My Paris

I was 18, Maria, my youngest sister was 10. Standing on Paris’ Pont Alexandre III, we took the ultimate-touristic shot. It didn’t matter that we had been coming to Paris all our lives; Baba, my youngest sister, Maria and I had to get a photo of ourselves with the Eiffel Tower in the background. It was an overcast day, I was unnecessarily wearing my tortoise-shell rimmed Ray Bans, and there we stood, with lime-green and white Printemps shopping bags clutched in our hands. We huddled together for the very last shot of the three of us on vacation together in Paris.

Baba had first arrived in Paris as a 26-year old, for an interview with the international organisation he came to work for his whole life. His suitcase lost and nothing to wear for the interview except the clothes he was wearing, he went to the Champs-Élysées to look for a new outfit. A civil servant from Pakistan with a humble salary, he managed to buy two ties, one ink blue and the other, a deep bordeaux. He mistakenly ordered steak tartare (being the only two words he thought he understood on the menu) at the interview dinner and ate every single bit of the raw, metallic meat he had never had in his life before. He tells me he desperately wanted that job. (And mind you, my Baba, a virtual polygot, learnt to speak fluent French, soon thereafter.)

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Every time I visit Paris, I walk passed the Publicis Drugstore, now transformed into an uber-urban structure by Michele Saee, and remember when it was a humble Drugstore with a café. As a family, we would go there after dinner, potter about in the pharmacy and then onwards to the café for dessert. Ami and I would order a sundae that came in tall vintage glasses. With soft chocolate fudge slithering down the top, there was always a maraschino cherry perched on top.  My sisters and Baba would order fruity, creamy milkshakes. Walking down the Champs-Élysées, we’d make our way back to the Royal Monceau, the hotel we always stayed in, thanks to Baba’s corporate discount. My sisters and I still remember the bathrooms with plush white towels you could twirl yourself into once, twice, thrice and heated caramel-coloured marble floors to warm your feet as you emerged from the bathtub.

I was meant to go to Paris with someone I had been seeing many years ago, but at the last minute, I realised this was not the person I wanted to share Paris with, the Paris I had shared with my sisters and my parents all my life. I went, regardless, on my own. I went back to Publicis Drugstore, which had been totally gutted. I enjoyed the afternoon there on my own, slathering my toast points with a truffled foie gras, washing it down with a fruity rosé from Bandol. Baba and I texted each other back and forth as I sat there, reminiscing about those vacations in Paris every summer en route to Lahore. The now vintage polka dot red shopping bags from Galeries Lafayette, which used to be filled with candy-coloured dresses for my sisters and necklaces and earrings made of delicate glass for Ami and myself; the blue, smelly cheese and baguette sandwiches Baba and I loved and Ami and my sisters pooh-poohed. And the sundaes that we used to have at the Drugstore every night before going back to our hotel room.

I did go back to Paris with a man, and that was the man that I married.

And he was the man I wanted to share all of these childhood treats with- from the walks through the alleys near the Luxembourg gardens, to the cafes near the Boulevard St. Germain, the hidden museums, the restaurants with the honeycomb-like puffed souffles.

And we even stopped on the Pont Alexandre III for that touristic shot.

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La Pâtisserie des Rêves

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Pierre Hermé

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Duck Prosciutto

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Hotel Lutetia

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Luxembourg Gardens

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Comments

  1. Wow, talk about classy post, classy blogger, classy classy classy.

  2. What a gorgeous post – you’ve really captured the beauty of Paris!

  3. Paris is only a three hour train ride away and I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never been. After reading your beautiful post, I will definitely be booking a weekend trip sometime this year.

  4. paris, my favourite subject. thanks for sharing those sweet stories!

  5. If only I could order off that menu!!!

  6. Ahh, lovely and beautiful as ever. I just wrote about Paris but only got as far as the station ;) This is so much richer (and is making me HUNGRY!)

  7. Hi Shayma,
    Your blog is as beautiful as you yourself are. The post touched my heart and I enjoyed every second of reading it. With your words, I took a trip around Paris sampling the delectable treats.

    Beautiful. Again.

  8. I visited paris only once and after my home country, paris is second on my list. i pray everytime that my husband gets a job there.
    your post is so beautiful and it reminded me of the beautiful days i spent there.
    take care

  9. Thank you for sharing *your* Paris with us. I can’t wait to be back there in June :-)

  10. Lovely!

  11. Paris is my dream and have been waiting to go there. You are so right, even though I have never been to Paris, I have heard such great things about it , I always wanted to be there with THE man of my life. Inshallah :-) Found the man ;-) so how far can Paris be? Beautifully captured. Beautiful writing.

  12. what a lovely post!

  13. Lovely post, lovely pictures, lovely Paris! :)

  14. We may have been in Paris around the same time? I remember hanging out at the Drugstore and spending nights around there till 5 AM. Those were the days; then strangely enough Paris lost its charm for me and I wanted to go to a land of sunny skies instead! I would love to taste the charm of Paris again, unencumbered by children who did not care for the romantic scenery. Just to walk and savor everything, including Pierre Hermé’s goodies!

  15. Lovely pictures! You make me nostalgic for Paris and those chocolate dipped candied oranges. Yum!

  16. “I did go back to Paris with a man, and that was the man that I married.”

    this has to be one of the most beautiful posts I’ve read. Thanks for sharing the beauty of your Paris moments. I hope you publish a book soon…..

  17. Thank you, everyone for the lovely comments. x s

  18. Isn’t it great to be able to share a part of our childhood with those we love now – to show them where we fell from running in the snow, or where our mustaches grew with cream and milk. I’m glad you had the one you love to share it with. I too love Paris……and am so looking forward to going there with my family in April – so we can take a photo in front of the Tour D’Eiffel and see all of Paris from its dizzying heights. Lovely photos X X X

  19. The memories about Paris were fading when your piece revived them…as fresh as the cafe noir and crisp croissant I used to relish at a wayside cafe in Paris! This is one of your most beautiful posts evoking memories of days gone by. Once Mr Sarkozy is through with dealing with the Great Colonel Ghadaffi, he should bestow you with a medal for promoting his City, so vividly.

  20. This is such a lovely post, filled with delicious details. Gorgeous pics too – love those roses in silver pots. Like the first commenter said, you’re a class act Shayma x

  21. What an elegantly written piece, perfectly suited to the most elegant of cities. There is something so refined, and yet weirdly carefree about Paris. All those grey stone boulevards and hidden squares.

    Your pictures and words brought my trip with my now wife right back to the forefront of my memory. Walking the quiet avenues of Pere Lachaise, snatching a croissant in a the cobbled streets of the Marais, and finding out the offer for our first house had been accepted as we wandered out of the Louvre. For that alone, this city has a special place in my memory.

  22. *sigh* how I miss paris! and you’ve just made me miss it even more

  23. a lot of Paris is my Paris — from the pastry to the chocolate shops to lingering in the city’s parks, we definitely have the same priorities.

    that apricot tart in the first image is making me crazy!

    i want it now~

    xo

  24. Jennifer Ann says:

    *sigh* – another lovely, dreamy, post. Shayma, I really do hope that a coffee table cookbook with your stories, photos, and recipes is in the works :) Off to Paris next week to enjoy some of the treats you mention – cannot wait!

  25. Your photos are amazing! Love the color and contrast.

  26. what an absolutely gorgeous post. Paris has so many wonderful memories for me and Its wonderful that you could go back..

  27. What a beautiful, beautiful post and gorgeous photos. I can’t be the only person who wants to take that dog home and look after him. Such a tragic expression!

  28. wonderful pictures-the sights and the food look amazing–feed me ;)! We’ve been itching to make a Paris trip, I hope we can make it this summer.

  29. the Picture Perfect Paris – I’ve been staring at the pictures and remembering my first trip to Paris a few years ago as well and next time I go I can share my favourite spots with someone special. you just made us Paris lovers so jealous :)

  30. Lovely dearest Shayma!! what a description!!!
    your are definitely a Paris lover, like me :)
    bisous ma belle amie!

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