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.