Why Paris? (Again!)

Why Paris? This is the question I get now. It used to be “You’re going to Paris AGAIN?”, which was awkward because it wasn’t REALLY a question and it made me feel all defensive. So now that everyone who knows me knows that the answer to that question is yes, I AM going to Paris AGAIN, the question has morphed into “Why?” And while I prefer that question to the former, it’s harder to answer…

I could say the cliché things. Paris is one of the most beautiful, most visited cities in the world, full of culture and history and good food and wine and fashion and and and – these things are all true and I most certainly do return for those things, especially the food

Septime

and wine

jordan and her kir

But it doesn’t really answer the question.

So, I could say that I have chosen the vertical path with my travel. Some people like to visit many places, to cover as much ground as possible. And I can see the allure of that kind of horizontal travel practice. I would love, for example, to visit Argentina, the land of my bff at work, and see the place where she lived and where her inspirational mom was part of history. I’d love to go to Vietnam to visit my dear friend Jimbo, and see the country whose images were seared into my brain. I want to go to Prague and Tuscany and Greece. I want to see Australia and New Zealand, to visit the homeland of my new friends. People say that I should go to Peru. And Hong Kong, And I’ve never been across the US, to the Grand Canyon, or Colorado, or Hawaii or Southern CA. These are places that I know I should see in my lifetime.

And yet, I save my frequent flier miles and I return to Paris, again and again. It is a legitimate question, then, why. It seems that I have chosen the vertical path. I return to dig deep, for the nuance. I return because I almost have no choice. My soul can’t stand to be gone for too long. I return because each time I feel more at home in this foreign city. More and more, I feel that I have come home. It’s familiar and foreign at the same time, and one or two or three visits can’t give you that, it takes coming back again and again.

It’s a wonderful feeling to feel at home in a land that is so comfortable and yet so different; where I am just beginning to feel like I may finally be getting a handle on the basics of the language. I am proud each time I successfully negotiate some kind of transaction in French. I can just hear Mr. Manus, my infamous 10th grade French teacher, with his purple car and purple ascot, say, in his Southern accent, “Francoise, I’m proud of you. Brava! Now go to the office”

I return to Paris to be with my friends. I already wrote of Loic, and I am always happy to see him and catch up with him and hear his stories.

(there he is trying to ignore me on the other side)

(there he is trying to ignore me on the other side)

We always have so much to talk about; hours and hours of stories. And I’m always happy to see his friend “Clementine”, who is now my friend as well. I always look forward to seeing her, and to hunkering down for some wine and long conversation (in French!) at Lou Pascalou, that fabulous bar tucked away in a cobblestoned corner of the 20e, in Menilmontant.

lou pascaloooo

Being with her reminds me always that despite the differences in our ages and cultures, we are women first and foremost and that bridges all.

I return to meet and talk and dine with my new Parisian friends, friends who may not have been born there but have called the city home for a while now. Thanks to my friend Jo and our shared Chowhound France obsession I met the most awesome Nancy and David, who have quickly become two of my favorite people on the planet. So smart and full of stories and of life. I can’t wait to go on an adventure in the Lot with them. And there’s Kathryn, my spiritual soul sister who I met once on the plane to Paris and who reminds me that we are all connected; we just need to open our hearts and our minds, and see. This is the view near her home:

The ET and the Lady

I return to see other friends from around the world who, like me, have Paris tattooed on their souls, people like Jo from Canada and Denise from England and Anne from Strasbourg and Shoesy from Israel and Roniece from Australia and Gitte from Denmark and Gayle from Boston and Nancy from DC and Jody from Florida and Sandy from Iowa and on and on. Our band of Paris worshippers from around the world, meeting up in our favorite place thanks to the powers of the universe made easy by the internet. Hallelujah! This past trip, I spent a wonderful Sunday in Gayle’s beautiful rental apartment in the 12th, chatting with Denise and her friend while the cold Paris winds swirled outside the big shuttered windows. I also spent a lovely afternoon in the Marais drinking tea with the beautiful Hélène,  the daughter of Anne who I have grown to love, as well. What a blessing to have been able to have that kind of relaxed time with my friends.

I return to sit in the Tuilleries, my favorite garden.

Me in the Tuilleries

I’m sometimes moved to tears when I am Paris, but only when I’m alone. In the past it was the Tuilleries that made me cry, but this time it was walking down rue de Charonne one day at lunchtime. It was a cold and sunny day, and as I looked around at the people walking down the street with their baguettes, and mothers pushing their baby carriages and people spilling out of the local tabac and the mailman pushing his little cart, I teared up. It was just people, going about their lives, in my favorite place in the world. And I was there. Amen.

me in the snow

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Paris With My Best Girl: Exceeding Expectations

I’m sitting here in the Lufthansa lounge, waiting for my delayed/rescheduled flight to take off. It’s going to be a long grueling trip home. I am always melancholy when I leave Paris. I know I’ll be back; of course I’ll be back (god/goddess willing!!). But you never know what life will bring, and so I leave with a sense of happy despair, if that makes any sense. To my fellow Paris-a-holics it will.

Because, as always, Paris seeped her way deeper into my skin, a fast track right to my soul. She always does. I will reflect on why later, but I wanted to write a quick update about Jordan for those of you following our saga.

In retrospect I should have taken more precautions on the day we climbed the bell tower. It was Jordan’s first day. She was tired and a bit jet lagged but so so excited. Her hands were shaking inside of Notre Dame, she loves it so. We did a lot of walking before and after, and went out that night in the cold to dinner (after resting).  We were both happy that she didn’t seem to have any issues with her stamina or with her legs (please read here if you’re lost).

The next day started out fine. I let her sleep in and I went out to get our most favorite pastries from one of the best (imho) boulangeries in Paris. Our apartment was less than five minutes from Pere Lachaise, so we walked among the graves in the gray mist…perfect atmosphere, declared Jordan. We then hopped on a series of buses and the metro and made our way across Paris to visit my friend Kathryn, who I picked up on a plane once. 🙂 More on my Parisian friends in a later post, but we had a nice time drinking hot chocolate together. Unfortunately for Jordan her legs started to hurt later that afternoon, and she spent that night and the next day resting in the apartment. Sigh. Déjà vu all over again.

So, we learned that she could only manage one outing per day, either day time sightseeing or nighttime dining, not both, meaning that she spent some long days in the apt and ate several take out meals on the days we were out. I was going to cook a big meal for her but she wanted take in – hmmm, I can’t say I was all THAT sorry. 🙂

I was very sad that Jordan experienced pain. I was also sad that she missed out on some experiences…like, we never made it to Montmarte, and she missed the opportunity to meet my friends Nancy and David who live in Paris, as well as a big Moroccan feast with other visiting friends. I felt guilty leaving her in the apartment when I went out…at her urging. 🙂

Because she wasn’t sad. She told me that she was very happy because she got to do “everything on her bucket list”:  the bell tower at ND, the Louvre, and most importantly the Opera Garnier (she saw the Phantom’s box! And the chandelier, and the grand escalier!) She drank several kirs, devoured her steak “bleu” (and charmed the waiters at Jacques Melac in the process). She got to meet Kathryn and got to see Loic and had some of the most delicious oysters EVER, they tasted of the sea, she said, and she was right. She bought a new sweater. She’s content. And grateful.

And so, so am I. I have learned many things from this girl. And I’m sure she’ll teach me many more.

Jordan in metro

Next up, my reflections of a cold week and a warm heart.