Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Two Loves

It's been too many lovely days in Paris since I blogged.  My only excuse is that I am enjoying every beautiful moment with the two loves of my life.

Our "love lock" from April 2012
In the last few days we have explored most of our favourite arrondissements.  I am not sure how many people would enjoy our Paris which mostly includes hours of endless walking and seemingly doing nothing.  We walk slowly stopping to admire a well-tended flower box or a pair of shoes in a window; we veer off onto unexplored side streets and bend over to coo at a coiffed Parisian pooches; we collapse and stretch ourselves into bamboo brasserie chairs to order another bière blanche and we talk about our future in Paris.  I have stopped wearing a watch. 

I couldn't wait to take Chris marketing and over the weekend we visited three, including le Marché du livre ancien et d'occasion George Brassens.  I want to live in this open air library with its soundtrack of chirping birds and smells of musty books.  I love the hushed, almost reverent atmosphere and the seriousness of the book sellers.  Chris bought me a gorgeous, yellow-paged Plan de Paris that still has the original, now brittle, full colour map of Paris attached to the back cover.  I have been turning the pages carefully trying to find its publication date.  

Chris has fallen back into Paris like he never left and has become even bolder since last September challenging the Champs on a Sunday afternoon and eating pâté and steak tartare with gusto.  Nothing seems to phase him here anymore even riding a packed métro car when it's 30 degrees outside.  He is so relaxed and completely in his element that I can barely remember his first few anxious days here in 2007.  The two of us glide through the city, still awestruck and moved by its beauty and glamour, and I often feel like Paris was created just for us.

Police horses at Place de la Concorde
About that pâté...
I would love to live on a diet of baguette, blue cheese and milk chocolate and at 36 I still shudder when a sliver of broccoli touches my tongue.  In Paris, I try to eat whatever comes on my plate but the pâté was a mistake.  I couldn't decipher the smudged chalk written menu and only saw the word "salade".  When the salades arrived dotted with pâté, I bravely stabbed a chunk, forked it into my mouth, gagged and swallowed it whole.  Chris laughed.  However, I got the last laugh after lunch as we walked along rue Saint-Honoré and I stopped to throw a fistful of Kleenex wrapped pâté into a garbage can.   Not chic but sneaky!

Only in Paris...
Could you see a man walking down a street in Les Halles on a Sunday afternoon wearing cut off jean shorts, a white tank top, black suspenders, black ankle boots and a pair of shiny, silver handcuffs dangling loosely around his neck like a Hermès scarf.  

Tourists behaving badly...
Maybe I am getting old and cranky but Paris seems overrun with a lot of female 20-somethings living their Girls fantasy, heavy with entitlement and ennui, and complaining loudly about everything.  And they can't manage a word of French, even a simple "merci".      

"I am already so bored just thinking about all the dumb questions I am going to have to answer about Paris when I get home." 

"The only thing I am really going to miss about Paris is being able to buy apricot juice in the grocery store."

"It's ok here.  Salads are kind of expensive but wine is cheap.  The women are ok.  Definitely more put together than women in Miami - nobody is wearing track pants."  

Thursday, July 4, 2013

King France

Chris is here!  And now Paris really feels like home!

Early on in Chris' Paris adventures, he developed an impressive mental map of Paris that made my guidebook fumblings look even more desperate.  He remembers boulevards, avenues, boulangeries and even where we sat in a restaurant.  Chris remembers faces of waiters, whether the beer was served cold or if the jambon baguette had Dijon mustard.  I can be a bit directionless and have less of a memory; perhaps I spend too much time looking up to admire Parisians' window flower boxes?  Anyway, his recollections earned him the nickname "King France".

King France doesn't need this!
I tried really hard to pretend that today was just any other day in Paris and not the-first-day-in-Paris-with-my-husband-I-haven't-seen-in-6-weeks.  The latter won and I watched Chris sleep most of the  night while I counted the hours until we could wake up and start our day in Paris.  I also tried really hard not to make a list of the things I want us to do in Paris together and be super relaxed and take every day as it comes.  So not my style and the list, "Paris with Chris", was written before his plane touched down at Charles de Gaulle.  To my credit I did get through today without pulling out my Plan de Paris or taking a single photograph so he could enjoy his first day in peace.

We did what we always do on our first day in Paris together - walk the city from end to end with a final stop at Place de la Concorde to see that perfect Paris 360 degree view.  I think it's the view that everyone imagines when they think of Paris: stand near the Obelisk, staring straight ahead up the Champs at the Arc de Triomphe, turn to your left and you will see the Seine with the Eiffel Tower looming in the distance and the gold tips of Pont Alexandre III, then the dramatic facade of Assemblée Nationale, turning back to the Muséede l’Orangerie and the manicured grounds of the Tuileries Gardens, with a view of the Louvre pyramid through the Arc de Triomphe de Carrousel, as you complete your circle you will make out the bright pops of flowers on the steps of La Madeleine before returning your eyes to the Arc de Triomphe.  This view is our Paris touchstone.  

Vive le King France!

Paris celebrity sighting...

Karl Lagerfeld's "The Glory of Water" (Wallpaper article about the exhibit) opened today in Paris in a specially built exhibition space on the right bank of the Seine.  Less than 10 minutes into our left bank walk early this morning, Chris looks over at the space and spots Monsieur Lagerfeld with his sunglasses, gleaming white hair, black trench and entourage.  So close but so far!

Paris not-so celebrity sighting...

Shortly after, still swooning from Monsieur Lagerfeld, Chris nearly shoved me behind a Parisian garbage can to show me a rat perched atop a crushed water bottle.  Thankfully I locked my legs and closed my eyes and missed saying "bonjour" to my least favourite resident of Paris. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


The last six weeks in Paris I have resisted thinking about tomorrow and instead I focused on each beautiful moment and what it's felt like to live my dream.  But tomorrow Chris arrives and I am thinking about tomorrow and excited for our sixteen days in Paris together.

Still one of my favourite Paris pictures!
We have never been apart from each other for so long.  Last June was a new record when I attended a four night conference in Wyoming.  I don't like being away from Chris and each separation leaves me counting the hours until we are together again.  There was a part of me that expected I wouldn't last the six weeks and would return home early.  There was another part of me that expected Chris would arrive unannounced in the middle of a Paris night.  And I know we both had moments where those things crossed our minds.

Paris has been a constant in our relationship almost from the day we met.  We have spent our entire marriage dreaming about Paris and this experience was the first step in our "five year plan to live in Paris."  While I have physically been here alone, this was a plan that we embraced together and wouldn't be remotely possible without Chris' support.  I am going to spend the rest of my life trying to thank him. 

Truthfully I haven't reflected much on this experience and whether I feel changed.  Paris has felt like home from the first night I arrived.  I know I feel less anxious and more confident.  I also feel, with no reservations, that Paris where we are meant to be and achieving that goal will remain a priority.  I have not been disappointed; Paris remains perfect to me even with its less desirable bits and idiosyncrasies.   I can't imagine feeling so vital and inspired anywhere else in the world but Paris.

The next phase of our Paris adventure starts tomorrow.

Couples in love...

Last night I caught some sun - finally! -on one of the double loungers set up for Les Berges.  On the lounger next to me lay an older couple noisily cuddling and kissing.  As soon as they arranged themselves, she unbuttoned the top buttons of his sweat stained dress shirt and stuck her hands in for a good grope.  Her grey hair was short and springy and she was wearing a rumpled white linen ensemble.  His brown socks were patterned with turquoise polka dots.  They were laughing and whispering like they were the only two people in Paris.  So insulated and unselfconscious.  They reminded me of what I imagined Paul and Julia Child would have been like together in Paris. 

Things you should never do in Le Petit Cler...

Remove your plastic Ziploc bag full of bran and using your travel teaspoon scoop two heaping spoonfuls into your freshly squeezed orange juice.

Things writing geeks buy at Les Soldes...

A leather wallet especially designed to hold pens and pencils.  I think it's so chic!  

Monday, July 1, 2013

City of Love?

I am hardly a cynic when it comes to the romance of Paris and I have spent the last ten years chasing this beautiful city from behind my rose-coloured lenses.  But I know Paris can be difficult to love and that couples can struggle to find its charm and romance.

Being alone these last several weeks I have observed many miserable couples in Paris.  They sit hunched over in cafés refusing to make eye contact with each other and making attempts to sound enthusiastic about standing in line at the Eiffel Tower.  They make inane comments about the food - "These eggs are so fresh!" - and they wear their disappointment as heavily as their fanny packs.  It's obvious they were expecting a different kind of Paris experience.

Over the years Chris and I have had our fair share of arguments in the streets of Paris.  There has been sulking, stomping, crying, sighing and even threats of an immediate return to Canada.  On our first trip, our honeymoon, I dragged Chris to all of the sights, trying to sell him on the beauty of Paris as though I was a desperate used car salesperson trying to get rid of a 1970's Pinto station wagon.  I wanted him to love Paris immediately and I destroyed his first impressions.  We had a huge row and I remember feeling panicked at the thought that I had just married a man who didn't love Paris.  Clearly everything worked out, romance and a love affair with Paris followed, but we have gone through enough unromantic moments that I feel qualified to offer my top five tips for thriving in the City of Love... 

Don't be too hard on yourselves.  Not everyone is having the best time and skipping around Paris only stopping to steal kisses on Pont Alexandre III.  You will have bad moments and possibly bad days.  It's not the end of the world and not every single second in Paris has to be perfect, enlightened or romantic.  Find a quiet place to sit and grab a drink.  Do something ridiculous.  Chris and I once ended up at Disneyland Paris because we had a bad day at the Louvre.  It reset the trip for us and gave us something that we still laugh about to this day.  
Compromise.  You aren't going to suddenly love all of the same things just because you are in Paris.  Maybe you want to spend a few hours shopping at Galeries Lafayette or a day at Versailles.  Maybe your partner wants to drink beer and take a nap.  We spend at least a few hours apart each trip doing something we love.  It doesn't mean we aren't having a great time together but just that there are certain things in Paris that are best experienced on our own.       

Understand that people don't change just because they are somewhere else.  It's a lovely thought that travel turns us into these uninhibited, all loving, Eat, Pray, Love types but the reality is most of us, if lucky, get a week or two a year to go somewhere.  It's just enough time to relax but not enough time to transform.  Chris and I are morning people and no matter how hard we try in Paris, a city not made for morning people, we struggle to stay awake past 10 when most chic Parisians are just finishing their dinners.  You just work around it; we almost have the city to ourselves in the mornings.  We also know that like at home, we enjoy quiet and privacy - sounds impossible in Paris! - but we achieve our Paris by avoiding a lot of things that attract tourists to the city.  We relax and wander and we rent apartments instead of staying in hotels.

Eat something.  Personally I am at worst, i.e. bitchiest, when I am hungry and cannot appreciate anything or anyone once my blood sugar dips below a certain level.  Chris on the other hand can happily walk 12 hours on two café crèmes and a beer.  I have learned to carry Haribo in Longchamp or Dirty Louis and not pretend I am not hungry when Chris asks me for the twelfth time.

Lower your expectations.  Paris comes with impossibly high expectations to see and do everything.  Like everyone, I initially came to Paris because I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, the Louvre, etc. and my first trip was much of a blur.  You become exhausted and miss what is so truly beautiful about Paris.  Chris and I keep coming back not because of those things but because of how Paris makes us feel.  Give yourselves time to feel the city and be surprised by what isn't in a guidebook. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Une Personne

To celebrate my last Sunday night in Paris alone, I am taking myself out for le plat du jour at Le Petit Cler.  This morning I made an 8 pm reservation for "une personne, à l’exteriéur" and I am going to put on a little black dress, paint my lips MAC Lustre and enjoy dinner in my Paris living room.  

It's been a glorious summer day in Paris perfect for crisscrossing the city through some of my favourite arrondissements.  I don't think I will ever find anything that brings me more pleasure than walking through the streets of Paris.  I half-expected at this point that I would be bored of the same streets and the same sights but the familiarity only brings me closer to Paris and more excited about a life here.  I will never tire of catching the Eiffel Tower from different angles, how it disappears from certain vantage points and then suddenly reappears in all of its iron beauty ; I will never tire of walking through Place des Vosges and feeling like I have been transported back to the seventeenth century; and I will never tire of walking beneath the sculpted tree alleys in Palais Royal that compel me to slow my pace and imagine I am wearing a bustled dress and off to meet my amoureux for an afternoon liaison.

Place des Vosges
One of those sudden Eiffel Tower views off Avenue Bosquet

Tree alley in Petit Palais
 Yesterday a mobile petting zoo unloaded at the top of rue Cler. The animals traveled in what looked like a converted brown ice cream truck with chicken mesh covering the multiple windows.  There was a large, sway-backed donkey, several exotic looking chickens, one speedy piglet, a lamb and several goats of different sizes and colours.  The animals were penned in an enclosure about half the size of the average North American's master bedroom with some straw thrown down to make it look life a farm.  The donkey, star of the show, had his own section with a beach umbrella for shade.  You couldn't smell the animals for all of the yummy mummy's wafting Guerlain as they helped their very clean, well mannered children feed the animals stale baguette chunks.   

One of the resident clochards stumbled over shirtless in bright yellow overalls and wraparound sunglasses clutching an open bottle of red in a plastic bag to shout endearments at the donkey.  The children, being petit Parisians, were far more afraid of the donkey than the clochard.  Senior Parisian women stood near the front hunched over in their bedroom slippers and head scarves trying to pat the hopping goats and clucking at them soothingly.  A few dogs strained at their leashes, their bellies pressed flat against the cobblestones, thrilled at the possibility of chasing something not motorized.  It was unlike any petting zoo I have ever seen but not entirely unexpected in the centre of Paris.     

Frenchman du jour...

Jogging down the middle of rue Cler in a baby blue cashmere turtleneck, slim fitting navy blue pants and suede navy blue driving slippers holding a baguette with the end bitten off.  His jaw was moving furiously trying to chew the considerable end piece.  

Strangest thing I ever seen in a Paris market...

A New York Jets football player posing for pictures with the entire fish monger's staff and yelling, "Me and my family LOVE Paris!"  

Best logo on a canvas shopping tote...


Things tourists say...

While passing in front of the organic produce stand on rue Cler, "Where's Trader Joe's?"  

Crossing over from Le Marais to Notre Dame

Saturday, June 29, 2013


What could be better than writing my 100th blog post on a sunny Saturday summer night in Paris?  Nothing.  I am blissful.  My legs are tingling from another long walk across the city and I have  market fresh paella waiting in the fridge with a chilled 5 euros bottle of rosé.  

For my 50th post in December 2011, I wrote a list of my 50 favourite things to do in Paris.  In honour of my 100th post, here is another list of 50 things - past and present - that make me happy in Paris!

Before the sun came out today
  1. Confiture d'abricot
    It was one of my first tastes of Paris in 2003 and I still want to smother its delicious stickiness on everything from tartine to sliced pieces of pear.

  2. A boulangerie on every corner

  3. The smell of the Tuileries Gardens in the summer just after it rainsIt's a mix of fresh clay, wet grass and flowers that soaks into your skin.

  4. Paris in the winter
    I visited Paris the first time in February and I have so many great memories of exploring the city in near emptiness.  I remember being at the top of the Eiffel Tower with less than a dozen people and drinking red wine from the inside of my down coat. 

  5. Knowing that after this summer, Chris and I will be one step closer to our dream of living in Paris

  6. The convenience and affordability of shopping at small, independently owned businessesI love the products, the quality and the care.  I love talking to the owners who are so knowledgeable and so passionate.  I love that there are three cheese shops within three blocks and all are thriving. 

  7. Sugar in my coffee
  8. The elderly husband and wife team who sell homemade ice cream from a tiny stand on the Right Bank side of the "love locks" bridge

  9. Chocolate with my coffee

  10. After so many trips, after walking the same routes dozens of times and seeing the same things that Paris' beauty can still move me to tears at least once a day
  11. Going to see movies, version originale, toute seule
  12. Monoprix has an apéritif aisle
    In this aisle you find peanuts, pretzels, miniature crackers and olives all to accompany your pre-dinner drink.

  13. Bridges
    Each bridge is different and each has its own history.  I like watching how tourists attach their own meanings, usually romantic, to the bridges and how Parisians storm over them as though every city is filled with bridges with views of Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur or the Eiffel Tower. 

  14. Outside living
    Smaller living spaces mean that people live and socialize on the streets and I love the noise and the energy.

  15. A different market every day of the week
  16. Walking along the banks of the Seine

  17. Eating falafel in the Marais on Sunday afternoons
  18. Magazine kiosks on every corner

  19. The moment Chris really fell in love with Paris He said it happened a few trips ago when we arrived at Place de la Concorde to admire the views.  I turned to him and said, "It never gets old, does it."  It wasn't a question and he realized that there was no other place in the world except Paris.

  20. Dogs galloping across the lawns at Champ de Mars
  21. Children dressed better than me

  22. Finally accepting, even I can't explain it, that Paris is home and there will be no substitute or no settling until we achieve our dream of living here

  23. Le Petit Cler

  24. A litre of Badoit costs less than a dollar

  25. That you can always find a quiet street in Paris
  26. I can buy Haribo everywhere, even from the vending machines at my métro station

  27. Walking everywhere
  28. Paris in the summerI was nervous about being here at the height of tourist season but the city is alive and there are so many wonderful, free things to do and see. Les Berges!  There was even a pop-up petting zoo at the end of rue  Cler today complete with a giant donkey and one, squealing piglet.  And Parisians are out just as much as tourists especially when the weather is nice.

  29. Being able to buy small amounts of delicious food so nothing gets wasted

  30. Saying "Bonjour" to the rue Cler Regulars every morning

  31. Chris and I drinking champagne at LV Avenue Montaigne

  32. The adrenalin rush of zooming through the streets of Paris in a Tuk-Tuk

  33. The radio station I listen to in Paris plays Wham's "Last Christmas" in June

  34. The book market at Parc George Brassens
    I love how peaceful it is and that it feels serious.  It smells like Paris park mixed with that lovely musty book smell and almost everyone talks in whispers. 

  35. Stray cats that let me cuddle them and scratch underneath their chins
  36. Produce that looks and smells like it came from the earth and not off the back of a diesel truck
    They don't look waxy or smell faintly of plastic.  I bought some apricots today and their scent was so strong it made my stomach growl.  Almost as seductive as perfume.

  37. Demi-baguettes

  38. Not feeling afraid

  39. Living two blocks from the Eiffel Tower and treating Champ de Mars park like my backyard

  40. French translations of English moviesThe best one so far has been "Hangover 3" translated into "Very Bad Trip 3"

  41. Spending time with people that love Paris as irrationally as I do

  42. Les Soldes
  43. Chris speaking French
  44. Living my dream

  45. Chocolate éclairs
  46. Writing every day and feeling excited and inspired every day

  47. Beauty is everywhere and learning to appreciate the smallest moments and the smallest details
  48. Eating slowly in a restaurant by myself
  49. Kissing Chris in front of the Eiffel Tower
  50. Chris arrives on Wednesday in ParisI wanted to save what I am happiest about for  last!  Both of us have been trying not to count the days until he arrives but it is so soon and I can't wait to be together in OUR city.

    PS - Please accept my apologies for the horrible formatting!  The bullet list option wasn't that user friendly. 

Friday, June 28, 2013


I came to Paris the first time in 2003 and all I have ever wanted since then was to Frenchify myself - un petit peu plus Parisienne!  I have learned a lot since that first trip and hope live more Frenchly when I return to Victoria next month. 

Summer night in Paris
Slow down

Slowing down is difficult.  North Americans multi-task everything at rapid speed and much of our lives are a competition to see who has the least amount of personal time and is the most stressed.  Work-life balance is meaningless to most and everything is scheduled: girls' nights, boys' weekends, date nights and play dates.  We eat entire meals in our car while illegally texting.  Coffee is always "to go".  

It's different here.  Even on week days, it's rare to see a Parisian walking through the streets with a coffee.  They sit, even if just for 10 minutes.  Greetings between friends are warm and genuine.  I can't tell you how many times I have been standing at the checkout counter at Monoprix only to be interrupted by another employer coming over to bisous the cashier.  Dinner is an experience, not a race.  Always wine with dinner and always finish with coffee.  No rushing to get your cheque while still chewing your last bites.

I have learned to be still in Paris.  I have learned that an extra five minutes doing something enjoyable isn't going to ruin my day or make me less productive.  I am going to try to not start every conversation when I get home with, "I am so busy."


You can't be happy in Paris without being patient.  If you fight its rituals and idiosyncrasies, you end up being mad, miserable and sweaty.  Parisians have mysterious reasons for doing things in specific ways.  Last month I went to pick up a custom made saddle pad at a large sports store.  I stood in three different lines, spoke with four different clerks, showed two different copies of my receipt and finally left with my perfect saddle pad.  Last night I stood behind a woman during boulangerie rush hour who spent an inordinate amount of time picking out the perfect macaron decorated cake and petits fours.  She even turned to me to ask if I thought one of the macarons looked crooked on the cake.  The line was out the door and customers leaned against the window to wait - deux minutes! - for fresh baguettes.  The two women working made time to come out from behind the counter and give each waiting child a pre-dinner choquette.

At home I roll my eyes and sigh loudly if I have to wait an extra two minutes for my Starbucks coffee.  I swear and slam my foot against the floor of my car when I miss a green stop light.  For what?  I am only making myself crazy and nobody else cares.  Paris has taught me to stop fighting the little things and live in the moment.     


Every day I see dozens of classic, chic, perfectly groomed Parisian women spiking down the streets in their Louboutin's.  Their hair is just out-of-bed-fabulous and their clothes fit like a second skin.  But there are just as many others sporting MC Hammer style pants with black studded biker boots or super short-shorts with ripped tights and beaten-up high heels.  The majority of them smoke and their preferred handbag is a stained canvas tote.  They have roots and chipped nail polish.  And they look beautiful.

They look beautiful because they are confident. 

I do make more of an effort in Paris but I also worry less about looking perfect.  At home I obsess about every outfit detail, every wrinkle, every hem and every heel height.  Here I match polka dots with stripes, wear my Converse with a blazer and still feel beautiful. 

Carousel horse named "Paris".  "Paris" is written on the green band on its neck.