Tuesday, November 17

Paris Memories

The news of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris broke my heart because Paris is one of my very favorite places in the world--it ranks right up there with anyplace in Michigan, San Francisco, my own house, and the lake. It destroys me that people might now be afraid to travel there. Paris is where I found the writer Nan again after too many years of tucking that part of me away. So today, I'm celebrating my Paris by sharing some memories of my 2009 trip.


I've wanted to go to Paris since I was ten years old and found a little packet of old photos of the city from the early 1900s in an antiques store in Michigan. We were on vacation and my grandfather had given each of us five dollars to spend. Although it took every dime of my cash, I bought the pictures and spent the rest of the trip gazing at them. That summer, I vowed I'd go to Paris one day.

It only took me forty-five years to get there, but the trip finally happened. Son, DIL, and I took off on an evening in early June and landed in the City of Lights about nine a.m. Paris time. From the moment we hit the Champs-Elysee, I knew I was home. We rented an apartment in the Fifteenth Arrondissment--a tidy neighborhood around the Place du Commerce, about a mile from the Eiffel Tower. The apartment was small, but it was the perfect home base for our week in Paris.

There were so many sights to see--too many to list here, but highlights were a night at the opera in Luxembourg Gardens, a bicycle trip to the palace at Versailles, the Impressionist paintings at Musee d'Orsay, standing in front of Chopin's grave at Pere LeChaise Cemetery, bicycling down the Champs du Mars, praying in the hushed beauty of Notre Dame cathedral, and of course drinking champagne at the top of of the Eiffel Tower. I loved every single moment, but the most precious time was spent in our own little neighborhood.

One morning, I sat by myself in the sidewalk cafe on the Place du Commerce, sipping orange juice and Pellegrino, and a cafe au lait, nibbling on a fresh croissant, and scribbling endlessly in my journal. The narrow street in front of me was already bustling--shops opening, people laughing and talking at tables nearby. The cacophony of languages was surreal--French mostly, but also German, Italian, English, and even Arabic and Farsi. Old ladies were just leaving Matin services at the church on the square and the priest stood at the top of the steps, his bald head gleaming in the sun. Fresh fruit filled the bins in the Maison Gosselin, the market across the narrow street and I inhaled the scent of strawberries and oranges.

It was the Paris I'd dreamed of seeing, the Paris I'd always wanted to be part of, and there I was in the midst of it. I wrote in my journal about the wonder of being there, I am actually sitting in a cafe on a tiny street in Paris! C'est impossible, mais c'est vrai! (It's impossible, but it's true!) I look at the photos from my trip often and reread my journal now and again. Each time, I'm overwhelmed that I got to be a part of Paris life--not simply as a tourist, but to actually live as a Parisienne, if only for a short time.

I pulled out my pictures again last night because I needed to get the horrible news photos out of my head. I let them take me back to that amazing city and recalled again sitting in that cafe and discovering the writer in me again. C'est incroyable et merveilleux! What is your dream city? Have you been there? Tell me about it.



7 comments:

  1. It was lovely to "go there" with you this morning. I don't know that I have a dream city, since as you know all too well, I'm strictly a country girl, but I love the excitement most cities have to offer. But I do know that feeling of being home when you're not--Vermont is that for me.

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    1. Yes, Liz, we've talked about that "I'm home" feeling in a strange place. I have a couple of those, but Paris definitely qualified! Hugs, baby!

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  2. If I ever get as far as Paris, I will travel a tad bit further to the Champagne region to immerse myself in its vineyards and wineries (not to mention it's lovely bubbly nectar of life!). Thanks for the beautiful description of Paris!

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    1. I'd love to get back to to France and see more of it, Ava. Our focus was Paris and Ireland on that trip, so we didn't wander any farther afield than Versailles, but wow, Champagne region and Provence and of course, Normandy...all places I'd love to go. Interestingly, I only had a couple of French wines that I really liked. Dunno...maybe when it comes to wine, my palate hasn't matured past California reds. ;-)

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  3. I've never been to Paris, but I've always wanted to go...I'd also love to visit the Loire Valley to see all the chateaus ... my niece did a year abroad during college, and then taught in a small French town for a year after she graduated, so I kind of feel like I've been there. As for my dream city ... I'm not really sure. I would love to visit Ireland some day, just wander around and see the sights there.

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  4. I spent five weeks in Paris this past June. I love Paris! I found the French delightful! And at my age, I learned to drink wine there, always afraid of getting headache. But I was in Paris. I had to drink wine. And I did. And voila! No headache! Now I make sure the wine is an import versus US or Mexican (I live here now) bottle. I would love to go back and explore all the other areas of France

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  5. That was a wonderful tribute, Nan! Thank you for sharing your Paris experience with us. As for me, I think Paris and anywhere in France is my dream location. I even joke that if Trump wins the presidency, I'm leaving the country. And I figure since I have a French last name and my children are a quarter French, that we should go there :)

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