A Voyeur’s French Feast

filed07 Dec 2010 from Carmen Jenner CategoriesParis

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I Love Paris in the Summer Time

apartment view

It’s 4.46 a.m. and a woman’s scream cuts through the thick air surging up into the apartment’s open bedroom window.

I suddenly sit upright in bed. The scream was cut short and I envisage she suddenly woke up, imagining her husband to be an intruder before realising her error. Maybe she saw a mouse. Perhaps it was a nightmare? I know she wasn’t murdered because she did it the following night and several times after that.

The mysterious screaming woman would make a great story I decide looking out over Parisian rooftops. Fantasies of living the French Life distract me from the uncomfortable reality of living in a cramped apartment with a poor excuse for a shower. Maybe that’s why Parisians are so thin; they couldn’t fit in their apartments otherwise. I can imagine a gale blows through most of those lovely old buildings in the winter. There isn’t any air-conditioning to keep you sane in the summer heat either. I speak from experience after spending the summer of 2006 living in a little box. Boxes on top of boxes. Nonetheless, it’s painfully romantic.

Our apartment is quintessentially Parisian and perfect. I love that the parquetry flooring sags beneath our feet and that all the rooms have battered French doors. I take delight in that many of the kitchens in the building open out  onto the central courtyard below, and the combined flavours of our dinners flirt with abandon. I adore flinging open the wooden windows facing the street letting the still air out to play.


In the apartment upstairs lives a well-to-do family who own the entire floor. I know their young baby doesn’t sleep well and their son likes to bounce a ball after kindergarten. At 7.00pm their children have baths and later the parents sit down to a proper meal with adult conversation. She likes to wear heels and he wears a suit and carries a briefcase. I also know that the gentleman who visits in the afternoon isn’t her husband…

Most Parisians fill their apartments with books. The occupants of the apartment two floors below lovingly scatter their books about the floor, which they randomly pick up and flip through at intermittent intervals. Most don’t bother to make their beds in the morning. And despite looking so well turned out, most keep their apartments messy. The woman opposite us lives alone in a studio and she often gazes out over the street. She dines with her plants and sometimes she just stands there in various stages of undress. I wonder if she cares she is being watched. But maybe that’s the point.

Mind you, it’s so damn hot there are people running around the streets in their underwear in preparation for the World Cup. When they’re not exhibiting themselves, they’re hanging out of cars, tooting horns and waving flags. The city has gone World Cup crazy. Or maybe it’s the heat sending people into a frenzy; intensifying the essence of this intoxicating city. The flowers are more fragrant, the food smells more flavoursome and the dog excrement is ripe. Garbage rots on the pavement outside our apartment window, souring our rooms. We’d close the windows but then we’d suffocate from the heat.

I have come to Paris to write, like so many before me. There is no shortage of inspiration and I’m like a sponge. I spend my days in class and wandering the streets; nights are spent churning out the words. Naturally, my desk is by the street and everyone’s windows are open with the lights on. I indulge in the ultimate writer’s pastime.

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