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Paris

  • The Left Bank called me and even now it does not cease to call me and to keep me. I cannot imagine that I could ever leave it, any more than an organ can leave the place that is assigned to it in the body.

    • Adrienne Monnier,
    • in Richard McDougall, tr., The Very Rich Hours of Adrienne Monnier ()
  • Paris has always seemed to me to be the only city in which one can live as one sees fit.

    • Natalie Clifford Barney,
    • "Scatterings" (1910), in Anna Livia, ed., A Perilous Advantage: The Best of Natalie Clifford Barney ()
  • It should always be seen, the first time, with the eyes of childhood or of love.

  • ... remember this: no matter how politely or distinctly you ask a Parisian a question he will persist in answering you in French.

  • The perfect classroom is Paris.


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  • A year and a half after the end of the war and the German occupation, Paris was muted and looked bruised and forlorn. Everywhere I went, I sensed the tracks of the wolf that had tried to devour the city. But Paris proved inedible, as it had been ever since its tribal beginnings on an island in the Seine, the Ile de la Cité.


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  • When I had a few francs, I spent them at a café on the Place de Longchamps, a block or so from my pension, where I could order a glass of Beaujolais and a plate of string beans in vinaigrette for the equivalent of fifteen cents.

  • ... a walk through the Paris streets was always like the unrolling of a vast tapestry from which countless stored fragrances were shaken out.

  • ... I always return to Paris, taking my selves along — past self, customary self, the self I never had.

  • If I were to choose one single thing that that would restore Paris to the senses, it would be that strangely sweet, unhealthy smell of the Métro, so very unlike the dank cold or the stuffy heat of subways in New York.

  • In Paris style is everything. That is traditionally understood. Every street, every structure, every shopgirl has style. The style of Parisian architecture has been proved and refined by at least three centuries of academic dictates and highly developed taste. There are few violations of this taste, and there is exemplary architectural consistency. Paris has defined the aesthetics of a sophisticated urban culture.

  • Paris, true to its promise, had been a place of civilized indecencies, or uncivil decencies ...

  • Something else I don't understand — Paris traffic. ... First, I waited for ten minutes on the curb. Then I discovered how to cross a street. You look an approaching taxi driver in the eye; with your unwavering glance, you mesmerize him as you would a wild animal. Then, with your glance never wavering, you continue in front of his now slowing car. He stops. He dares not run over anyone who looks him straight in the eye; should your glance waver, he'd run you down in a minute.

  • ... every human activity, whether it be love, philosophy, art, or revolution, is carried on with a special intensity in Paris.

  • ... the pearl-grey city, the opal that is Paris ...

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1933, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 1 ()
  • Paris-New York, the two high tension magnetic poles between life, life of the senses, of the spirit in Paris, and life in action in New York.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1934, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 2 ()
  • [On Paris:] A city never entirely known, yet which gives you the feeling of intimacy, of possessing it intimately.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1937, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 2 ()
  • When I stand at the top of the Champs-Elysées, with its chestnut trees in flower, its undulations of shining cars, its white spaciousness, I feel as if I were biting into a utopian fruit, something velvety and lustrous and rich and vivid.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1925, Linotte, the Early Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 3 ()
  • [On Paris:] I do not know any city so beautiful and you can be unhappy there and notice your unhappiness less, having the city to look at.

  • ... fashion is the deity everyone worships in this country [France], and, from the highest to the lowest, you must submit. ... To be out of fashion is more criminal than to be seen in a state of nature, to which the Parisians are not averse.

    • Abigail Adams,
    • to her sister, Mary Smith Cranch (1784), Letters of Mrs. Adams ()
  • Paris, France is exciting and peaceful.

  • A year and a half after the end of the war and the German occupation, Paris was muted and looked bruised and forlorn. Everywhere I went, I sensed the tracks of the wolf that had tried to devour the city. But Paris proved inedible, as it had been ever since its tribal beginnings on an island in the Seine, the Ile de la Cité.

  • When I had a few francs, I spent them at a café on the Place de Longchamps, a block or so from my pension, where I could order a glass of Beaujolais and a plate of string beans in vinaigrette for the equivalent of fifteen cents.

  • ... trade is art, and art's philosophy, / In Paris.

  • Paris is not a city, it is the image, the symbol of France, its today and yesterday, the reflection of its history, its geography and its hidden essence.

  • [On Paris:] It exists, constant, eternal, surrounding us who live in it, and it is in us. We love it or hate it, but we cannot escape it. It is a circle of associations in which man exists, being himself a circle of associations. Having entered it and come out of it we are not what we were before knowing it: it devoured us, we devoured it, and the problem is not did we or didn't we want it. We consumed each other. It courses in our blood.

  • Moscow, Rome, London, Paris stay in place. Leningrad and New York float, spreading all their sails, cutting space with their prows, and can disappear, if not in reality, then in the imagination of the poet creating a myth, a mythical tradition on the grounds of his secret experience.

  • Life, that is Paris! Paris, that is life!

    • Marie Bashkirtseff,
    • 1873 , in Mary J. Serrano, trans., The Journal of a Young Artist ()
  • ... only Paris can supply the unknown force which is the very essence of love — novelty. She would grow old in other places, and twice a year she would return to Paris to be rejuvenated, like those miraculous trees of the Champs-Élysées which bear new leaves in autumn.

  • Everything begins in Paris.

  • It is a city of villages, closely connected, each village dedicated to a different way of life.

  • ... in Paris one should have everything or nothing. We had often had nothing, and that had had a special charm, because Paris more than any other city has pleasures available to the poor.

  • We have traversed Paris in every direction, have taken daily walks of three and four hours, and that without my feeling any fatigue, without even remembering that I was walking. One has no body, one has only a soul to see and admire.

    • Eugénie de Guérin,
    • letter (1838), in Guillaume S. Trébutien, ed., Letters of Eugénie de Guérin ()
  • I like Paris. They don't talk so much of money, but more of sex.

  • Paris is a mighty schoolmaster, a grand enlightener of the provincial intellect.

  • ... I have been in Paris for almost a week and I have not heard anyone say calories, or cholesterol, or even arterial plaque. The French do not season their food with regret.

  • Paris is the loveliest city in the world. Until she opens her mouth. Should the French go forth to battle armed only with their taxi horns, they would drive all before them.

  • There is no heaven but Paris, and a French husband is its prophet.

  • ... The only real meaning in life can be found in a good man. And maybe Paris. Preferably the two together.

  • Whenever you are in Paris at twilight in the early summer, return to the Seine and watch the evening sky close slowly on a last strand of daylight fading quietly, like a sigh.

  • All the other cities of the world are simply branches of Paris.

    • Elsa Triolet,
    • "Notebooks Buried," A Fine of Two Hundred Francs ()
  • In the Rue du Faubourg-St.-Denis, there is a two-hundred-yard stretch of food shops and street barrows. ... In the charcuteries there is a mosaic of every known dainty — turkey pâté, truffled pigs' trotters, chicken in half mourning, whole goose livers, boar's-snout jelly, and fresh truffles in their fragile bronze husks. In the poultry shops, there are indescribable inner items and blood sausages. At the fish stalls, there are costly deep-sea oysters and enormous, hairy sea spiders, to be buried in mayonnaise. The street barrows are filled with bearded leeks and potential salads. The Rue du Faubourg-St.-Denis is not a rich district of the city, but these days it offers a Lucullan supply. Food is still what Parisians buy if they can. It is a nervous means of getting satisfaction, a holdover from the lean years of the Occupation.

  • I like Paris because I find something here, something of integrity, which I seem to have strangely lost in my own country. It is simplest of all to say that I like to live among people and surroundings where I am not always conscious of 'thou shall not.' I am colored and wish to be known as colored, but sometimes I have felt that my growth as a writer has been hampered in my own country. And so — but only temporarily — I have fled from it.

  • What is Paris? ... Where nobody throws stones, for all live in glass houses.

  • ... there's something about Paris that gives you a mental slap all the time, and you can't just sit still and do nothing. You've got to work, to keep up with the pace, the sting in the atmosphere.

  • Nowhere is one more alone than in Paris ... and yet surrounded by crowds. Nowhere is one more likely to incur greater ridicule. And no visit is more essential.

  • People come to Paris, to the capital, to give their lives a sense of belonging, of an almost mythical participation in society.

  • Paris in the early morning has a cheerful, bustling aspect, a promise of delicious things to come, a positive smell of coffee and croissants, quite peculiar to itself. The people welcome a new day as if they were certain of liking it, the shopkeepers pull up their blinds serene in the expectation of good trade, the workers go happily to their work, the people who have sat up all night in night-clubs go happily to their rest, the orchestra of motor-car horns, of clanking trams, of whistling policemen tunes up for the daily symphony, and everywhere is joy.

  • One's emotions are intensified in Paris — one can be more happy and also more unhappy here than in any other place.

  • Julie thinks a stay at the Ritz Hotel, Paris, can cure all mental illnesses ... Julie had a point. I mean, even in the depths of romantic woe I could see the appeal of suffering an ultrasophisticated collapse in Paris with lots of shops close by. I'd much rather have one there than somewhere deadly like the psychiatric department of the Beth Israel Medical Center, where there are no good boutiques as far as I know.

  • In Paris there are few changes; one always finds one's niche there when one returns — no matter how long one may have been away.

  • ... the reason for the scaffolding on the tower of Saint Germain-des-Près is that a rich American has purchased it and is having it crated for shipping ...

  • Paris seems to be all open-air cafés, and it is painful to see how many young men and, alas! women too, sit at the tables, drinking the body-wrecking, soul-destroying absinthe.

  • Paris is a contagion of youth.

  • [On Paris:] ... the city of love, loveliness, liberty and light.

  • I had forgotten how gently time passes in Paris. As lively as the city is, there’s a stillness to it, a peace that lures you in. In Paris, with a glass of wine in your hand, you can just be.