The anticipation before you travel to your next destination is always a mixture of anxiety (the good kind) and excitement. These feelings that are not helped by doing or seeing things that belong or come from the city itself, some sort of masochism that just leaves us watching our clock and waiting for the hours to tick over until it’s time to go.
If you enjoy that kind of masochism, as I’m sure many of you do (yours truly included), before you travel to beautiful Paris, there are a few things that you can do, listen or watch that will get you in the mood and will leave you itching to get there at once. As we all know, Paris is one of the European cradles of culture and art, fields that encompass many activities such as painting, music, literature and gastronomy among others and as such there are many things that will leave us reminiscing or anticipating our visit to the City of Light. Here are a few that you can do in order to quench your thirst for Paris (or make it worse!):
Books: Reading books is always a good way of understanding a city that you’ve never been to, the next best thing to actually physically visiting it. Many, many pages have been written about this beautiful city, although few represent the city’s golden age, known as the Belle Époque, better than those by naturalist writer Émile Zola. His book Nana is probably his most famous one and the one which depicts French society of that time (late 19th century) best. If you want something more modern, the Inspecteur Maigret books by Georges Simenon are great crime novels set in between the 1930s and 1970s in the city of Paris. However, if you fancy something a bit light-hearted that describes modern 21st century Paris, Chris Ewan’s A Good Thief’s Guide to Paris does just the trick.
Music: If we had to put a soundtrack to Paris everyone usually imagines the accordion and the soft French lyrics that go with it. However, reality is somewhat different. Few musicians have had the impact that Édith Piaf had, a cultural icon of 40s, 50s and 60s Paris, with songs such as ‘La Vie en Rose’, ‘La Foule’ and ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’. In the 60s, 70s and some of the 80s, Serge Gainsbourg encompassed everything that one can understand by the world ‘cool’. Songs such as ‘Je t’aime moi non plus’, ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ or ‘Les Sucettes’ are just some of his greatest hits.
Art: Paris was the centre of art in the 19th and 20th centuries, just as Italy was during the Renaissance and the years after that. Impressionism was a movement which generated in Paris and was represented mainly by French artists such as Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet and Pierre-August Renoir amongst others. This artistic trend paved the way for post-impressionism, with artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who depicted French cabarets and its society magnificently, Paul Gauguin and even Vincent van Gogh. Paris was also the home to many 20th century painters, such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Kandinsky and Marcel Duchamp. Any of the works of this list of painters can take us back to the Paris of their time, whether it’s through their depiction of society or the city landscape.
Films: Nothing better than watching a good film about your next destination to get in the mood and start seeing what’s awaiting you. Rififi (1955) by Jules Dassin is a film noir starring Jean Servais, who is an ex-con who is planning a robbery in a jewellery store at Place Vendôme. It offers great views of 50s post-war Paris. It would be a crime to talk about French film and not talk about François Truffaut, so watching Stolen Kisses (1968) is a perfect tribute to the director, a film about Antoine Doinel and his relationship with his girlfriend Christine. For a great view of contemporary Paris, don’t miss the car chase in The Bourne Identity (2002).
If this doesn’t get you in the mood, nothing will. Find apartments for vacation in Paris in order to live all of these experiences for yourself.