The lost red balloon

Have you ever see the French film The Red Balloon? It’s a classic from the 1950’s and well worth a viewing—it’s on Netflix. Anyway, it takes place in the 20th arrondissement of Ménilmontant.  Montmartre, the 18th arrondissement, an area, quartier, in Paris, near where I am staying at my friend’s apartment, reminds me so of this film. I took a walk in the hilly district, heading towards the Musee de Montmartre, I was curious about the Absinthe and Music Hall culture of this infamous area. It’s a great walking district, full of ancient staircases, (like those featured in the film) stunning views and, alas, too many tourists. I stumbled across a small urban vineyard and OF COURSE some well known Cabaret/Music Hall spots made famous by the Bohemian crowd of the 19th and 20th century including Toulouse L’Autrec. The day was humid, with bursts of sunlight, Paris living up to it’s nickname as ‘The City of Light’. I stopped for a $5 coffee at the base of the majestic Sacre Coeur having negotiated the gauntlet of Africans selling Eiffel Tower key chains and trinkets. Oddly enough for the first time in my life I actually do want to buy one for my boys who are so entranced by the structure (I couldn’t bring myself to part with the nearly $10 they were asking for a 32-inch high rendition of the tower). I descended further and was asked by an old lady to help her open her door. It must be said French doors, locks, keys, entrances are quite challenging. She was a bit disoriented, but of course I would help her with her shopping and the door. It was a classic scene, sad really, trying to stay living independently as she always has. I carried her groceries upstairs to her modest apartment thinking how lucky she was she asked me and not some sinister opportunist. I got her safely inside and told her she should open her windows and drink a lot of water; there was a terrible heat wave here in 2005 and many seniors expired as AC or ‘clim’, short for ‘climatisation’ is NOT common. She thanked me profusely and I continued on my way… down the hill when I saw this lost red balloon bouncing through traffic—I had to take a picture; very poignant! I headed towards the Gustave Moreau museum in the 9th arrondissment, a museum my friend highly recommended. I passed by Rue D’Aumale, a street where I had stayed in a Chambre de Bonne (Maid’s Quarters) of a high school friend, more than 20 years ago. I got to the small museum at 12:25—Arrgh the museum closed for lunch from 12:30-14:00—just my luck… off to TATI the French ‘Target’, the only shopping I will allow myself!

Filed Under Feature, Paris


2 Responses to “The Red Balloon”

  1. JEAN-LOUIS on May 9th, 2011 3:37 pm

    Montmartre, no way! The Red Balloon takes place in Belleville and Menilmontant, 19eme and 20eme. Sorry. Desole.

  2. Darya Mead on May 9th, 2011 5:40 pm

    Vous avez raison! Thank-you, I have such visceral memories of that film–I will alter the post to be accurate since it was filmed in the 20th, not the 18th arrondissement.

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