Paris in the Roaring Twenties
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been smitten with Paris. My entire Canadian schooling was en francais—down to gym class and math. It’s the first city I conquered solo. Baguettes are where it’s at. And, much to my husband’s chagrin, I used to have Eiffel Tower statues, photos, and tea towels—anything Paris-related—all over our first apartment. To put it mildly, I have a crush on The City of Lights.
With the upcoming release of DreamWorks’ Mr. Peabody & Sherman time-travel flick, teleporting has been at the forefront of my mind as I muse about what era in history I’d like to drop into. When Moses parted the Red Sea? During Marie Antoinette’s tenure at Versailles? Listening to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial? Where do I even start?
Given my love for all things French, if I had a mad-scientist, renaissance-dog—the Mr. Peabody part of Mr. Peabody & Sherman—build me a WABAC (pronounced “way-back”) time machine, I’d ask him to transport me to Paris in the Roaring Twenties, or, as the French say, Les Années Folles. Marked by a dynamism and cultural edge, Paris in the ‘20s was the place to be, a one-stop-shop incubator for early and lasting 20th century ideas. Prosperity was widespread, women were granted the right to vote in many countries all over the world (I can’t believe it took that long), and a blending of arts and technology made everything seem possible.
The French Capital was also a transcontinental stopover for authors and artists. Hemingway did a stint in Paris. As did Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Picasso, and Degas, who was born there. The bohème (bohemian) achieve-your-dreams lifestyle was in full force, and all the creative cats chinwagged and pontificated les topics du jour into the wee hours at soirées, in cafes, and while strolling along the Seine.
Viewfinder Tip: Want to relive retro Paris, today? Book a hotel in The Marais. This neighborhood contains some of the oldest buildings in the city.
This is why I’m most drawn to the decade. As someone who’s keenly interested in the arts, dabbling in writing, singing, and painting, I know there would have been a place for me in Paris’ version of the Roaring Twenties. The period’s optimism mirrors my world view and joie de vivire.
In my day-in-the-life of vintage Paris, I’d grab a cafe au lait and a croissant with Hemingway in Montmartre to co-critique our penmanship. In the afternoon, I’d meet Degas on a bench in the Jardin du Luxembourg to nosh on tomato- and cheese-stuffed baguettes while painting miniature boats bobbing in the palace pond. In the evening, I’d dress in flapper fashion—the style du moment—and hit the party circuit with the Fitzgeralds. When the clock strikes midnight, I’d rendezvous with all my pals for a tipple at Dingo Bar, a popular hangout for artsy night owls.
If I had to leave the Roaring Twenties for the present—say for deodorant, toothpaste, or my favorite skin cream—I wouldn’t fret because the best part of Paris is this: Many of the cafes, apartments, hotels, and back alleyways would be the same. The only thing missing would be my 1920’s gang of creative cats. At least with a WABAC, I could jump between eras and keep in touch.