Saint Germain calls again
Saint Germain des Près represents a particular expression of Paris, tinted with nostalgia for that age of intellectual and artistic exploration leading up to world war. It was a haven for free-thinkers and iconoclasts. Yet, as Woody Allen’s lighthearted “Midnight in Paris” reminds us, there is really no better time than the present. The past is now an illusion: a story told and retold according to the biais of those telling it.
Today, as has been the case for hundreds of years, Paris has a strong, mythical appeal. If we think of Jerusalem as the everlasting sacred ground for the dominant monotheistic religions, we can think of Paris is as an enduring capital of artistic creation in all disciplines, as well as a cosmopolitan theatre of human passions. The first is a bastion of faith, the second a beacon for freedom.
Hitler ordered the total destruction of Paris. On the edge of a razor, it survived.
The city is a monument to human experience, and those who come here draw inspiration from its deep well of culture.
Looking back on my own immigration from the USA to France over twenty years ago, I see clearly this yearning to exist as a unique self, taking my distance from an overtly consumerist and materialistic society performing religious masquerades.
Then as now, Paris was no paradise of human and social virtue, but it felt so much easier to discuss and disagree on culinary, cultural, philosophical, and political preferences (in that order of importance).
In this respect, the gulf has widened between the USA and France. I know of so many who, wearied and disheartened by the deeply-rooted American divide, no longer see their home country as conducive to the pursuit of happiness. You can take up arms and fight to the death, defending your country against an external enemy, but what do you do with your arms when the enemy is within, waving the same flag but not seeing the same stars?
The French are largely sympathetic with those Americans who count their stars as blessings rather than marks of might. If you need a place to rest for a few years (or longer), Paris will open her arms. On the left bank, adorned by the Luxembourg Gardens, you’ll never regret your time in Saint Germain des Près.