Wednesday words on Paris: je t’aime

One of the many lock bridges in Paris.

One of the many lock bridges in Paris.

We got back last Tuesday but, seeing as I haven’t written in two months, what are a few days after the fact, between friends? I’ve missed each and every one of you.

So Paris. Have you been? I hadn’t. The husband had work there the week of July 4th and kept trying to convince me that I should go along and take the girls. “Three kids in private school, three kids in private school…” I regularly mumble whenever spending large amounts of money is suggested, but then my smart friends told me to go for it because no one ever regrets spending money (they should be saving) on travel. So we prepped for this trip in about two weeks – between soccer and volleyball commitments and the washing and folding of laundry and making of dinners – and landed at Charles de Gaulle on July 1st.

Like Ireland two years ago, Paris agrees with me. I couldn’t say “Bon jour!” fast enough. You see, I’m like Jim Nabors (dating myself?). I speak in one register – low, resonant – yet naturally sing in another – high, soprano. I’ve long thought my true speaking voice is more Snow White than Hillary Clinton – yes, I just said that – but at 51, it’s too late to switch. I digress. In French, it was impossible not to sound like Julia Child. “Merci!” “Je vous en prie.” “Excusez-moi.” On my first run Wednesday morning, when a woman asked me something in French while we were both stopped at a light, the words just tumbled out of my mouth in my upper register, “Je ne parles pas français.” It was wonderful! Magnifique!

Let’s talk about running on vacation. Best way to scope out the surroundings. We were staying in Le Marais (I refuse to say The Marais) the current, coolest neighborhood in Paris. It’s also the oldest, which makes it much older than Studio City. I jogged past Places de Vosges – where Victor Hugo lived – just down the street from our romantic art-deco apartment and headed to Notre Dame Cathedral, not even a mile away. Can you imagine? I ran by Notre Dame and along the Seine every morning! Crazy. Crazier still was running into friends crossing one of the bridges from Île Saint-Louis just ten minutes into the run. Small world, yada, yada. (Crazier? Running into another friend the next day on the Champs, then another half an hour later near the Louvre.)

Right away, if you’ve never been, you realize that Paris is perfect. Not a mini-mall in sight. And unlike New York, there are no tall buildings, except way out in La Défense. It feels vast and open even as the narrow streets and old buildings keep things cozy and romantic. And Paris clichés abound. Pedestrians walking with baguettes? Check. Geraniums in window boxes? Check. Sidewalk cafes, customers drinking espresso and/or red wine, smoking cigarettes? Check, on nearly every corner. It didn’t get dark until 10pm, so everyone was out late and that suited us fine.

We didn’t do everything, but we hit the major stops – the Arc de Triomphe (great climb to the top), Champs-Élysées, the aforementioned Notre Dame, Sacré Cœur and therefore Montmartre, Versailles, the Louvre (outside several times, never made it in), and of course, the Eiffel Tower. More intimately: Saint-Germain-des-Prés and so Café Les Deaux Magots, Shakespeare and Company bookstore, Jardin de Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries (a personal fave), the Sorbonne (a walk-by), the stained-glass windows of Saint-Chapelle, Moulin Rouge (another walk-by), Pont Neuf, Place de Concorde, Place de la Bastille, Musee L’Orangerie, the Catacombs, and the very best – Musee d’Orsay. The Fat Tire bike tour Sunday night before we left was a highlight (and I got a t-shirt for offering to wrangle and pull up the rear), as was the boat ride on the Seine that concluded the same evening.

Things I noticed: Parisians dress better than Americans even on their worst days. I never once saw either a man or woman wearing sweats or work-out clothes, unless they were actually running. The worst-dressed man in Paris doesn’t even seem to own a filthy pair of sneakers. There is an easy style there that pleased me, and I’m hardly fashionable. Nowhere did I see baggy jeans on men, rumpled shorts on anyone (the women don’t even wear shorts – you were right, Karen Mandell), or dirty athletic shoes, except on tourists. I suffered through blisters just so I could wear cute flats instead of white Nikes. Band-Aids came in handy.

Things we were told not to miss, so didn’t: Berthillon ice cream (OMG!), croissants (they’re better in Paris!), and falafel from L’As Du Fallafel (the best in the world! – which is funny because I’ve only eaten falafel once so the comparison was limited in scope – it was delicious anyway and we only waited 3 minutes on a rainy afternoon).

Back now, I find myself reading even the smallest article on Paris – “The Skeleton Garden of Paris”, New York Times last Sunday – because the city enthralled me and I want to feel a part of it even when I’m not there, which is always since I live in California. I’ve said it a hundred times already – there was nothing about Paris I didn’t love. It all worked, including the Metro. The girls were equally captivated, adventurous with the food, game for the long walks, happy to pretend they cared about the history behind everything. Even Goldie, not always the soccer fan, admitted to having fun watching France battle Germany in the World Cup. We took a million pictures. We made a thousand memories. I could write a book (sitting at a Parisian brasserie, sipping café au lait).

Comment votre été fait?



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  1. says

    Welcome back! I want to hear more! It made me wistful. Ah, Paris. Thanks for coming back with an entry to share. We missed you!

  2. Mary Helen Miller says

    I need to find a husband who has to work in Paris (I say this on my 31st anniversary — but Paris!!) I keep the joy going by following — a young British woman living in Paris.

  3. Mary Anne says

    So so happy for all of you! I was getting a bit worried not hearing from you but glad it was “just” Paris. Great that you took the opportunity – my Aunt Hazel would always say, “Sieze the experience – who needs extra money?” It sounds much smarter and fancier in French.

  4. Nicole says

    We LOVE Paris! It’s magical for us. We are planning to take our 3 there next Summer. Hopefully, they will enjoy it! So happy you loved it too.

  5. Janet Fontaine says

    Dearest JoAnn,

    I am thrilled beyond measure that you got to experience Paris with your family. I am pouring over your delightful post dreaming that I can find a wardrobe that will not only transport me to Narnia, but Paris as well. I am eagerly awaiting the book that I pray that you will write! I want “More, more, more!” With huge gratitude and a “grand merci!”
    Sincerely yours, Janet

  6. Oma says

    You said it all so well. I’ve never been and probably will never go, but really enjoyed reading such a positive spin on all there is to love about Paris. You make is sound quite magical.

  7. Catherine Carter says

    Aloha from Hawai’i, JoAnn,
    Just found your blog and am enjoying reading your entries. We just got back from a trip to Europe, too. My family wanted to just do Ireland and Italy, but I just couldn’t stand being so close and not going back to Paris, so I snuck in two nights. I fell in love with Paris in 1980 and this was my first time back. You said it so well! What a wonderful city. I had a goofy smile on my face the whole 50 hours we were there. Mmmm, I can still taste the amazing chocolate on the Crêpes Chocolat at one sidewalk cafe. Looking forward to more from you about your trip. 🙂

  8. says

    C’est marveilleux!
    Paris dans l’ete… Est incroyable aves les enfants!

    La Musee d’Orsay- le meilleux!!

    Je veux aller encore… Prut ette la prochaine l’annee?

    Au revoir….

    D’accord…. Now translate that… I know you can… The JoAnn I remember can do anything!

    Xo Lisa

    • Jo says

      Lisa, come with me to Paris next time! We’ll have a blast! And YOU can translate. I’ve got the accent down, but not the language. – Jo

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