Reflections on Paris Octobers

To me, one of the most beautiful things about travel is the anticipation of the trip – the endless hours planning, making reservations, thinking about what to pack (yes, I even like that too.) And since I’ve been to France a few times :), I have the added pleasure of reminiscing about previous trips.

*Quick aside: people are always asking me how I can afford to go to Paris at least once every year. Believe me, we are not part of the 1% – I’ve never seen a non-profit worker or government employee on the Forbes 500. So we’re not rich – what we are is blessed to have solid decent paying jobs and I thank the goddess every day for my good fortune. That definitely helps. But in addition (as those of you who have been to Green Acres can attest) we also put all of our spare change in the travel jar, NOT into our house. We drive old cars that are totally paid for. I never buy anything that’s not on sale, and everything I buy I pay for with my airline credit card, earning me lots of frequent flier miles (we are also lucky that my husband gets miles through is job, which is how we’re going this time). We stay in apartments that are cheaper than hotels and which are equipped with kitchens and coffee makers. I’m happy to share our living large on a budget travel tips later, but that’s a start, and hopefully will inspire others who think that Paris is out of reach,

OK, back to my memories. The first time we went to Paris in October was 2008. Hmmm, what was going on then?

Yes, it was election time, So happy to be in France on the eve of the end of:

i

It was a hopeful time,  I continue to hope…

Way back in 2008 I was actually just tagging along with my husband, who had meetings with the European Space Agency in Toulouse. We figured we’d make it a joint vacation and stopped in Paris on the way.

I LOVE Paris in the fall. The markets are bursting with more varieties of mushrooms than you can count. The hordes of tourists have gone, leaving Parisians settling into the season. You can wear scarves and boots, yet it’s not too cold. And my husband can get his game on:

Me, I like this:

We stayed in Montmarte, on rue Lepic, a market street at the “bottom” of the hill.

It hasn’t changed much…

Of course we were also happy to visit our best Parisian friend Loic, who took us to the Buttes Chaumont (in the 19th, too far for most tourists. Go!) for the first time. What a beautiful place! And an amazing view.

My boys were on top of the world

We spent the rest of our days wandering through the parks, looking at art, and eating,  We took a cooking class at Cookin’ With Class, a great little cooking school in Montmarte. We took the market class, where we shopped for all of the ingredients together and went back to the kitchen and whipped up a starred meal. We also enjoyed some gamey delights at our favorite restaurant, Chez L’Ami Jean:

After a week of total indulgence, we hopped on a plane and flew (thanks NASA) to Toulouse. It was a nice town, some parts pretty.

But I really enjoyed getting out into the southern countryside. We went to this beautiful little town called Cordes-sur-Ciel. It’s a village on a hill, and it seems to float above the surrounding fields.

We also went to Albi. I loved Albi. there’s a great vibe there. And an abbey:

We spent 4 days in Toulouse and it was time to say goodbye to my husband, who had to put his rocket scientist hat back on. One of the perks of frequent flier mile flying: sometimes you can’t get the days you want. This trip it meant that I had to go back to Paris alone, for 3 days. You can see how that upset me.

Actually, this was a very big deal for me. I had never really traveled alone before, and certainly never to a country where I was struggling to learn the language. It felt indescribable. Here I was, a mother, a way grown woman – and I felt like a kid who rides a bike the first time without training wheels. I felt free and a little scared. It was a life-changing experience.

More on that in a bit, first I have to say hi to my French friend Anne, who invited me to her home in Lorraine (she has since moved back to her roots in beautiful Strasbourg). I felt so honored to be welcomed into her home (she was rightfully nervous that I would never find my way there since I took the train from Paris, but I managed ok :)). She prepared a wonderfully delicious lunch and I met 2 of her 3 beautiful children. I was a happy to have shared a bit of my culture while experiencing hers. I was grateful.

I was also determined to experience my alone time in Paris to the fullest. There is nothing like being in your favorite city with all of your senses open. One day, I bought a baguette with butter, ham and cheese. I wandered my way to the Tuilleries – my favorite garden – and sat and watched the people go by. There I was, sitting on my bench, enjoying my delicious sandwich, looking at the kids with their sailboats on one side, seeing the magnificent blue Paris sky and the Louvre on the other. And suddenly I burst into tears. I was overcome with so much emotion. It felt so powerful, that moment. I heard later that it’s a well-documented phenomena that some people cry when they are overwhelmed with a piece of art. I’m sure that was part of it – the scene before me was just so perfect, so beautiful, so representative of Paris. But I think, after having had some years to reflect, they were also tears  of joy, and of recognition of how far I had come. Of how much I had overcome to get to where I was, at that minute, looking at this little boy. Maybe a little sadness that it had taken me that long. But mostly, pure joy, and gratitude.

And that’s why I’ve gone back to Paris alone twice since then, and why I am so looking forward to going “home” again in a week. Paris gets under your skin. It feeds my soul like nowhere else I’ve ever been. When I get there, I know I’ll stand there on the sidewalk for just a moment, and close my eyes, and breathe.

Thanks for coming with me as I tripped down memory lane….. à la prochain, from Burgundy.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on Paris Octobers

  1. I too was honored that you would take the trouble to visit me in Lorraine (and that you would give up one of your few and precious days in Paris for this !) and I do hope that you’ll make it to Alsace soon enough …
    Oh and I love that poster with Laura Bush !
    Bisous
    Anne

  2. Yes, I must get to Alsace one of these days soon. I want some more of that yummy lunch 🙂
    And yes, the title of that poster is understandable in any language!
    Merci encore Anne ,française! xo

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