Americans go to London for social triumph, to Rome for art’s sake, and to Berlin to study music and to economize; but they go to Paris to enjoy themselves. And there are no young men of any nation who enter into the accomplishment of this so heartily and so completely as does the young American.
Paris determined to see all that any one else has ever seen, and to outdo all that any one else has ever done, and to stir that city to its suburbs. He saves his time, his money, and his superfluous energy for this visit, and the most amusing part of it is that he always leaves Paris fully assured that he has enjoyed himself while there more thoroughly than any one else has ever done, and that the city will require two or three months’ rest before it can read just itself after the shock and wonder due to his meteoric flight through its limits. Paris, he tells you, ecstatically, when he meets you on the boulevards is “the greatest place on earth,” and he adds, as evidence of the truth of this, that he has not slept in three weeks. He is unsurpassed in his omnivorous capacity for sight-seeing, and in his ability to make himself immediately and contentedly at home.
The American visitor is not only undaunted by the strange language, but unimpressed by the signs of years of vivid history about him. He sandwiches a glimpse at the tomb of Napoleon, and a trip on a penny steamer up the Seine, and back again to the Morgue, with a rush through the Cathedral of Notre Dame, between the hours of his breakfast and the race-meeting at Longchamps the same afternoon. Nothing of present interest escapes him, and nothing bores him. He assimilates and grasps the method of Parisian existence with a rapidity that leaves you wondering in the rear, and at the end of a week can tell you that you should go to one side of the Grand Hôtel for cigars, and to the other to have your hat blocked. He knows at what hour Yvette Guilbert comes on at the Ambassadeurs’, and on which mornings of the week the flower-market is held around the Madeleine.
While you are still hunting for apartments he has visited the sewers under the earth, and the Eiffel Tower over the earth, and eaten his dinner in a tree at Robinson’s, and driven a coach to Versailles over the same road upon which the mob tramped to bring Marie Antoinette back to Paris, without being the least impressed by the contrast which this offers to his own progress. He develops also a daring and reckless spirit of adventure, which would never have found vent in his native city or town, or in any other foreign city or town. It is in the air, and he enters into the childish goodnature of the place and of the people after the same mariner that the head of a family grows young again at his class reunion.
The Château Rouge was originally the house of some stately family in the time of Louis XIV. They will tell you there that it was one of the mistresses of this monarch who occupied it, and will point to the frescos of one room to show how magnificent her abode then was. This tradition may or may not be true, but it adds an interest to the house, and furnishes the dramatic contrast to its present wretchedness.