Thursday, September 4, 2008

Old woollies 3

My old woollies are becoming my version of Proust's madeleine - a sensation, or in my case an old woolly, that involuntarily releases a flood of memories and associations.

Red hat

I bought this red hat on my first visit to Paris at the end of 1974. I'd recently married and we spent about six weeks travelling in Europe. We had very little money, and even then Paris was expensive. I think this hat, which I bought at a street market, was the only thing I was able to afford. It's certainly the only memento I have of the trip.

Unlike Proust, my memories are remarkably few. I've visited Paris a number of times over the years and it's difficult for me to sort out which memories are from when. I do remember where we stayed - a cheap Left Bank hotel called Hotel Saint Andre des Arts. I've googled it, and the photographs of it are still much as I remember it, though I've noted it now mentions 'bathrooms', which would have been an unthinkable luxury at the time we stayed there. I remember our breakfasts of cafe au lait and baguettes in the window overlooking the street; the window sill lined with pots of scarlet hippeastrums.

We were only a couple of blocks from the market at Rue du Buci where we bought bread and cheese and meats for our lunches and marvelled at the varieties of fruits and vegetables that weren't then readily available in Sydney. I also remember the delights of the menu fixe, with its three courses of tantalising food and a glass of wine for a price that was manageable on even our small budget.

Otherwise? I remember the overwhelming beauty of the Sainte Chapelle, with its unbelievably delicate but soaring stained glass windows - I think I've visited the Sainte Chapelle on every subsequent visit to Paris, and I marvel at it every time. I also remember being immensely moved by a cello performance in the vast square spaces of the Saint Sulpice.

I still have my hat - in its indestructible acrylic yarn. I don't think it has any particular Parisian elegance, but it has prompted some reflections on what I then saw as a very elegant Paris.


M-H said...

Lovely post. Life is complicated sometimes. Hope you're feeling better.

Probably Jane said...

What a lovely evocative post.