Back to my roots

By PD Martin

Today I want to talk about the amazing feeling of going back to my roots. I’m not talking about my literal roots (i.e. my birth place or the birth place of my family), rather I mean my creative birth place. The time and place when I first decided I wanted to write.  Here’s a hint:

What about now?

Recognise it?

Or now?

Yep, you got it! Paris.

On Monday we arrived back from a three-week holiday. Our main ‘objective’ was my sister-in-law’s wedding in Ireland, but we also had a glorious five-day stopover. It was around March this year when my husband told me that he’d finally found a great deal to Ireland that would save us loads of money…“but do you mind going via Paris?” he said with a grin on his face. Needless to say, I was one happy woman!

So how and why is Paris my creative birth place?

I mentioned in my first Murderati blog that while I was into reading and creative writing in my primary school years, once I got to high school I ended up focusing on science and maths — maths, applied maths, physics and chemistry were my elective subjects. As a complete contrast, my other subject was physical education, with my main project on dancing. You see, I had danced pretty much all my life, and loved it. Anyway, while studying psychology and criminology at university, I was also taking lots of dance classes, around 30 hours a week at one stage, and also did acting and singing lessons. Over the next couple of years dancing petered out and singing took over.  I finished my psychology degree and started studying music. Then I took time off from school and worked a bit before travelling.

I was 21 years old when I took off on the typical Aussie pilgrimage…backpacking around Europe. I went with my boyfriend for four months and it was on this trip that my creative spark burned brightly. My boyfriend at the time was (and still is) a photographer and he was also a gifted artist. So it was natural that we’d hit many of the artistic hotspots, including Paris. What can I say, I fell in love immediately. Was it the incredibly impressive buildings? The many artists who had been born or studied in Paris? The ambience of the place? The history of the place? The answer is, of course, all of these things and so much more. Coming from Australia, all our buildings and architecture is relatively new (like North America). And there’s something about the sense of history that oozes from every inch of Paris (and Europe) that’s inspiring and exhilarating. It drives me to create. And that feeling was there again on this visit. I mean, look at this:

But back to my first visit to Paris…Within a few days in Paris, I wanted to write. I wanted to write my own lyrics for songs, I wanted to write poems, I even wanted to write a book. I tracked down an English bookstore in Paris and bought their one and only book on creative writing. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was quite large (a university text book rather than a mass market paperback) and of course being an English book in a French-speaking country it came with a high price tag. But it was worth it.

A couple of days later, I found myself in the magical Rodin gardens. My boyfriend was drawing the amazing sculptures (like many other budding artists around us) and I was writing in a newly acquired notebook, with my creative writing text book at my side. We spent hours there (twenty years ago!) and so this trip I had to go back to the Rodin museum and gardens.

There didn’t seem to be quite as many people sketching the sculptures as last time, or perhaps my memory has simply amplified the numbers I remember from my first visit. But the whole place still triggered that creative impulse.


Then there’s the food. Let’s just say, I ate a LOT of baguettes in five days, some not-so-nice French wine and some gorgeous French wine, loads of cheese (yummy and so much cheaper than here in Oz) and a few treats from gorgeous patisseries. I have a major sweet tooth, and passing shops like this sent my heart racing!


From this particular place I tried the Opera cake and it was divine.

The ambience of the restaurant and café culture is stunning, and we also did the pre-requisite visit to the Louvre. To me, every part of Paris is inspiring.

Now I’m back, safe and sound, although still a little jet lagged and with an annoying cold. But who cares…I was in Paris!

I’d like to say I can launch back into my writing, the creative spark burning incredibly brightly. But unfortunately, I’ve got two ghost-writing gigs on the go, and two corporate jobs. But while I’m doing those the subconscious will no doubt be ticking over, ready when I return to my new book again. And then I’ll be channelling Paris!

PS The wedding was fabulous too, and Grace was the perfect flower girl!

PPS I forgot to say…Paris is also where my husband proposed to me, 13 years ago!

16 thoughts on “Back to my roots

  1. Reine

    Sounds like a wonderful trip, Philippa. And opera cake. I am so jealous. Of course where else to have it? But the baguette has my mouth watering for a prawn sandwich. Probably sacriligious. That would be me, though.

    Love Ella.

  2. Rachel Walsh

    Ah, what a wonderful trip! I'm very jealous. And I know exactly what you mean – Paris is what inspires me to write. I'm in love with its architecture, its gardens, its boulevards, its cafes and cemeteries and its mansard rooftops … I've studied the city's history at university, and now I've set my book there, in the Paris of the nineteenth century. There's only one problem – I've never been there. Sob! I do have a plan, though, and I hope to rectify this sad state of affairs within the next few years … in the mean time my imagination and my DVD of Audrey Hepburn in "Paris When It Sizzles" will have to do.

  3. Sarah W

    The closest I've been to Paris (culturally and geographically) is a Broadway production of Les Misérables twenty-cough years ago.

    But one of these days . . .

  4. PK the Bookeemonster

    A friend of mine and I were talking a couple years ago of where we felt our roots were. You know, that inner drumbeat. She said Australia, the aborigines, which I thought was strange at the time because she's New York Italian but your inner fire is yours and you know it. For me, it has always been Ireland, Celts, Druids. Even back when I was a kid I've always known that Ireland is "home base" for me (this is a mostly Norwegian family). I've never been there but someday….
    To actually roam in your place of inspiration — brilliant. 🙂

  5. David Corbett

    I spent only one night in Paris, with my late wife, a stop-over when we couldn't fly out of Madrid because all flights from there stopped on the snowed-in east coast, so we trained up to Paris for a direct flight to San Francisco. We had cab rides thorugh the sparkling nighttime city, and then the next day straggled in Orly airport, but Terri and I vowed we'd return, which we never got to do, sadly.

    Since you studied music I'll share with you what always conjures Paris for me. Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin, specifically the 3rd movement. Hope it brings back some memories:

    And for someone with a sweet tooth, you wear it fabulously.

  6. Rae

    Paris is my very favorite place on the whole planet. Thanks for the lovely photos and great memories….

  7. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Ah, yes, Paris. I remember it vividly from the window of a plane on the runway where I sat for four hours enroute to Israel twenty years ago. I searched for the Eiffel Tower, but only saw fog and a few taxiing airplanes.
    Interestingly, one of my very favorite toys when I was a youth was a statue of The Thinker, which I carried around wherever I went for a period of maybe two years. I remember placing it in the seat next to me while I ate and saying, "Hey, watcha thinking?"

  8. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I would love to live in Paris for a while. I've always been afraid that I would start writing really simplistically, though – because when I'm in France that fabulous language takes over in my head, but it's on such an elementary level I feel like anything I wrote would sound like it was written by a 12-year old.

    But I sure would get some great images out of it….

  9. PD Martin

    Reine, yes it was a great trip. Prawn sandwich – how about a prawn baguette? Yummy! And yes, I love Ella too.

    Rachel: Wait until you see it in person…it's worth the wait. Mind you, sometimes when you long for something for a long time it can never measure up to your expectations. I hope you get to Paris soon and that it's everything you dreamed of.

    Sarah: Would definitely recommend Paris.

    PK: Yes, it does sound surprising for a New Yorker to feel an affinity with indigenous Australians. I hope she's managed to come to Australia and explore that. As for Ireland, my husband's Irish and we lived there for a year and a half before coming out to Australia. And we go back frequently to see his family. It's certainly an amazing place, with a rich sense of history and incredibly kind people. But it does rain most days! I hope you get to Ireland one of these days.

    Louise: Thanks! Yes, it was great to go back to Paris – as both a tourist and as a writer.

    David: Paris is many things, including an incredibly romantic city so I'm sorry you didn't manage to make it back there with Terri. I hope you get there one of these days. And thanks for the Ravel. I studied Jazz rather than classical but I still enjoyed the piece. Beautiful. And thanks re wearing the sweet tooth well. Although at the moment the scales don't agree with you! Neither does my daughter who rubbed her hands on my belly and asked me if I had a baby in there!

    Rae: Agreed! Glad I could take you down memory lane 🙂

    Stephen: You must go back! The airport is not enough. And go to the Rodin gardens and see the thinker in person.

    Alex: I'd love to live in Paris too. Or at least France. I wonder what it would be like to be living in a French-speaking country and writing in English. Mmm….hadn't thought about that!


  10. gfuidsa9

    Alex: I'd love to live in Paris too. Or at least France. I wonder what it would be like to be living in a French-speaking country and writing in English. Mmm….hadn't thought about that!

  11. Reine

    Phillipa, yes! They are so great like that. Shops around Oxford had them on very skinny baguettes, and if you walked along the High about 3 in the afternoon, the unsold pre-mades in the windows would be on sale for a couple of pounds. I used to have them add a row of sliced avocado to mine. Then to really do it up wrong, I'd walk back down to Tom Gate and pick up a batch of chips from the vendor on St. Aldate's — something my tutor warned me to never do. So I did. What else could I do then, y'know?

  12. Zoë Sharp

    Hi PD

    How wonderful that you were able to go back to Paris and it still lived up to the memories and expectations.

    The last time I was there I fear we didn't see it at its best. The Metro was on strike so the cab drivers treated it as a licence to print money. Mind you, our cab driver only managed to hit one other car between the airport and our hotel. We stayed in a rough area, too. And I'm talking ROUGH – two armed guards by the reception desk and a hard-core porn channel playing in the lobby.

  13. Dao

    I hope to go to Paris one day. Looks like you had a fabulous trip. May I ask one irrelevant question? What kind of camera did you use? The pictures you took are gorgeous!

  14. PD Martin

    JT: Thanks!

    Reine: You're making me hungry!

    Zoe: That does sound bad. We stayed in a lovely, cheap apartment about 4km south of the Eiffel Tower. And no taxis – lucky for us the Metro was working because you can't really do taxis with a 4yro. I definitely wasn't lugging her car seat to Paris!

    Dao: Hope you do get to Paris one of these days. Glad you liked the pics – they're actually all taken on two 'point and shoot' cameras. My camera is a small Lumix with Leica lens (10 megapixels camera) and hubby's is a Canon Powershot S50.

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