All images from Paris Tango
It was nine years ago this week that I had finished Italian Joy, sent her bundled up off to the publisher and packed up my Florentine life and moved to Paris.
Unlike the modern traveller I poured myself onto the Eurolines bus with my worldly goods (an archive of negatives and photography books) and travelled the old fashioned way kilometre by kilometre from Florence to Paris.
There were a million thoughts going through my head as we drove through the night in a silent bubble with others slumbering around me finally passing the Italian border. When I arrived in the Marais that first night I remember being filled with wonder and hope.
As the days passed it suddenly dawned on me what had happened.
I had arrived in a city where I knew no-one, I couldn’t speak the language, I had left my ‘happy place’ far behind in Florence, my love was finishing his architecture degree in Lyon and I was freezing my butt off.
Life became really difficult like someone turned the light off.
Christmas Rue Castiglione Copyright Carla Coulson
But I had done this ‘moving country’ thing before. Why was it all of a sudden so difficult?
Naive as I was I didn’t understand there was a great difference between choosing a country you want to live in and choosing one that someone else wants to live in (in case you have just tuned in hubby wanted to move to France).
I asked myself over and over again ‘had I ruined my life’, it certainly felt like I had. If moving to Italy for me had been a breeze this was a battle. Finding an apartment impossible, opening a bank account an olympic event without a gas bill and just hearing a ‘yes’ every now and then was a modern miracle. And I couldn’t understand a single word they were saying..
Paris has so many lessons to teach you. Paris was not mother Italy that opened her arms and dragged me to her bosom, fed me when things got rough or found a way around everything. At first glance she is a beautiful princess on the outside and a tough old bag on the inside who adores saying ‘non, c’est pas possible’ and entering her bosom is like prising open the door to Pandora’s box.
But when you finally enter there is stardust all around!
Dior by John Galliano Copyright Carla Coulson
Photography, my forever muse saved me! She connected me to people and to Paris. My first job was to shoot the haute couture gowns at Dior, Valentino and Christian Lacroix and off I trotted into the magical world of Paris to become another victim to her enchantment.
Florist Djordje Varda at the Ritz Paris Copyright Carla Coulson
But if our reason for being on this planet is to evolve as human beings, to learn and grow there was a reason I needed to live in Paris. I had so much to learn and she has taught me so much.
On the Paris Metro Copyright Carla Coulson
You see before I turned up here I was a ‘pushover’. Paris gave me a backbone, she taught me to stand up for myself and alllowed me to find my voice. She taught me that many things are worth fighting for even if they are on a daily basis!!!
Buying tea Marriage Freres Copyright Carla Coulson
Paris is the keeper of beauty, she understands patina and discretion like no-other country and she will hold off on that reno as long as she can because she knows in her heart that peeling paint is an additional layer of life and part of her story.
Artist Hippolyte Romain Copyright Carla Coulson
Paris showed me how she respects the world of artists and their art. To live in a world where art is valued and treasured makes my heart skip a beat.
Baker in the 9th Copyright Carla Coulson
And no-one loves tradition like France. There are still people that give up a lifetime of nights to bake bread the way it was always baked!
Chimney sweep going down my stairs Copyright Carla Coulson
Or to come and clean your chimney like something you imagined only existed in a children’s book. I nearly died with love the first time my local chimney sweep knocked on my door with his ‘pipe cleaners’ swung over his shoulder. Are they serious I asked?
Lady selling Muguet at Bastille Markets Copyright Carla Coulson
And traditions like selling Lily of the Valley on May Day are alive and well and dear women like this one fossick in the forest to gather it and sell on the street corner on the 1st of May.
Yann and Robert La Perle Copyright Carla Coulson
And the Parisians themselves are a wonderful lesson in beauty, discretion and I adore how they speak in ‘whisper quiet’ voices as they chat to each other across a small wooden bistro table.
La Palette Paris Copyright Carla Coulson
Paris showed me that love is all around if you open your eyes and look for it.
Dancer Shay Stafford in the 2nd Copyright Carla Coulson
That beauty is in the details and the form.
Backstage Moulin Rouge Copyright Carla Coulson
And the fantasy!
I now hoon around Paris on my old bike like I have known her forever. There are moments when I come screeching to a halt, mouth hanging open like a labrador dog in wonderment at something I have just seen. Paris is full of surprises, there is one at almost every corner.
Paris taught me to be grateful for daily happiness, friendship and love.
And no matter what happens in the coming years, baby it has been a hell of a ride, you have taught me so much and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity to have floated around your streets, your cafes, your museums and your gardens. To have walked hand in hand across the bridges with the man I love and hugged you close to me.
Looking forward to our 10th year together!
‘Rick (Humphrey Bogart): If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.
Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman): But what about us?
Rick (Humphrey Bogart): We’ll always have Paris.’
From the movie Casablanca
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