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Wandering: You Can (Almost) Go Home Again

Posted by Tom Haines, Globe Travel Writer  February 26, 2007 04:56 PM

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Early lyrics in the song "Open Your Eyes" by the Scottish rock band Snow Patrol include this:

"My skin feels cold and I'm getting so tired and so old."

That is a bit much, as it has only been six years since I packed up the apartment at 22 Rue Durantin, Paris 18eme, heading for home in the States. But it all came rushing back, literally, when I stopped by World Hum this afternoon and found a link to the Snow Patrol video, which uses footage from the 1973 short film "c'etait un rendez-vous", directed by Claude Lelouch.

The video is a single take filmed at dawn from the front of a speeding car on the streets of Paris. The section on the World Hum link picks up before the car turns through the Place du Carousel, in front of the Louvre. From there, it angles northwest on the Avenue de l'Opera toward Montmartre.

The video has a cloaked quality - with disorientation increased by swerves and curves - which at first blurs details of corners and facades. But rue after rue, the cloaked effect, filmed as it was in 1973, allowed me to see a familiar Paris. There, off the Boulevard Haussman, would be the boulangerie/cafe/bar - Chez Marc, we called it, for the bartender who served the noisettes to a group of journalists come from dozens of countries. A Wikipedia entry details, accurately as far as I can tell, the route of the speeding car. It is said to continue north up to Pigalle, then attempt to mount Rue Lepic. It is up there, past the fish monger and the cheese ladies, past Le Saint-Jean where many mornings began, that Julie and I lived opposite the small atelier of Fanche et Flo, friends still at 19 Rue Durantin. The car, though, aborts Rue Lepic, heads west and cuts up Rue Caulancourt, crossing the bridge over the Cemetiere de Montmartre, where Flo and I ran en route to laps around Parc Monceau. Alone, I jogged down the side streets to a municipal track, where, on a spring night in the pouring rain, I watched a man, likely an immigrant from North Africa - there were many in the neighborhood - kneel alongside a wall, his head bowing and rising toward Mecca. The car continues on, climbing the tight, touristed streets to Sacre-Coeur, the domed hill over which Julie and I were married, in the city hall of the 18eme, on another cool, cloaked Montmartre morning.

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