Paris in spite of myself
I was hauled over to Europe to live in Brussels, Belgium when I was twelve, by my heretofore loving parents. I was appalled. It was the only time in my life I yelled at my father.
He patted me, and rushed off to the new job, and I was left to fend for myself at the vicious International School of Brussels. This ode to all that is stern was taught by English teachers even more strict than my Catholic nuns had been. I sank into despair.
Under the dark gray skies of Northern Europe and plaid skirts, the only thing I found to love about this strange new world was Nutella slathered thick bread. So that when my parents brought my younger brother and myself to Paris, all I saw was a bigger, dirtier Brussels. I was unimpressed with the great Paris, France. I never went back.
Until seven years ago. I was able to spend six weeks alone in Europe (my own children now grown), and everyone urged Paris. But Paris was such a cliché. Adoring Paris was such a cliché. So defiantly, see, going against the flow, see, I considered Rome, Vienna, London, even Morocco.
But Paris bided its time in the background. Paris waited for me to come to my senses. What did I know about the real Paris? After all I’d been a homesick 12-year-old the only time I’d seen her.
And I spoke passable French, leftover from my Belgian years. I knew in my heart of hearts that daily life in a foreign country, living in an apartment, going to the grocery store, with no hotel at my back, would be easier to handle knowing the language. Well, I love easy. I caved, and with great resignation, settled on dreary old Paris. Off I trudged –
And fell totally in love! Mais oui!
And I’ve been going back every year since.
I’m a short attention span tourist, and a wide-eyed voyeur. I am half resident, half tourist, and every day is about sorties into sightseeing and domestic errands. I voted in the last American election from Paris (I voted for Obama, and the Parisians were even more joyful when he won than I was!). I went to Bikram yoga on a dare. The classes were in English, and the teacher was barely covered. I have met Facebook friends in Paris. I have run up huge phone bills from Paris, so as a result I haven’t really shopped till I dropped. This saintly behavior is also helped by the fact I am under no illusions that the price in euros bears any resemblance to what it is actually costing me in dollars.
I am totally expert on the metro… a major coup since I’m wedded to my car at home in California. I eat bread walking down the street, just like the Parisians do, although they are wearing high-heeled boots while doing so, and I… am not. I go to the ballet at the Garnier, but never sit at the top. I take millions of photographs, but haven’t had the nerve yet to actually ask anyone if I can take their picture. Instead I try to sneak a quick shot, preferably when they are snoozing.
There’s no summing up Paris for me. So it is with great pleasure that I will be contributing to My French Life™. My life in Paris fills every pore, but even when I am at home in the US, I still carry my own French life in my back pocket.All images © Ruth Yunker