My love affair with Paris started long ago…daydreams as layered as the millefeuille pastries I longed to taste, imaginings as colorful as the paintings I flipped through over and over again in my art books—I longed to stroll the boulevards with a baguette under my arm and people-watch from a café perch of an afternoon.
When, in seventh grade, we were given a choice between band, choir, or French, there was no discussion: Sign this jeune fille up for Français; and that was, I suppose, the official beginning of l’affaire. Just two years later I would have the amazing opportunity to take part in an exchange program with fellow students, traveling to France for our spring break and, in return, hosting French students for a week later that spring. It was such a success that we did the same a second time just before my senior year of high school, each time adding a few days in Paris to the exchange portion of the itinerary. Though brief, my time in Paris was just as magical as I hoped, and my love for the City of Lights made my desire to speak the language all the more tangible.
Merci endlessly to both my middle- and high-school instructors for setting me on this path so happily and eagerly…their dedication to and enthusiasm for the French culture and language have everything to do with the fact that I chose to double-major in Art History and French in college—and my professor there, in turn, continued to support and encourage my love of all things French, from literature and film to art and politics.
Enfin, it was time for me to become a Parisian, to put my skills and knowledge to the test during a semester abroad during my Junior year, living with a host family for four months. I cannot overstate the intimidation that comes from hearing that your host mother, a single woman in her 60s, knows only two words of the English language: “hello” and “afternoon.” There are not enough hand gestures or sketch pads in the world to have a conversation across the dinner table with that kind of limited vocabulary at your disposal, so the immersion came, shall we say, naturally (forcibly?) A few short weeks later, we were amicably debating the latest news stories and cultural differences after our delicious meals together. By the time I returned home in December, I was fluent.
That was nearly fifteen years ago. ”Use it or lose it” is a phrase that seems unfortunately apropos, and I began to wonder if I’d ever make it back to Paris—even just for a quick renewal of that long-ago affair now somewhat forgotten in my new life as a wife/mother/business owner/person who doesn’t really jet-set. I remember watching Midnight in Paris a few months ago (courtesy of a random Red-Box visit after a long day at work) and suddenly feeling an incredibly overwhelming desire to hop on a plane and just go…for the love of the language that once rolled off my tongue so easily, for the art so vivid it seems burned on my brain, for that daydream of pastries, for all of those and everything else I never expected to love about that city. Like it is for so many others, Paris makes you feel as though the two of you have something special—a connection that no one else shares, even in the face of knowing countless travelers can quote Hemingway’s “moveable feast” comparison and truly believe it.
Despite a life that seems so vastly different from my co-ed days in Europe (after all, I’d be “madame” this time around, rather than “mademoiselle”…not nearly as fun,) a life that seems too busy to schedule a dentist’s appointment, let alone a vacation…I am headed to Paris on Saturday. I can hardly believe it, even as I write it (and there’s lots to do before the drive to the airport) but I am over, above, and beyond the moon about my return to the most beautiful city in the world. I owe a great deal of gratitude to one of my very best friends on the planet for not only conceiving the idea for this trip but for making it happen…and I can’t wait to share our adventures with you all along the way.
Stay tuned. Paris in the springtime…should be magnifique!