Paris: My Moveable Feast

Trip Start Sep 02, 2010
Trip End Jun 13, 2011

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Saturday, May 14, 2011

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." (Hemingway)

I don't think it's possible to write about Paris without sounding cheesy or melodramatic. Even Hemingway--master of the cool, collected understatement--waxes sentimental when he writes about Paris. And I love it. Since I've made no secret of my affection for the City of Lights (so many of you patient souls have had to look through my various scrapbooks and hear my nostalgic tales), I'll proclaim it here once again. I LOVE Paris. And especially in the springtime.

Part of what made this trip to Paris so special was that we weren't actually planning on going this year. We had booked our round-the-world ticket to go through Marrakech, and we'd been looking forward to spending some time there after being in Cape Town. But after hearing about the terrorist attack in Marrakech--and after bin Laden was killed--we decided Morocco might need to wait for another trip. So with a little more time in our itinerary before we were due to meet Dan's mom in Spain, we decided to head for Paris. I hadn't seen my "French Family" (among its members is my godson Charles) in over a year, and it seemed like a logical detour before the Spain part of our trip.

And when we landed on a warm Friday evening--the skies still illuminated by the sunshine at 9:30 p.m.--I couldn't have been happier. After immersing ourselves in so many different cultures this year, walking through my favorite Paris neighborhoods felt like home. And at this point in our trip--we're almost at the nine-month mark--I feel pretty ready for "home." The most obvious appeal is seeing our family and friends; we can't WAIT to spend time with you guys whom we've missed so much--and share in all the exciting experiences that we've also missed. For Rhett and Sarah, an engagement and a new home. For Raquel and her Dan, a baby-on-the-way. And for various other friends and family members, too, who've emailed and Skyped us with their happy stories and news. 

"Home" pulls at my heart-strings for other reasons, too. I miss the Familiar. Not only the familiar spaces and routines that we can take for granted (like driving on auto-pilot, knowing how to get home from the supermarket), but also the familiar memories that pop up in our minds as we move throughout those familiar spaces. Like when I drive through LA and remember the time Jasmine and I talked our way into Skybar, or when Elizabeth and Molly and I pretended we were big shots at Area, or when Nick and Dan and I used to always run in Runyon Canyon, or all the friends we've taken to Il Capriccio or UCB or Riviera Grill. So even though travel has its obvious appeals as well--like the Unfamiliar, which makes everything you see and do seem so "interesting" (my favorite word, according to Dan)--we're now ready, after nine months, for more of those lovely familiar experiences.

So when we climbed the spiral staircase to my host family's apartment, my heart was fluttering in anticipation of seeing old friends, and my mind was racing with familiar memories. Ten years ago, when I first climbed these spiral stairs, I remember feeling dizzy with nerves and enthusiasm: would I get along with my host family? Would I feel comfortable in their apartment? How would I ever last nine months away from home? And now here I am ten years later, in a parallel but inverted experience, where my nine-month adventure was out in the world, and this space in this Paris stairwell feels like "home."

So the door opened, and Charles jumped at me with a hug and kisses, and there we were with family. And we spent a wonderful weekend together. Dan and I marveled at how old Antoine and Amaury now seem ("little" Antoine, now fourteen, came home past his curfew on Saturday night!) and laughed at Charles and Godefroy's antics. We enjoyed our annual traditions, which have become essential parts of my visit each spring: baking cookies and picking up Charles from school. (This time, I got to meet his little girlfriend, Lili! Eight-year-old Charles has quite a mature perspective on love, in my opinion....) And we had so much fun playing chess. Charles is a little whiz kid at the game, and three-year-old Godefroy thinks that he is as well. (Check out the hilarious video of Godefroy playing Dan in chess. It's too cute to hear French toddlers saying all kinds of formal French expressions, like "Oh la" and "voila, Monsieur!")

When we weren't spending time with the kids or with Bruno and Sandra, Dan and I walked circles around my favorite Paris neighborhoods. And once again, all sorts of memories flooded back, making me feel like we were home. The places where my friends and I danced our ridiculous Paris dance...the Irish pub where we'd go when we were sick of brasseries and Kir...the places where Grandfather, Carol, and the rest of the extended family has had dinner: Georges and Brasserie Flo and the fancy Vietnamese place...the apartment where Grandma and Grandpa lived in the '70s...the Arc di Triomphe, where I've been so many times, but most memorably in the midst of a pack of other fanatic marathoners, as the gun went off and sent us flying off down the Champs Elysees...all the Tuileries and Louvre visits and walks to my school and crepres and hot chocolates and ice creams and madeleines...all those Proustian madeleines that make me remember all these moments in Paris. And the cafe where I sat, nine years ago, and read Hemingway's A Moveable Feast and got sentimental about my love for Paris.
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nicole d. on

Ça presque me fait pleurer! Je suis si jalousie! Je n’ai pas retourner à Paris depuis l’année de HCJYF. J’aime voir tes photos. J’espère qu’on se voir cet été!

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