I don't know if writing about Paris
from Panama City Beach, FL counts as "Paris Journals," but it's a rainy day here and I wanted to wrap up the tales of our time in Paris before I move on to normal life.
The last week in Paris, I spent a lot of time looking at things.
For the first few days everything seemed new. Buildings, bridges, pigeons and interesting interactions between people would catch my eye every time we walked down the street. But, just like it would in any city, the sights started to become typical. The views themselves were still extraordinary, but as we started to build our little temporary life in Paris, we saw these things every time we went out, and before I knew it they didn't catch my eye as often. We had other conversations rather than "Wow, look at that building" or my personal most-used, "I can't believe how beautiful it all is!!!" We took the same paths to our favorite spots until it became our night walk. Oddly, that's one of my favorite things about our trip, and the reason why I wanted to go there. To establish normal life somewhere else.
I wanted to really live in a big city. I'm proud of my background as a small town girl, and I've loved my life in Griffin, and in Athens. But I had always wanted to try a life in the big city. I thought it would be New York, but after some research and "let's talk about our dreams" conversations with Michael, I realized that Paris was that big city. It's a place where artists, painters, writers and poets have gone for hundreds of years to be inspired. The most visited city in the world. Architecture frozen in time.
The goal was to forget that we've been trying to have kids for over a year now without luck. To forget that we had a contract on our dream house that fell through. To gloss over the bumps in life when you've found the groove, but not your perfect fit. To write songs again, after 2 years of writers block. To make something work that seems truly crazy, impossible even. To dive in head first to a new culture, new language, new apartment, city life. To experience the oddly small and often cramped restaurants, tiny tables, interesting food in tiny portions on tiny plates. It's thousands, if not millions of people from different backgrounds, lifestyles, and beliefs trying to co-exist in one place. It's beautiful. And after a year "same old, same old," some pretty decent disappointments, and some good old fashioned "stuck in a creative rut" feelings, we just went to Paris.
Before you start saying that you couldn't do it, you could. You just plan far in advance, and decide to take the risk. It won't solve everything, or maybe anything. But I couldn't be more happy that we went.
But, like I was saying,
I spent the last week looking at things. I stared as long as I could. It's like I believed that if I looked at it for long enough, it would imprint itself in my memory forever--that I could close my eyes and be back in Paris. Six weeks home, and those mental pictures are mostly gone. So I'm glad I spend so much time with my camera in my hand.
We had some friends in town, so we had a blast playing tour guide and exploring the city with fresh eyes. We took them to Chez Julien, which I had been wanting to visit since our first day. It was fancy and very French. In an attempt to eat like the Parisians eat, we split a salmon tartare (they love some raw food). We also showed them our favorite dessert in all of Paris -- Maison Carte D'Or (macaron ice cream sandwiches), and had drinks on one of the river boat bars on the Seine (Rosa Bonheur in all of it's rosé-serving, neon, dance-boat glory).
The last week we also went to see Bruno Mars in concert. It was a glorious blur of fear after the Ariana Grande concert bombing, no air conditioning, dancing, sweating, singing at the top of our lungs, an unforgettable bar purchase of Champagne (which we carried into the concert and later used as microphones to sing along with Bruno). I loved every minute.
We spent our last day at the French Open (!!!)
I don't know what I expected, but it was way better. We got into the stadium a little before noon. There were little food stands all around, some tables, screens showing the matches from the different courts, and a Champagne bar. Michael and I grabbed hamburgers and fries--our first of the trip, and it was so tasty! We realized that even a burger & fries aren't actually "American" food. Then we had a great debate: to Champagne, or not. Simply because it was on the bucket list for our trip, and because the tournament seemed so much more fancy than we anticipated, we got a bottle. It felt amazing. I've never bought a bottle of Champagne at an event like that before, and I probably never will again. But for a minute, as I carried the Moet ice bucket back to our table, we felt like kings.
We got to watch both women's semi-finals matches from the main court. It was so sunny and hot, we were both sweating and dismayed at how cramped the rows were.
I will never forget the two people next to me. As I made my way to my seat I noticed that my seat was beside a man who had his shoes off and feet propped on top of them, shirt pulled up to expose his stomach, and arms straight out -- all an effort to get a tan while watching the match. He came with his partner, who he grumpily spouted commentary to throughout the whole match. How I wish I could speak whatever language that was. Michael and I never figured it out, but I'm assuming German or Dutch. The guys brought no less than 10 snacks. Every time I looked over he was either sucking on a squeezable applesauce, eating a slimy pear, or crunching his way through a pack of some European crackers. We never spoke, even though we spent 8 hours next to each other. But by the end of the match, I felt that we were friends. I still have a perfect picture of him in my mind, and it makes me laugh.
The trip came full circle at our final meal. During the first week, we took a croissant baking class with our dear friends, & the teacher recommended a place called Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie for dinner. We actually forgot about that recommendation until we were in a scramble for our last meal in Paris. We routed our train from Roland-Garros (the tennis stadium) to the restaurant, and even though we weren't able to snag reservations before, they seated us right away at an outside table. It was the perfect night--cool and dreamy.
We had a first and a last -- for the very last time we ate escargot (a personal favorite), and for the first time we ate fois gras (dressed fancy in ravioli with a cream sauce). We shared a duck in balsamic glaze and a chocolate lava cake for dessert. The waiter recommended a great Bordeaux, and since we hadn't bought anything like it at our previous dinners, we splurged for a whole bottle. It was such a memorable, sweet meal. We talked about everything we've learned, everything we've loved. I can't believe, even still, that it's all over.
At the end of the night we made it over to the Eiffel Tower in time to see it sparkle one last time, had a toast with Ben & Madalene and then took one last train back to our apartment.
Thank you, Paris, for teaching us so much in just one short month. I'll never forget you, and I hope to see you again soon.
P.S. Life is good, and God is at work through it all, because we are now under contract on that same dream house that fell through 2 years ago. Patience. Faith. Grace. It all works out.