I love being nostalgic. When I am not able to travel, reconnecting with past travel memories is the next best thing.I used to think I was a child lost in time. Nostalgic about a moment in time when we were not afraid to dream. When we knew less but lived more happily.
For long I thought the 60’s was the best: Everything was cool about the 60’s : Love and Peace. The Beatles, The New Wave in French Cinema breathlessly led by the king of cool Jean Paul Belmondo. Yves Saint Laurent. The Austin-Morris Minor. 60’s was my favourite era of British Writing- Kingsley Amis, John Braine Alan Silitoe. Then I recently read Hemingway’s Moveable Feast and that just BLEW ME AWAY. 20’s Paris suddenly felt like the place to be.
Then I saw Midnight in Paris. The moment I walked out of the cinema a wave of nostalgia about Paris hit me. I wanted to jump on the next plane to Charles de Gaulle. If I could visit Paris and find that that Rolls Royce Silver Ghost cab in the movie-that magical portal to 1920’s Paris that Owen Wilson’s character discovers in the film…. Walk along the left bank on an empty stomach, a head full of dreams of life’s grand possibilities. Sit at a cafe all day writing. Note: This is possible still in the present day. Enter any cafe along the banks of the Seine and bump into luminaries like Hemingway, Picasso…Matisse, Joyce… like in the movie. I’d love to meet Gertrude Stein too ( exhibition of all her art works is on exhibition now in Paris) and talk about the novel I’ve been trying to write since I was 12. Have the dream romance with a rare etheral beauty like Adrianna – Marion Cottilard’s character in the movie. If you haven’t seen Midnight in Paris- see it. It reminds me of all the elements that made Hollywood movies boxoffice gold. Cinematography is brilliant-the opening sequence of the movie is dreamy …Paris has never looked more beautiful. It’s a simple story told well with a happy ending and a superb ensemble that is led brilliantly by the film’s protagonist Owen Wilson. Wilson’s character in Midnight in Paris is moving: an awkward contradiction of insecurity and confidence wrapped up in one, just unsure of his next steps. There is a brilliant sequence when Owen Wilson’s character Gil bumps into Dali and Bunuel…. funniest thing I have seen in the cinema for ages. I won’t be a spoiler- see and judge for yourself.
Like Gil- Wilson’s character in the movie we all to some extent wallow in nostalgia.
I used to think it was bad being nostalgic. A way of denying the present and retreating to a period or golden age in our lives when life seemed happier. Now I think its a postive thing. Let’s take Paris for example.
Paris has been a good friend, visiting me through various key stages of my brief existence. Until now I rarely was nostalgic about my first visit to the city. 2001. I was 22 on my first big trip in Europe. I was ending it in Paris. I was flying to India for my summer holidays from Paris. Seemed a good idea -one big last night, soak in some of the sights and then fly to see my family next day. I hadn’t booked accomodation ( in the summer a bad idea in Paris ) so I ended up in a flea ridden dump in Bastille area. A sobering first night in Paris. During the day I walked around as much as I could. It was July and Paris was sticky, hot and bursting at the seams. Tried to get into the Louvre, Musee D’ Orsay but huge queues got the better of me. Eiffel Tower glowed in the hot July sun like a towering inferno. Swept by a mass hysteria of tourists taking pictures I felt far removed from the romantic image of this place I had carried in my dreams all this time. I walked everywhere without having much of a break or a bite to eat. When you are younger and new to a place there is an unnatural enthusiasm and need to see all the places and run yourself to the ground. Walked up the Champs Elysses. Tired by around 6pm I gave up and finally sat down for a coffee on a roadside cafe and watched a lot of grumpy tourists walk by the whole evening. When in distress its common on holiday to retreat to home comforts. Heading home to my depressing room I found a Cafe India in Bastille area. Served by a distressingly beautiful Indian female bartender I washed away my dissappointments of my day in Paris with a few cocktails ( idea was to desensitise my body from the bugs) and the soothing grooves of Nitin Sawnhey. Despite the disappointment of my whole experience I find now after all these years feeling nostalgic about that first not so happy memory of Paris. It was my first time in Europe. I had a head full of dreams with not much money and still a fresh faced innocence about life and challenges ahead. Fast forward 10 years and I have become more worldy wise but still learning, still growing. The key difference now is that I realise I can be nostalgic even about toughest moments in your life.
More Paris posts
Don’t forget to checkout my earlier guides to cheap places to stay in Paris, 50 free things to do in Paris, Rouen: best day trip from Paris and Open air Paris: 48 Hour Guide. 10 free apps for planning the perfect trip to Paris, and the photoessay: Paris in 40 pictures and 20 songs.