Why I keep staying in Paris
Working as a tour guide in Paris, I get asked a lot of the same questions on each tour. When I get asked “Where are you from?”, “How long have you lived in Paris?”, or “Is John-Paul your real name? (Yes, it is)”, my answer is automatic, to the point where I can almost think about other things while I am giving my response.
However, when I am asked “Why do you still live in France?” or “What keeps you here?” I am never sure how to respond, regardless of how many times I am asked these questions. Perhaps the following story can give you an idea why.
In the summer of 2010, while beginning to prepare dinner one evening, I decided to pick up a bottle of wine to accompany the meal at a shop near my apartment. My New Year’s resolution was to start spending more than 4€ on a bottle of wine, and I had been doing a pretty good job (even though I still rarely go above 7€-a-bottle mark). It’s not that I felt that I was becoming too good for 3€-a-bottle wine, as every now and then one can procure a good bottle of wine for that price. It’s just that the difference is pretty noticeable when you spend that little bit more in France.
As I walked into the shop, I was greeted by a guy who was in his early twenties, and was eager to help me find something. I was wearing a shirt from work, which has English written on it, so he asked if he could practice his English on me. We chose a bottle of Régnié and made our way over to the cash register. After I paid for the bottle, he suddenly switched back to speaking French and asked me, “Do you want to meet an Alsatian?” I had no idea what he meant, but I said, “OK, why not.”
The vendor directed me behind the register to a small passageway, which led to some stairs to the basement. I got down to the bottom of the stairs and took a good look around. He had led me down to their wine cellar! In the middle of the cellar, sitting on a pink couch that looked like it had been abandoned on the curb, were two of his friends, drinking rosé wine, which they had placed upon a folding table. Sure enough, one of those guys was Alsatian (he didn’t seem as keen to introduce me to his other friend, though he seemed as good a guy as any of them). They offered me a glass of wine, and I sat down and talked with them for a good half hour about Alsace and getting robbed in Paris (both the vendor and I had stories about being victimized the week before). They offered me another glass, but then I realized that my girlfriend was probably wondering where the hell I was, especially since I had said I would be gone for five minutes. I thanked the guys profusely for their hospitality and made my way back home to continue chopping vegetables for dinner.
If this was the only story like this that happened to me while living in Paris, I would already be impressed with the city’s serendipity. However, instances like it seem to happen all the time here. I’ve lived in Paris since February 2008. Though I originally planned on living here for three months, I have now lived here for three and a half years. Chances are that I will be here a while longer.All Images © John Paul Fortney