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Living is Paris isn’t for everyone. Some simply aren’t big city folks and never will be. They love the country or small towns, and why should I try to convert them? But living here in Paris suits the way I like to live, which I admit isn’t as efficiently as I’d like. Each week is filled with surprises or, in a really good week, serendipity.
If you’re not a member of the establishment and don’t have to turn up here and there with complete precision, so many things simply seem to happen. And if you’re someone like me, you live in total amazement when they do.
An example from two days ago: I was crossing Bv. Montparnasse and bumped (literally) into an old friend whom I’d wanted to see, and we hadn’t made it happen. Jean-Marc and his wife have been traveling, and coordinating schedules appeared to be impossible. To make a long story short, we ended up having a coffee (and then a glass of wine) at La Rotonde.
Even though it was cold, we sat outside (meaning on the sidewalk) under space heaters. The sun felt wonderful. The smell of cigarettes didn’t, but c’est la vie. Most importantly, Jean-Marc and I had a fast-forward conversation in Franglais about what had transpired in our lives since our last dinner—too long ago. We made a dinner date and we’ll see if it actually occurs because he’s in the midst of a project and one never knows.
This is one example of how France has changed. When my husband and I moved to Paris (May 1, 1988), dinner invitations were issued a month in advance and if a last-minute trip came up, the hostess would express discontent that her seating plan would be ruined, and why couldn’t Victor postpone the meeting? The concept that we were in Paris because of his company, and it had first dibs on his time, was an enigma to her.
Another event of the week. I called my usual hairdresser, and no one answered the phone. Assuming the number had been changed, I hotfooted it there to beg someone to take compassion and mask some of the traces of aging. The salon was closed and locked tight. There wasn’t even a note on the door. When I walked by the next day, ditto.
Desperate, I gave my business to a hairdresser who’d been in the same place for the past 20 years, but I’d always bypassed the place because the salon has the look and feel that it caters to older women. All the people working there were lovely and even though I’m beginning to think that Parisians are permanently attached to their iPhones, iPods and other mobile devices, everyone in the salon was that fascinated I was reading “Murder in Passy” on my Kindle. Plus, that I could make the typeface really big…but let’s not go there.
Another happening. I’m not big for meet & greet meetings, but a dear friend insisted I attend one I probably would have missed if I hadn’t been coerced. Five women piled into a car and off we went to the Marais. With the exception of one, none of us were tourists, which may be the reason we were crazy enough to be in a car.
Naturally, there weren’t any real parking spaces but one space had potential. After jockeying in and out for about ten minutes, we were about to give up, until the former New Yorker in the crew decided to inspect the car in front of us – assuming it would be locked. Miracles of miracles it wasn’t. Recognizing we had little to few options, I hopped in, released the brake and we made our car fit and ran like hell hoping the police wouldn’t arrest five women who were possibly up to no good. As we were making our get-away, my business cards fell out of my coat, which only added to the Marx Brothers farce of what has been termed the “car pushers.”
After the meeting, I found myself in the Place des Vosges. It was nearly midnight (OK, some of us had stopped for dinner) and I realized this is where I’d begun my life in Paris when we rented an apartment there. It’s not that I haven’t frequented the square many times in subsequent years, but never alone late at night. Well, I wasn’t alone. Reynaud and I became fast friends and I wanted to take him home. But, the owner of this eight-month-old fuzzy white quasi-poodle wasn’t d’accord. But I like to think Reynaud liked running around the Place with me as much as I liked exercising with him. My sojourn there recalled so many memories.
The following night, I ended up listening to Joan Nathan read from her most recent book, “Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous.” This isn’t a simple cookbook, but a compendium of some of Joan’s research about the evolution of Jewish cooking in France. Getting home was so easy: a fast ride and the bus let me out at a stop two minutes away from my apartment door.
So many people question me about why I love living in Paris. I could and have talked about the city’s architecture, its food, bread and wine and all of the things that attract people to the City of Light.
But for me, its real draw is the freedom I feel here and not needing a car (even if pushing one every once in a while is fun) or unlimited funds to make things happen. That might be true in Manhattan, but after a few days there, I find the density and the noise more than I would be comfortable living with on a full-time basis and want to go someplace that feels less frenetic. And in Manhattan, unlimited funds will let you just about get by.
The weather in Paris often leaves à désirer, but it’s not so hot (or maybe too hot) everywhere else I’ve been in recent years. It’s just proof, I guess, that wonderful Paris is real, not a fantasy. I’m alive, living, not dreaming, not at all.
Lead photo credit : Eiffel Tower