Purse Panda in Paris, the End (For Now)

To anyone following the adventures of Purse Panda in Paris (click here to get up to speed), his Parisian life continued pretty much where the last post left off:

Picnicking on the Seine:


Drinking wine with friends at Salon




(Sometimes to excess – THIS is how I found Purse Panda one morning! SAD!)


He had to dry out for a few days. Just coffee for you Purse Panda!


But when he was not eating and drinking to excess, he continued to enjoy the beauty that is Paris. Purse Panda’s love for Paris grew stronger by the day. He loves fountains as you know, especially this one at the Jardin du Luxembourg:


And this one at the Louvre:

Purse Panda loves the Louvre.


And the Tuilleries,

And Notre Dame,


And Monet’s water lilies at the Musee de l’orangerie,


And Sacre Coeur,


And of course…


Purse Panda’s favorite day was a visit to the Jardin des Plantes.  The flowers were so beautiful!


But the highlight of Purse Panda’s trip was this sign he spotted:


His peeps!


Oui! Purse Panda found his tribe in Paris.

As did I…

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Purse Panda is home now, a little jet lagged but happy to be reunited with his entire family.


He will never forget this trip, and the people he met and loved along the way.  He’ll always have Paris in his heart. He’s a bit sad to not be there, but he knows he’ll be back…



Purse Panda in Paris Part One

I didn’t set off on my French adventure alone…I have a secret traveling companion. When I was packing for my trip my husband Doug said, “You need to take a creature with you” (no not him!!!), referring to a stuffed animal memento that would remind me of home. After some consideration I chose the travel ready Purse Panda.

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This is Purse Panda chilling in my friend Jo’s Parisian apartment on our first night in Paris!

Purse Panda was a gift to Doug from his son Holden. We hadn’t been dating all that long when we took Holden to the National Zoo on what happened to be Father’s Day. I told Doug that Holden and I would be back and we found a gift shop where I told Holden that he could pick out a gift as a surprise for Doug. The 6-years-old-at-the-time Holden chose Purse Panda. I must say, it was a perfect choice!

So Purse Panda hopped into my Paris-bound suitcase and away we went, first as you know to Nice, where he checked out the French girls on the beach


and had a nice break by a fountain (Purse Panda loves French fountains, as you will see. I haven’t figured out why.)


Purse Panda loved the ice-cold Margarita’s we shared on Cinco de Mayo, in the old town


Purse Panda also enjoyed the trip up in the hills above Nice to the beautiful village of Vence, where Matisse designed a chapel. We hiked to the chapel but it was closed. Purse Panda enjoyed the views nonetheless.


He also admired this Matisse sculpture.


And of course this fountain.


As much as Purse Panda loved Nice,


Paris is his true passion. He is so happy to be here! He especially loves the Eiffel Tower,



most especially when it sparkles.


He also really enjoyed the Jardin du Luxembourg, resting his tired paws with my niece, checking out the crowds and of course, the fountain.




But what Purse Panda really AIMES the most about Paris is hanging out with and eating and drinking with the Parisian people. Purse Panda is quite the partier it turns out. He adored the gang at the Eurovision party, and the feeling was tres mutual (even though he did NOT understand the rules!)



Purse Panda enjoys meeting new friends and seeing dear familiar ones.




He loves nothing more than sitting in the sun, sharing some rose,


or looking out at the rooftops of Paris from a friend’s apartment.

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He is grateful that I brought him along, and tomorrow he will be reunited with his rightful owner. He is looking forward to more Parisian adventures. Until then, au revoir from Purse Panda in Paris!

Five Weeks in France. O-M-G!

Here I sit, in my home in Baltimore, pondering how I have the great good fortune to be leaving in exactly one week for a five week adventure in France.  I really can’t believe it, still.

I’ll be immersed in French classes here for the first week,


(Nice IS Nice!)

followed by some Nice fun in the sun with my Canadian BFF Jo who is living in Paris for a YEAR! But don’t be a hater, I am sleeping on her couch a few nights. And she deserves it.


Then it’s off to Paris for the rest of the time.


I am so very grateful to my bosses and colleagues at the Center for Economic and Policy Research for allowing me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (don’t worry I promise to  check my email to make sure we don’t miss any donations!!). I can also scout out office space for CEPR-Paris!


I am grateful for my dear friends in Paris. I look forward to many wine-filled evenings of laughter and love and light. And cheese, and croissants, and all the rest of the glorious food. And thanks to my Fitness guru Linda I hopefully will be able to indulge freely. She gave me some killer workouts to take along.  Montmarte Stairmaster class anyone?


But most of all, I am grateful to my husband Doug, for the patience, understanding and unconditional love that he has shown me in supporting my trip. I look forward to his visit to Paris! Dougie, you totally rock.  Je t’aime baby.


I also look forward to my dear friends and family who will be visiting while I’m there. Some are Paris virgins, and I look forward to showing them my town. Look out Paris, Baltimore will soon be in the MAISON!


I’m also planning on some side trips, one to Strasbourg to visit my friend Anne who lives there (train strike willing),


And (hopefully) to Berlin to see my sister! (Lufthansa willing)

I hope to use my time to reflect. I’m turning 60 in September (60 is the new 40 my lovelies), and I want to take a deep breath, and just be, in the city I love, a place that feeds my soul.

I plan to share some of my thoughts and adventures (and pictures!) here, if anyone is interested in coming along on my ride. You are most welcome.  Paris and I look forward to having you join us.

Bises mes chers… à bientôt !

Such a Short Strange Trip It’s Been…Or, How I Was On My Way to Paris and Landed in Hawaii (Metaphorically Speaking)

Whew! It’s been a long time since I posted in this blog. And the events of the past year prove the age-old adage that a LOT can happen in 12 months. Sometimes you coast along in life, the years blending into one another, and then WHAM! You’re hit with life altering changes, all happening in a matter of a few short months. But as someone who is near and dear to my heart these days likes to say, “ain’t that what livin’s all about?” And I answer, as I always do, mais oui.

I left off last January, in Paris, communing with my women. There have been two trips to you know where since then: one last May that was pretty much like the one in January (only warmer),

How I feel in Paris, after my jump master Nancy

How I feel in Paris, after my jump master Nancy

full of time spent with ma best guuurl

Me and ma guuuurl xo

Me and ma guuuurl xo

and my other dear ones in Paris:

Picnic with some fellow hounds...bliss

Picnic with some fellow hounds…bliss

bahn mi lunches in secret gardens, long late night chats over tranches and wine,

It wasn't blue crab but thanks to the smuggled Old Bay it was close enough...

It wasn’t blue crab but thanks to the smuggled Old Bay it was close enough…

crab cake dinners, staying up to greet the dawn, vegemite for breakies, new faces

My favorite bartender in all of Paris. Miss you Salim!

My favorite bartender in all of Paris. Miss you Salim!

and sweet familiar ones.

well, it's the Queen's leg and not her face, but you get my drift...

well, it’s the Queen’s leg and not her face, but you get my drift…

Time spent wandering my streets and filling my soul.

always my picture

sigh, ma belleville

sigh, ma belleville

That lovely, bittersweet trip made me more determined to try to find a way to call Paris home, permanently. I came back full of plots and homework on how to possibly go about it, given to me by one of the ex-pat dear ones (who has since moved even further afield). Yes, I was bound and determined to find a way to move to Paris, sooner rather than later. Nothing was gonna keep me from living my dream!

And of course as these things happen, the universe took me in another direction…one I wasn’t looking for, for sure. And of course in retrospect I am so glad that I opened my ears long enough to hear what the universe was telling me. I didn’t plan on getting into a relationship. Was NOT looking for one. But there must have been some magical Hawaiian spirit calling my name, as one found me.

Me and HB

Me and HB

And it soon became apparent (to me and to pretty much everyone who came in contact with the two of us) that this relationship was meant to be. It has evolved organically. And I didn’t feel like I made a decision to not move to Paris. It just no longer seemed like an option. And that was ok. More than ok.

We had a fine summer. I learned to lash together and to sail a traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoe! (in the Chesapeake Bay, Middle River no less!).

me and the canoe

me and the canoe

there she is in full sail

there she is in full sail

We even swamped once (that’s a tale worthy of its own post). Summer became Fall, which turned to Winter. I moved myself and my things into his lovely apartment in the trees in Mt Washington, And in December, over Christmas, I took him to Paris (trip number 2). thanks to the generosity of some of my above-mentioned dear ones who graciously loaned us their fabulous apartment for a week.

now there are 2

now there are 2

He's digging the vin chaud

He’s digging the vin chaud

carnavalet selfie!

carnavalet selfie!



And so, here we are. I’ve learned many things from my Hawaii Boy (as my friends and I used to refer to him, and I still do when it fits). I look forward to learning a whole lot more. He’s one of the sweetest people I know. He brings out the best in me, he encourages me, he loves me and he cares for me. He makes me laugh. We iron out whatever differences and conflicts arise, asap, and get right back on with our sweet life. We’re in the process of buying a sweet house, not in Paris or Hawaii but home, right here in Baltimore City, hon. I am content.

I hope that my dear friends continue to walk the journey with me, as I asked in a previous post. I hope that my story has the intended consequence of helping anyone who cares to read it. Helping in the sense of pointing out just how serendipitous life can be, how important it is to plan, and to have dreams, but how equally important it is to keep an ear out to what the universe it saying.  And I hope that this new year marks a new chapter for everyone in my life, past, present and future. I want nothing but peace and happiness for everyone I know and love.

I’m still scheming on how I can travel and make the most of my life now while I figure out how to retire…just not sure where that will be. Maybe still France, or maybe Hawaii, or maybe I just might stay in my hometown, who knows? I just know that I will do my best to enjoy the ride.

Oui Audrey, Paris is Always a Good Idea…

So, yeah, I went to Paris, again. This time I really needed it. I needed to recharge my batteries, as trite as that sounds. I needed to be in my favorite place, that foreign city that feels like home to me, and I needed to have my soul soothed and I needed to be alone and to think and just to be. And Paris, being her fabulous beautiful difficult wonderful self, said ok, come on home baby, I am here, waiting for you.

And so I cashed in my remaining AA FF miles and I went, and was welcomed into my lovely little cocoon in the 11th arr…thank you Denise for your positive review because it was just perfect. And cheap! I miss this view…

my view

This trip was not a sightseeing mission. I went to one, count em one, museum…and I am not apologizing for it. And even then, I had issues. It was a fabulous exhibit at the Carnavalet (the Museum of the city of Paris, free) called (en francais) Roman d’un Garde-Robe: Le chic d’une Parisienne de la Belle Epoque aux années 30, which loosely translated means the novel of a wardrobe: one Parisian’s fashion from the 1900’s to the 30’s.  It contained the dresses, hats and accessories of a trend setting Parisian who helped launch 2 major French fashion houses, which of course appealed to my fashion loving side. So I enjoyed it very much from that aspect.

Some fashions in the exhibit, which was all in French, so I also practiced...

Some fashions in the exhibit, which was all in French, so I also practiced…

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But, as I reflected later, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth after as I couldn’t help but wonder about all the workers who sewed those sequins and toiled to make those dresses and hats. I really wanted to see their pictures, and read their stories. I thought about them all afternoon. I guess you can take the girl outta CEPR, but you can’t take the CEPR outa the girl (See here to understand)

And so what did I do in Paris if I didn’t go sightseeing or museum hopping? I communed with my women. I was uplifted and inspired. I laughed and I listened and I was listened to. I am so very fortunate beyond words to have the deep good fortune to have so many good friends who have the deep good fortune to call Paris home, and how lucky I was to spend time with them, along with some fellow visitors who have also become my friends. I needed them and they came through, each and every one, French and American, Australian/New Zealander all Parisian by birth or by spirit. Un grand merci et beaucoup de bisous a Roniece, Nancy, Jane, Kathryn, Sue, Mez, Sylvia, Margarita et Axelle. I so enjoyed seeing you, and drinking with you and laughing out loud with you and breaking bread with you and walking and shopping and talking talking talking. Je vous embrasse. Toujours…

Some of my women...my Muriels...mes tres cheres...xoxo

Some of my women…my Muriels…mes tres cheres…xoxo





I also wandered, I was lucky to have been spared the polar vortex freeze that has gripped the East coast of the US. Some rain (ah but Paris in the rain is still beautiful), so I was able to wander around and look at the known and not so known places that call to my soul. I spent a great afternoon in Montmarte…I always like to climb to Sacre Coeur and gaze out out upon “my” city and hold her in my hand. I was fortunate to have chosen the weekend of the Fete de Saint Jacques…only in France could you stumble upon a scallop festival.

a walk through Montmarte


DSC00069 DSC00082A nice young man from India and I took turns taking one another’s pictures




I made my way through my adopted hoods, the 11th and the 20th – Republique, Oberkampf, Menilmontant. Belleville, Pere Lachaise, Gambetta – with no agenda, just taking it all in. I was green with envy at the markets, one literally right outside my front door. I sure love visiting Roniece in her lovely slice of heaven in the 5th, as she calls it. It is nice, I like it, but it isn’t home. I gravitate to the quartiers listed above, not sure why, just feels like home to me, like me.

My Paris

My Paris

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My apartment building on Blvd Richard Lenoir

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The markets!


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Menilmontant, my favorite hood. Met A at Lou Pascalou, one of my favorite spots in Paris, and ended the night here. We spoke French all night. She is very patient…

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I walked to Rue Sainte Marthe, in the 10th, on the  fringes of my hoods.



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And back to Oberkampf, and a goodbye shot from the second floor of L’EstaminetIMG_0939


My moment of serendipity came as I was waiting for the metro after my lunch with Kathryn.


(This is the view from the Pont Mirabeau bridge. It makes me think of you K!)

Anyway, I was in the metro station waiting for the next train, looking at the metro map to pass the time, when an old man started talking to me in French and asking me if I knew who the Gallieni metro stop was named after. I said no, and he proceeded to tell me the story of Gallieni, how he was a general who “saved Paris from the Germans”. When I told him I didn’t know that, he asked me where I was from, and when I told him the US, well, his face lit up and he proceeded to regale me with tales of the Americans who rescued him during WWII. The train came and we sat together and I heard all about his trip to the US and about how much he loved Americans, he thinks we’re so friendly, with our “open faces”. He told me that his name was Jacques, that he was 84 (I think I got that right), As he got off the metro, he told me that he was happy to have met me. He shook my hand and told me that my French is very good. I smiled all the way down line 10.

All wasn’t fun and games as I also worked hard, very hard, to improve my French. Days and years of slogging through classes and reading silly French novels and listening to French on my IPod on the MARC train as the DC Suburbs pass by have left me with decent comprehension skills. But my verbal skills are sadly lacking, so I took a workshop at the Alliance and spent more relaxed evening at a bar at a Franglish event. I would definitely recommend it: For 12e you get a drink and an hour and a half of conversation with 5 native French speakers. It was tiring, but inspiring, and everyone there was super nice…tres sympa ! I am gonna master this language even if it takes me the rest of my life to do so.

And so, another January in Paris…feeling as always grateful that I am able to go back again, and again. And I will be back…Roniece, save me a seat at LPC. And tell Pierre (another dapper 80-something Frenchman who charmed me) that I said bonjour.

La Reine !

And in the meantime, I will spend time with my dear girlfriends on this side of the Atlantic. Candace, Liz, Tamara, Chris, Claudia, Elaine (and on the phone and on facebook, Maureen (my Boo2), and Jo, and Sara and Vickie and all of the rest of my dear Muriels, those great women all around the world, who lift me up every day)…and my mom, and Jordan. My family.

A new year, and a new life. Full of hope and joy and peace and remorse and melancholy, all at the same time.

C’est la vie, n’est ce pas ?

Back to Paris, with a Mission(oni)

So, I find myself about to go off to Paris…again.  Feeling (as they say on the facebook) blessed. Thank you United Frequent Flier program!!! Thank you for this opportunity to go back to the city that I love most of all, and thank you CEPR for giving me the vacation (not to mention the salary) to be able to take this most needed break, right in the middle of the government shut down. And thank you furlough boy (aka my husband) for understanding that I need to visit my favorite place on the planet whenever possible. Especially this trip, which is a celebration in the true sense of the word.

Because I am going to Paris to celebrate the 15th birthday of my second favorite girl in the world, my niece Zoe. For anyone happening upon my blog for the first time, or for my friends who don’t know, my sister lives in Hamburg, Germany with my niece, the most fabulous Zoe Gissou Niederhauser.  I traveled to Germany a few days after her birth, and ever since that time she has held a special place in my heart.

Here we are, looking at Project Runway I'm sure

Here we are, looking at Project Runway I’m sure…oh, or the bad ass honey badger… that’s  us http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r7wHMg5Yjg

Both she and my sister have been through A LOT (capital letters!). After my sister’s separation and divorce from my German brother-in-law she has waged many heroic custody battles with the German government. Losing some very important ones. So important that she made the difficult decision to come to the US and stay, with Zoe – believe me my people when I tell you that she was acting in the best interest of her child – only to be forced to return to Germany under a curse of bad timing and worse luck. But as I always say, and as is so relevant in this case, Karma is a BITCH and even though they both had to go through hell and they went back to Germany and Zoe was forced to return to live with her father, the gods (esses) put things right, and she gained the awesome strength to do what few 13 year olds would do, she ran in the cover of the night to her momma. Who won the right to house her child where her child wants to live, with her momma in Hamburg. All I got to say to that is Namaste, mother f*ckers.

And, as an aside, said child is one really talented fashion designer, and in this as in many other ways she takes after her most favorite Aunt Dawn, as I used to want to be a designer as well, having spent countless hours in my room designing the most awesome gowns fit for the likes of Cher, my hopes dashed only due to my complete and utter lack of sewing skills. But Zoe? She has her whole life ahead of her. She may be the most awesome fashion designer, or who  knows what? All I know is that whatever she puts her mind to, she will succeed. She is one of two angels in my life, the other being my daughter Jordan, who also has overcome many obstacles in her life. Girls, you are my heroes.

mes trios filles

mes deux filles

As are you , ma soeur. I won’t even go into your story, how you have always been my hero as well, facing life with a situation that many would have used as an excuse, but not you. So be proud!  I love you.

Me my mama and my sister

Me my mama and my sister

And so, I look forward to taking them to Paris – to sharing my favorite place with some of my favorite people, and that also means my people who live in Paris or who will be visiting when I’m there. I will end this post as I began, feeling blessed.

A très bientôt Paris !!

Where I Try to Talk Myself Out of Missing Paris…

I probably shouldn’t be writing this post because I’m in the middle of a big ole missing-Paris big time funk. Post-Paris Depression, or PPD as my merry band of fellow Paris addicts calls it. (how’s your PPD? Oh really bad this time, how bout you?) Even after I had to “sleep” in the basement of Charles de Gaulle, on THIS

CDG hell

next to some guy who snored louder than a jet-plane engine – yes, even after that recent nasty experience, I still yearn for my favorite city.  I got it real bad.

Big sigh. I miss it all, the cafes


and the markets

marche d;aligre

and the art


and the light

montmarte light

and the bridges

bridge of sighs

and the bars


and the food

jacques melac

and the wine

and my friends

me and Queen Murielle

me and Loic, drinking wine

(and me drinking wine with my friends)

and the lifestyle – the life. I know, I know, I’ve waxed (hopefully just a teeny tiny bit eloquently) about what made me fall in love with Paris in the previous pages of my blog. So what’s a Paris lovin girl to do when she’s not there? It’s SO hard. Especially in cold, gray Februrary. Oh I know it was cold and gray when I was in Paris, but, hello, I was in PARIS! It’s totally different! SIGH.

Hmmm, maybe I can think of the things I’m not that crazy about! Yeah, maybe that will work. Perhaps if I pretend that I am on my cozy little cot in CDG, it might all come back to me…

I’m thinking! zzzzzzz

OK, there was this one time when I was in a shop in the Marais, and I asked the salesclerk, in French: “Cette robe, c’est combien ?” POINTING to the article of clothing that was hanging on the wall. Now, I know that my French accent needs some work, but I’ve managed to make myself understood in similar situations just fine, merci. Of course that was before encountering THE rudest salesclerk in all of Paris, who turned to me and said in the snootiest voice I’ve ever heard: “I’m going to speak to you in English because I didn’t understand your French”. Whooooeee. I was floored, and too bad I didn’t think of the perfect comeback (which was suggested to me by a French woman, which made it even better): “Et je vais vous parler en français parce que je n’ai pas compris votre anglais ” (And I’m going to speak to you in French because I didn’t understand your English”)

Touché!  Hell yeah!

But, that is really the only in-your-face-rude experience I’ve ever had. Some coldness from time to time, but most of the time people have been warm and forgiving of my struggles with their beautiful language. AAAHH, focus sister, you’re supposed to be thinking of the negative. OK – it can be frustrating and tiring, navigating the language. I wonder if I’ll ever get to the point where I’m not frustrated because I can’t express myself in the language of my city. I wonder. And who knows?

What else? Hmm. OK, I admit to missing the take-out coffee. I HATE Starbucks and everything it stands for, but sometimes I DO want it to go. That can be frustrating, having to sit and sit when I want to GO.

Starbucks takes over!

And if I think about it, there’s something about the uniquely American habit of chatting it up with strangers that I might possibly miss if I lived in Paris. It’s taken me a while to learn that nuance. In America, you most likely wouldn’t smile and give a big good day to the clerk at the 7-11, and they most likely wouldn’t look up from their tabloid to wish you a good day, with feeling. I like that about France. I like it that you say bonjour or bonsoir when you enter a shop, and bonne journée or bonne soirée when you leave, whether you buy something or not. Even in rental apartment buildings, people ALWAYS greet you when they pass by, because you have a defined relationship. I’ve become accustomed to that, and in the true meaning of that word, become ac”customed”, and it’s a custom I really appreciate.

But I wonder if I’d miss the easy way that we Americans have with strangers? We can strike up a friendly conversation anywhere, with anyone, and not give it any mind. We can become your best friend in 10 minutes! I know that it’s different in France, that people definitely keep to themselves more. Someone once remarked to me that in general, we Americans make lots of friends very quickly and easily, but a lot of it is on the surface. Whereas the French, in general, only make friends with a few, but the friendships tend to be deeper, in a way. Hmmm. Lots to ponder on that one.

I think it might take me just a few more trips to Paris to figure it all out, if I’m lucky. Because try as I might to dissuade myself from feeling so, even with everything, I still miss it, my most favorite place in the world. Paris,

je t’aime, the good, and the mauvaise…


me heart paris

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


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

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.

Paris With My Best Girl, Take Two

I decided to take a trip down my Parisian memory lane for this post, as it is one month to the day that I will be back in my beloved city. And in one month and three days, my beloved daughter Jordan will join me in said beloved city. I promised her that I would take her to Paris for her 21st birthday, and since I had decided to go in January to take some French classes and visit with some local and visiting friends, I decided to take her along for an early birthday present. (I still cannot believe that my baby will be 21 in 2013. How in the #$%^ did that happen?!)

Jordan and my other girl Lady Zoe

This will be her second time in my favorite place on the planet. We took all 3 of our children in 2006, my third time in my fair city. It was quite the adventure, traveling with teenagers aged 14, 15 and 17.

Tommie in a scarf

It meant trying to rouse the 17 year old by 3 PM, without much luck.

Mark cool on the metro

It also meant visiting such Parisian landmarks as Les Invalides (so much armor and weaponry, so little time),


and of course the oggy catacombs, which to this claustrophobic scardy cat were way beyond creepy.

creepy catacombs shot

It also involved fun if way too cold trips to the crowded Eiffel tower and spiritual meanders through L’Orangerie and Notre Dame (which Jordan was especially thrilled to see)

Jordan happy to be at  ND

and many wonderful meals

dinner at Le Reminet. Aww

and a ride on the Vendettes de Pont Neuf

Vendettes du pont neuf

and a fabulous New Year’s eve feast that we cooked in our apartment which lasted for 4 hours, at least – so many laughs – and so much champagne topped off by a twinkling tower view. And a guided tour of Montmarte courtesy of Loic, who took us zig zagging up and down the butte at breakneck speed.

sacre coeur

Jordan really wants to re-visit Notre Dame, and climb the bell tower, and she really really wants to take a guided tour of the Opera Garnier, as she became a Phantom of the Opera uber fan in the years since our first trip and therefore she is super excited to see the infamous chandelier. And she wants to see Montmarte and Sacre Coeur, as she missed the tour last time – she missed two days of that trip, actually.

OK, an aside: I will explain why Jordan missed some precious Paris time, as briefly as I can, because if I were to really get into the details I could write a book, which I may someday…

Jordan missed two full days of Paris because she was in bed with “sore legs”, a result of her metabolic condition. More aside: Jordan has a rare genetic metabolic disorder called: Long Chain Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase Deficiency, VLCAD Deficiency for short. It is what’s called a fatty acid oxidation defect. Her body is deficient in an enzyme called VLCAD, which is one of a series of enzymes that breaks down fatty acids. As a former aerobics instructor it helped me to think about exercise – when you exercise real hard, or when you fast, you first burn up all the glucose in your body. Then your body says uh oh we need fuel, so your body starts to break down fats, turning them to glucose for energy. This is where Jordan has a problem – her body can’t convert the fatty acids properly, so they build up in her system causing all kinds of trouble, and at the same she doesn’t get the energy she needs, so her body starts breaking down muscle, and the fatty acids build up in her liver and heart.  Over the years we’ve learned some interesting things, like, did you know that shivering causes your body to rev up your metabolism to the point where you burn lots of fatty acids? That’s what happened to Jordan in Paris (it’s a complicated chemical story but the end result was severe REALLY painful leg muscles that landed her in bed unable to move for two days.)

I discovered that Jordan had this condition when she was 17 months old. She got a routine stomach flu and ended up in intensive care after having a hypoglycemic seizure and almost dying in my arms. Really, scarily close. At that time there were no tests to predict disorders like these – Jordan was just lucky to have lived, and super lucky to have ended up in a hospital where there was an intern who had worked with one the fabulous doctors who discovered the gene, our most wonderful savoir/Dr Kelley of Johns Hopkins. The intern probably saved Jordan’s life, as she would have been sent home undiagnosed and would more than likely have died from the next episode. According to Dr. Kelley, Jordan was the 30th medically recognized case at the time of her diagnosis, of course there were others before that went undiagnosed, most of whom died and were misdiagnosed with SIDS. About 1 in 40,000 people carry the defective gene, both parents have to carry it, and if they do, there is a 1 in 4 chance that their child will have the disorder- you can do the math to see how rare it is.

Anyway, thankfully, thanks to me and others who fought for expanded newborn testing, parents now are informed at birth and can take steps to avoid crises like what happened to Jordan, because managing her disorder is not all that hard and pretty much involves avoiding fasting and other “triggers”, like, as I mentioned, standing in the freezing cold for hours, or getting really super excited combined with not eating enough calories. She also has to limit her fats, and can’t over exercise or go on a diet.

Unfortunately for Jordan, because she was diagnosed after having a severe crisis, she suffered some consequences from the seizure and has struggled her entire life with some mild damage to the area of the brain that handles “executive function”. Her IQ is slightly above average and I think that her emotional/empathy IQ is off the charts – she just can’t do an algebra problem to save her life, standardized tests are out, and she sometimes gets a bit sidetracked. And it meant that she suffered mightily in middle school thanks to some nasty bully girls who, I’m sure, will get their karmic payback someday.

All that to say that Jordan has handled all that has been thrown at her with such grace, and good humor – she has such a positive outlook on life – well, anyone who knows her knows that I could go on and on, because she is a such a sweet girl. She is truly my hero. I am SO proud of her and beyond thrilled that I am in a position to do this for her, to be able to share my favorite place with her again, just the two of us. From living with her in the hospital for months at a time, to moving to Boston and back again, to dealing with uncooperative school systems to the divorce and then a new blended family life, we have been through so much together, most of it just the two of us. And now, long johns and mittens and warm sweaters and hats are ready to be packed, I am ready to be with just her in Paris.

On y va ma chère fille ! Je t’aime

me and my girl