilliant daylight. I’m back to a million years before. Or so it seems to me.

I take a few paces forward and there she is, struggling with two massive suitcases as she totters on flimsy shoes crossing the Pont de la Concorde. I have to laugh. No one does that in Paris. There are taxis everywhere.

“Ilze!” I call. But then realize that she can’t hear me. She’s in her own world. And so am I. I can only watch.

Clearly she’s just come from the boat train, having spent a night in a flea-infested so-called hotel across from the Gare Saint-Lazare. A bit of a let down, I bet, after ten glorious days on the SS Homeric crossing the Atlantic from Montreal to Le Havre. (Incidentally the last trans-Atlantic crossing for the ship).

She’s barely twenty-one, tall, full of life, long blond hair, which caught the attention of the preppy males off to Europe on their Grand Tour.

Shipboard romances were just passing fancies.

What lay ahead was the city of her dreams. Paris.

Strange that. Where did this passion come from? Of course there were the mesmerizing lectures of her French professors at McGill University while all others around her were dry and boring Anglo Canadians.

She was no preppy. She waitressed and saved and booked a ticket on the SS Homeric.

She would never forget that crisp autumn day, her heart beating excitedly, when she walked down Beaver Hall Hill to the Steamship Line office to pay for her ticket.

It was September 1963. Her mother helped to pack her steamer trunks.