Home Again in Paris

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By the time you read this, I’ll be in Paris, with any luck. Based on the recent disruptions of air traffic, no one could or should take the weather or travel for granted. As much as I like exploring the world, it will be wonderful to be home and sleeping in my own bed. I love the electric pad that radiates gentle heat under the bottom sheet. No bed feels right to me any longer unless there’s a duvet. It does get cold in Paris and no one seems to be able to predict the weather no matter where and when. Please, let the plane be on time, let my suitcases appear on the carousel, spare me from strikes and from jetlag and from feeling out of it for too long. Leaving Washington fills me with mixed feelings and requires preparation. Gee, where did I put those documents, keys, converter plugs? And the list goes on. The worst part about leaving D.C. is knowing I’m not going to be seeing my granddaughters as often as I should or would like, which holds true even when I’m there because they lead very busy lives, merci. But this departure was stranger than usual, perhaps because I’d been away from Paris since before Thanksgiving and went to Asia between eating turkey and Santa’s appearance. Winter clothes and summer clothes accompanied me, and without question there were too many of both. When I go on business trips or travel for less than two weeks, I manage with a carry-on. The fantasy that I’ll be out every night is neither real nor appealing. My idea of a good time is eating dinner someplace where I can hear the conversation, sharing good food and wine and discussing and debating issues with passion, but never anger. As soon as I took the suitcases out of the closet this time, it was different. I could feel my French side emerging as I started pondering what to pack. In France, I wear layers, since people don’t heat their homes and apartments full-blast. In the D.C. apartment where I stay, electricity is included in the fees. Ergo, few tenants turn off all of their lights or lower the heat since it’s “free.” Well not exactly, but since they don’t see the electricity or gas bills…. When I’m alone in Washington, I usually walk around in a Bonjour Paris tee shirt and slacks and rarely turn on radiators since there’s enough ambient heat radiating from the apartments above, below and the adjoining ones. That’s not the case in Paris where you’ll find me wearing, and working in, three layers of clothing. I still refuse to admit the winters are as cold in Paris as they are in D.C. or as long. I do confess the month of February can be gray and immediately find myself looking at last-minute cheapo fares to Morocco or Turkey where there’s sun. Looking tends to be where I stop since my energy level escalates as soon as I hit French soil and I can’t seem to get enough of the city. My first day is spent sorting through mail and hoping there’s nothing waiting for me from the French government or the IRS. Happily, I receive relatively little junk mail and a friend culls through the majority of the envelopes and tosses them. After I’ve unpacked the necessities, I take a nap, but awaken in time to go to the Luxembourg Garden, because that’s where I get my bearings. It’s not until I see the playground that I really know I’m home. I either grab a café crème at the Café Vavin before entering the garden or as soon as I leave. Continuity is very important, and even though I don’t go there every day, I’m considered a regular. Before heading back to the apartment, I stop at an always-open grocery store on Bv. Montparnasse and grab some fruit and juice to tide me over until the next day. I rarely go out to dinner the first night because I have the luxury of not being a tourist and don’t have to do and see everything within a finite period. One of the things that amazes me is that people in the U.S. continually ask me what I’m going to be doing when I’m in Paris as if I’m going to an extraordinarily exotic destination. When I respond that I have no real plans, I’m the recipient of those “what do you mean” looks and why not? Well, because Paris is home and it’s where I live and work. I have a date to see the Monet Exhibit at the Grand Palais, have some (well, more than some) meetings regarding Bonjour Paris, will go to a couple of readings at The Village Voice Book Store, check out all of the new hotels that opened while I was away and entertain a few house guests. And if I’m bored for a minute, all I have to do is walk out the building’s door and take a short walk. Invariably, I’ll return having discovered something new. That’s one of the reasons I don’t mind leaving Paris. There’s always something new to see upon my return. Maybe because Paris is home, I’m more relaxed and am willing to let things happen rather than spending a lot of time planning. C’est la vie and I’m so lucky it’s mine. (c) Paris New Media, LLC [email protected] If you’re coming to France and want to remove the stress out of any and all planning, dynamo  Lisa Buros-Hutchins of www.YourParisExperience.com can arrange anything and everything, including planning your honeymoon and/or making dinner reservations. Nothing is beyond her.  Say Bonjour Paris referred you and put her to the test of making your stay in France perfect.
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