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Last week I nearly forgot that I live in Paris, which is something I vowed I’d never do in my six months living here (and I’ve only been here five weeks!). It was one of those cold rainy days that wasn’t typical of May, or so the locals assured me. I was annoyed because I hadn’t been able to write anything decent all day long, pissed off because the cheap replacement umbrella was no match for my original ladybug-printed umbrella I’d accidentally left in a bar (yes, it’s gone, and some French man who likes cute umbrellas is probably using it right now!), and cursing all the stores that were closed on Sunday, when all I needed to do was buy some chicken.
I could’ve been walking down any damn street in any damn city as I had these annoying thoughts, and I may as well have been, because second-by-second I was losing my sense of Paris.
A few days later I was annoyed again, this time because of something I “might” (might!) categorize as “matters of the heart,” so when my pal invited me to a friend of a friend’s backyard party an hour outside of Paris, I couldn’t have been more thrilled for a little escape.
As we peeled our way out of the city, past gorgeous weathered buildings and scenic river views, I realized it was the first time I’d ever left Paris, which instantly made me compare it to the day I arrived. I recalled how I’d looked upon cathédral Notre Dame for the very first time, and how its stunning grandeur may have literally made my heart skip two beats (quickly followed by my heart resuming its regular beats, because obviously I’m alive today and writing this post!). I also thought about the first time I’d sat on a café terrace, and how even with no distractions like a cell phone, I was totally happy just to watch the world go by. It seemed like a far off time, the way photo albums remind you of ages and trips you can never go back to.
“But I’m still here!” I cried (to myself, inside my head). So why was I becoming a spectator of my life in Paris?
There wasn’t much time to over-analyze it, as I suddenly became aware of lovely green fields and crops on either side of the road. It was the least amount of people (zero) and most amount of nature (everywhere) I’d seen since moving to Paris. And it was nice.
A few minutes later we turned into a nice neighbourhood, with charming-looking houses set far apart, which spared it from appearing like a crammed North American suburb.
Oh, and in the neighbour’s sprawling yard or acres of field or whatever you want to call it…I saw a horse.
You’re not in Paris anymore, Dorothy.
I was immediately welcomed into a wonderful family’s home with the classic French kiss on either cheek, and from that moment on I was no longer a stranger from a foreign land who had squeezed my way into a party, I was one of them!
Okay, so maybe I technically WAS a stranger from a foreign land, when one of the main hosts kept asking me to say “Bonn-juwer” in my Canadian accent as he introduced me to people (so he could laugh at how I sound in French), but that was a small price to pay for being around twenty or so amazing locals of all ages (and two dogs!).
On that night, I witnessed army buddies who hadn’t seen each other for eighteen years reunite…and then proceed to insult each other in French (great practice for my language skills!), I enjoyed some smackin’-good ribs that were made by a professional chef from France who’s been living in LA for a while, and I even got to listen to a live band they had playing in the yard (a band that performed amazing cover songs of all the classic hits—my favourite was their rendition of “On Broadway”).
But best of all, and I mean truly, simply the best, was when a fifty-year-old French man sat next to me.
Typically, introductions of fifty-year-old men in my life are strongly associated with a “creep factor,” but wait, there’s more! (And it’s not creepy!)
First, he said he was going to speak to me only in French to help me improve my listening skills. Awesome.
Second, he asked me how long I’ve been in Paris (I did the math and quickly answered).
Third, he asked me what I think of Paris.
It must’ve been the fact that I had to answer in French which meant I had to talk more slowly, because the more I heard myself say each word, the more I really listened to all the amazing things I’d seen and experienced.
But that’s not all!
He told me he’d been living in Paris for his whole life.
Now I clasped my hands nervously, waiting for him to tell me how ugly he thought the Eiffel Tower was, or how there were way too many tourists, or how it wasn’t like the good old days.
The first thing he said was: “Apres tout ce temps, j’adore La Tour Eiffel.”
I never would’ve expected a Paris native to tell me he loved the Eiffel Tower after all these years, but that was only the beginning. He went on to say that in fifty years his love for Paris has never waned, and that he loves it just as much as he always did, or maybe more. He believes the city has so much life and spirit, and at night he’ll go driving around on his motorcycle, choosing all manner of winding roads, because he never tires of how beautiful the city looks at night. He added that while he’s driving he sees the Eiffel Tower from so many different vantages, and each time it’s like he’s admiring it in a new way. By now his eyes were glowing, and mine were practically welling up with tears, at this chance I was getting to hear about his earnest love.
But he wasn’t done.
He went on to add that in his real estate work when he’s showing houses, he’ll open a set of doors, look out a window, and still after all these years, he’ll see Paris in a way he never saw it before.
And the Chantilly cream on top of this whole speech? (I’m trying to be French here…) He said that even when it rains it’s okay, because the rain lets you see the city of lights reflecting off the puddles, a gift you just don’t get when it’s dry.
Who is this guy? Santa Claus?!
I’m not sure, but I truly believe it was fate that I wound up at that party, and fate that he ended up sitting next to me.
When I returned to the city and back to the bustling Latin Quarter, I remembered that I lived in Paris, and this time I know I won’t forget. A pretty good test of this happened today, when I walked further and further down Rue de Monge, in search of any store that was open because I needed to buy mushrooms.
I was out of luck, but instead of huffing and puffing about a walk now wasted, I smiled because it’s Paris, and who doesn’t love a good walk? Nearby I noticed a boulangerie that was open, and decided to make some revisions to my original dinner plan. I didn’t expect much in the way of fresh bread at six p.m., so when the lady handed me the baguette and it was toasty warm, I wanted to giggle with glee; yes, giggle!
Then it started raining.
And I didn’t have an umbrella.
It was way too early for the light to reflect off the puddles, but I actually didn’t mind the rain. Note: this doesn’t mean I danced around in the rain like in a scene from a cheesy movie, it simply means I didn’t care if my hair got ruined ’cause it was already greasy.
Since my chat with the inspiring French Santa Claus, my love for the Eiffel Tower and experiencing it from different vantages is now even stronger than ever.
This is from earlier in the week, when I looked out the window of someone’s apartment in a neighbourhood I’d never been to, and suddenly saw the tower in all its evening glory. Magnificent. One day soon I’ll actually visit it close-up, but for now I’m enjoying this flirty dance we share.
Paris, je t’aime,
good one dear……. I hope u discover endless visions of the city further in your journey there….:)
Thank you, I hope so too!