In exactly 256 days (give or take a day, depending on when we book our flight), I’ll be on my way back to London, which, I maintain, is the greatest city in the world.
Yet for the past week or so, its cousin across the Channel has been relentlessly popping up everywhere. Yes, it’s that “other” city: Paris.
All told, I spent about a week in France, five days of which were in Paris. My first night there was pretty miserable — it was dark, cold, rainy, and what little French I knew escaped me. I remember finding my way around the train station with my friends by reading the signs in German.
Now though, that first frustrating night is kind of an inside joke, and my Parisian memories are more pleasant. Chocolat au pain for breakfast, and crepes in the afternoon. Seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre and work by Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Cezanne and Toulouse-Lautrec at the Orsay. Perfume shopping, lunch in the Tuileries and going to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
That was in March 2007. I haven’t been back to Paris since then, but I’ve often thought about it, even though Britain has gotten most of my attention.
My mother has always loved Paris and I hope to take her there some day. I called her from Paris on her birthday that year, and told her about it. She’s decorated our living room — it’s more like a parlor — in kind of an eclectic European style. We have posters with French text, English and French decorating books, a little wooden lorrie, a dish with coins from all over the world and my postcards in a display on the wall.
For Christmas this year, I ordered black and white prints of three of my Paris photos and made them into a triptych for my mother. Looking through all my photos made me realize how much I’d enjoyed Paris and how much I wanted to go back.
When I read that the Eurostar line (which runs from Waterloo Station in London and has connections in Paris and Brussels) had closed indefinitely, I wondered if I’d have to fly into Charles de Gaulle instead of take the train to Gare du Nord. It was then that I knew that going back was a serious consideration.
New Year’s Eve brought two separate references to Paris, and I wondered if they might be omens.
I watched Revolutionary Road with my parents and saw Frank and Alice Wheeler’s giddy excitement as they planned to dump Long Island’s mundane suburbia for a life in Paris.
After midnight, I watched the series finale of Sex & the City on TBS. The two-parter shows Carrie moving to Paris with her Russian boyfriend. Seeing Carrie trip over her French and wander around aimlessly looking at museums and bookstores reminded me of myself — sans Mikhail Barishnikov. Of course Carrie got her happy ending in Paris when Mr. Big came to get her.
Finally, during It’s Complicated, which I saw today, Meryl Streep described living and studying in Paris to Steve Martin while she made him some incredibly yummy-looking chocolate croissants.
It seems like there have been a large number of Paris-themed developments these past few days. I’m not sure if there really has been such an increase, or if I’m just noticing it more, or if it’s a coincidence. I do know that it all just makes me want to go back to Paris … for the crepes, of course. And the coffee. The cheese. And those delicious smoked-salmon quiche thingies they sell in cafes.
My French class starts in about two weeks. I already know how to say hello, good-bye, thank you, numbers and a few other random phrases. Paris is the last city I want to ever be in where I don’t have a good grasp on the language, so I’m going to make a lot of effort. I hope soon I’m 3-for-3 when it comes to major languages of the EU.
London will always be my first and biggest transatlantic love, but I think I’ll dance with Paris at least one more time.