It is nearly 6 months that I am living a life of love (and miscellaneous other sentiments, depending on the day), in the most romantic city in the world, Paris! Not to mention with the most passionate of men, an Italian. (No offense to all others nationalities of the world, most of which I think very highly of, but I must be partial).
As any ex-pat who has lived in Paris knows very well, living in a uniquely French culture is no easy task. These days the French are even asking themselves ‘What does it mean to be French?’ Hence, is there even a place for the culturally curious like myself? Being raised by a Polish mother and an American father (a Francophile I might add), I always understood and accepted culture to be a mysterious and stimulating mélange. Having grown up mostly in the USA, a country composed of immigrants, this is what I was taught is acceptable, also considering I never chose to fit in, in the first place. In hindsight, the ‘American Dream’ was never mine. (Hmmm, does a white picket fence exist in the South of France?)
Rather than begin the debate ‘Can an ex-pat ever be considered French’, or a long list of what I miss about my life in NYC (so many simple pleasures filled my 12 years…), versus the many difficulties I face in France, I will focus on what I LOVE about Paris. In an attempt to increase my awareness about this city and to miss home a little less.
My top 10, in no particular order (except for the first one):
2. Eating is an art. Dinner is a daily ritual, an experience to savour, whether dining at home on a Monday night, at a local bistro with friends, or at a highly-rated Brasserie.
3. The pace of life is S L O W. These days, I rarely walk with the speed of a New Yorker. As soon as the flowers begin to blossom I will take the time to smell them. ALL of them.
4. Living history. Each corner of Paris feels like stepping into the pages of a history book. Simply taking a walk, anywhere, is enchanting.
5. Simple pleasures. You can exist on a decadent (if not so balanced) diet of the finest in bread, cheese, wine and chocolate, at least for the first month. I could go on about the cheese…
6. Art fills the air. The unique and often beautiful graffiti art and murals are a pleasure to admire. Even a shopping trip to Galeries Lafayette proves a cultural experience, with a gallery exhibiting select artists and window displays to match. And the MANY revered galleries lining the left and right banks…
7. The sky. Particularly mesmerizing at dusk. (I can’t recall, was there even a sky in NYC?)
8. Time to be. Mostly due to the highly coveted 35 hour work week. The French value their free time, something I (nor anyone I know) seemed to ever have enough of in NYC. To pursue hobbies, to travel, simply to be.
9. The Seine. Whether it be a late summer night, wrapped in warm air overlooking the Notre Dame, or a brisk walk across the Pont Neuf in the chill of winter, in the reflection of the Seine I cannot help but to smile and feel grateful.
10. The people I love most in the world will all come to visit. This is Paris after all!