Thursday, August 01, 2013

Farewelling Paris in July.

And so we come to the end of another Paris in July - another month of torturing myself by feeding my desires to one day visit France again. The reality is that I am not likely to be able to go for at least another 5 years or even longer, but still, that doesn't stop me from dreaming about it, watching Le Tour de France until the very early hours of the morning, from reading other people's accounts of their recent visits, talking to the people I work with who have just come back or contemplating borrowing CDs from the library to start learning French again. For at least part of this month I found my dreams solidifying into plans.  I thought in closing the event for this month, I would share what a trip to France would like for me if I was to book it right now.

In the last couple of weeks I have lined up a potential travelling companion so we would probably be starting off with two weeks in Paris. I know that still isn't enough to see or do everything, but it would be a good start. My plan would be to stay in an apartment in one of the inner city quartiers - maybe even in the second arrondisement. At one point this month I was actually looking at apartments in that area thinking about costs etc and if I say it quickly, the price is probably doable. Of course, I didn't even compare that to the prices of an apartment further out so it could be totally extortionate!

One of the things that I would do is invite a couple of my UK friends to come and stay for a couple of days at least. One of them is a girl that I shared a flat with in London and we haven't seen each other since I returned to Australia 15 years ago so it would be fab to be able to catch up and do some fun stuff as well.

Whether with my friends or not, one thing I would like to do would be to splash out on a posh meal. I watched a documentary this month on the Eiffel Tower and the people who work there to keep it all functioning smoothly for the millions of visitors that visit every year. They talked about the people who go to eat a meal in the posh restaurant there and I think that would be a fun, once in a lifetime kind of deal. Either that or some other Michelin star type restaurant, but either way it would be fabulous to do that special kind of meal! Speaking of the Tower, I think I would also have to make sure that I stayed up late at least one night and watched the lights sparkle out at the end of the day. I believe that happens at 1am, but I could be wrong.

I would of course do a lot of the touristy stuff, but I would hope to have a couple of days where you could just sit, drinking a coffee and watching the world go by and just breathing in life in Paris. In addition, it would be fab to do a one or two day cooking type thing too - maybe chocolate or maybe cheese - anything really.

I would, of course, visit Notre Dame, but I think I would try to be there at 8am on at least one day to sit and listen as Mass was performed, to see the building being used as a church. Doesn't matter that I am not Catholic - I think it would be a magical experience. Last year, I shared a link to a video by author Amy Plum, where she visited La Sainte Chappelle and I think I would have to make sure that I also visited there on at least one day.  Speaking of authors, I would likely be revisiting books like Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard or Paris My Sweet by Amy Thomas to be reminded of all the best places to go and eat tasty morsels, and I would also have to make sure to have a chocolat chaud somewhere at least once too!

After a couple of weeks I would pull myself away from Paris and hopefully get the chance to head to the countryside for a while. I would love to visit places like Avignon or Carcassonne. One of my major destinations though would be to head to Grenoble where one of my online friends lives. I was so focused on this planning that I even sat down to work out how I would get from Paris to Grenoble on the train - how long it would take, how much it would cost etc. Of course, I might have to mention more formally to her that I am on my way than announcing it via blog post five years before it is likely to happen!  I would hopefully get to travel around her little corner of France, or who knows, even pop over the border into Switzerland. Who knows.

I thought I would close this post by sharing another quote from The Provence Cure for the Broken Hearted. I should have found a quote for leaving Paris behind, but instead I share a discovering Paris quote, with the hope that one of these days it will be me that is doing the rediscovering!

First stop: the Eiffel Tower. We took the elevator, even though it felt like cheating.

At the top, Abbot kept his distance from the edge, but Charlotte leaned on the railing and looked over the city. The wind whipped her hair like she was on a ship. the city was sun-dazzled, laid out before us. I walked up to her. "It's pretty up here."

She sighed restlessly then glared at the other tourists. "Paris is cluttered with lovers," she said. "You begin to wonder whether they're paid by the tourist bureau or something."

I agreed. None of them were doing me any good, either, but I wasn't sure what to say. Should I bring up Adam Briskowitz? Was I allowed to know about him? "They're a bunch of fakers," I said, trying to sound light.

We saw the pyramids outside of the Louvre, but we didn't make it inside because the lines were too long We hadn't purchased ahead. It was summer, and so the tourists came in packs. It began to feel like a betrayal to be in Paris without Henry. How could I do this without him? And yet I saw him in the crowds - a glimpse of sneakers; his face hidden momentarily behind a camera; and, once, a Red Sox ball cap, perfectly faded and frayed. I glanced. I didn't let my eyes linger. I always looked quickly away, and we kept driving through the throngs, Abbot chirping, "Excusez-moi!"

I insisted that we go to Place de l'Opera, where my grandparents once kissed. I told Charlotte and Abbot my grandparent's love story on the Metro as we made our way there. I set up the end of World War II, the massive crowds, how they kissed then got separated and how, later, after the war, he came back to France, and, through the ever-mysterious series of miracles, found her in the house in Provence. I ended the story the way it always ended: "They vowed never to be apart again." When I said it, I felt a chill run across my skin, just like when I was young.

"That's very romantic," Charlotte said, and for once, she didn't sound jaded.

"The house in Provence has a long history of love," I said. "I've told you the stories, Abbot. Haven't I?"

"No," he said. "I know all the Henry stories, but not any house stories."

"Oh," I said. It crossed my mind that maybe I believed the stories still, after all this time, and I hadn't been telling the stories because I didn't want anyone to poke holes in them, as I once had in my youth. But Charlotte and Abbot needed to know where they were headed. "Well, I can fix that." and that's when their history lessons began, the history of the house in Provence, its long history of love, as I put it, all of its miracles.

And Place de l'Opera itself? It was stunning. We stood in front of the huge building, standing as broad-shouldered as it had been when my grandparents found each other in the crowd. I saw it as a cake - the tiers of arches then pillars then ornate trim and beading, topped with beautiful greened-copper dome and brightly shining gold angels.

We bounced through the city from story to story, monument to monument. At Notre-Dame, Abbot was impressed by the stained glass portrayal of the man condemned to hold his decapitated head for eternity and, of course, the gargoyles. Charlotte lit a candle and stuffed money into an offertory. this surprised me. Wasn't she too jaded for this? The three of us took seats in the back of the cathedral in the cool darkness.

Tourists shuffled at the edges, creating a hushed noisiness.

I said, "I could use some buttresses, you know, support. Maybe I have buttress envy."

"You could crouch lower to the ground," Abbot said. "Except it's all dirty."

"I hear buttresses take a long time to build," Charlotte said, and she handed me the brochure, and then seemed to disappear into herself. She could do this in a way I'd never seen before - turn her presence on and off.

But she seemed to be taking everything in, even if she was quiet about it and kept her commentary to a minimum. She was impressed by the crepe vendors on the street, the quick wasps of their instruments. She said," I love the way the French shove chocolate into everything. It's, like, the best nervous tic ever." She loved the morning coffee and the cubed sugars. She wanted to stroll through the market and look at the fish and roasted pig. She stopped to read the menus that were posted outside of nice restaurants - the ones translated into English. " You could really just eat your way through this town and understand it just as well as walking around and looking at it."

Special thanks to the hosts of Paris in July - Tamara at Thyme for Tea and Karen at Bookbath.


  1. What a fun way to end Paris in July. I love planning trips -- so much that I've planned trips that I never got around to taking. We were in France for the first time this year and I have no idea when we'll go back but you have given me some great ideas for planning!

    1. Joy, I have a couple of other trips half planned in my head too! One to New Zealand and the other to New York and then driving up the cost to Quebec in Canada.

  2. Marg, I have enjoyed this post. The planning & contemplation of your trip. New York features for me too, including a visit to the Library Hotel.

    1. New York is another trip, but yes, I could just as easily write a similar style post for NY!

  3. The planning and the anticipation are nearly as much fun as the going (and somewhat cheaper!). I want to go back as soon as I can too -- it is such a magical country.

    1. The planning and anticipation are definitely cheaper, but you don't get the big pay off of actually going when you do it my way!

  4. Yes! I am counting on you coming to visit me one day. One of the great things about traveling to France (if you're from the U.S., anyway) is that things are so close together. It's only 3 hours by train from Paris to Grenoble!! Even driving from one side of the country to the other only takes about 8 hours. So many things to do and see--and the Alps are definitely worth a detour. I love Paris and it never, ever disappoints, but if you love natural scenery there is nothing more beautiful than the Alps. So get on over here already! :)

    1. Beth, it is the same here. New Zealand is our closest neighbour and that is a four hour flight from here!

      I did have the thought after I read your comment that we could go somewhere ... Barcelona maybe? I don't know. We have a little time to work out the details.

    2. I'm planning to meet a friend in Barcelona in November, and I've never been before, so I'll scope it out and report back. :)

    3. It's one of my favourite European cities!

  5. Ahh, now you have me dreaming of my next trip. :)

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