[If you're new here, I just moved from Paris to New York City just over a week ago. There will be many more posts about Paris in the weeks to come, but for today, this is a quick peek at our final days living abroad.]
When Michael and I moved to Paris, the plan was initially to stay until the end of 2013. As we set out on this adventure, two years of life abroad loomed ahead of me. It felt like it was going to be a ton of time away from home. But as you might gather, being that it’s mid-2015 and solid year and a half past that date, that time flew by. And for as quickly as that time passed, the “extension” period came and went in a blink of an eye.
Paris is an amazing place. I never knew I would fall so in love with this city (or any city for that matter), or that leaving it would hurt so much. But even in those last few days. after three years of living here, I still learned new things about Paris and re-learned some truths I had been taught along the way.
#1: Driving around the Arc de Triomphe isn’t all that bad.
Note...this is coming from the navigator, not the driver - though I think Michael would agree.
Paris was the final location transfer of our month-long “Tour de France” road trip. The rental car had to be dropped off, and one large round-about stood in between us and returning the rental car. The Mother of all traffic circles, if you will: the Arc de Triomphe.
Going into it, I knew two things about driving in the city. In some Parisian situations, organized chaos ensues. For circles like this, there are no lanes, no markings on the road, no limit except physics as to how many cars deep can fit in the space. The other thing is that the Arc de Triomphe has a notoriety as being one spot that if you get into an accident, many insurance policies specifically exclude coverage (or at least so I had heard).
Perhaps I could have been a more helpful navigator to reroute us another way. But the Arc de Triomphe is such a badge of accomplishment, a bucket list item that few people probably willingly add to the list, but one that begs to be checked off. So between us, I let Michael give it a go for the bragging rights he would earn afterwards. He’s still talking to me, so I don’t think it was that bad.
#2: Always have a Plan B.
Once our bags were secured at our friends’ house and the car had been returned, it was time to start running around Paris and making the most of our last few days. We had been wanting to see the Musée Delacroix, but when we got there that afternoon, we found that there was…a fermeture exceptionnelle. (I told you that it’s a phrase that pops up a lot in this country!)
Though a little disappointed we couldn't check that item off our Paris bucket list (though we did return two days later and got in), we quickly turned things around and went with the alternative plan in the area. That was to head straight to L’Avant Comptoir, a cute stand-up wine bar in the area. Some small plates for lunch and a few glasses of wine later, we had made friends with a lovely couple honeymooning from NY, and the night was just getting started! It’s always good to be flexible in Paris, and sometimes those unexpected happenings make the best memories.
#3: There is still lots to discover in Paris...even after actively exploring the city for three years.
I completely understand people who visit Paris for a few days and then continue on to other destinations - there’s a lot to see in Europe! But I’m baffled by those who spend a few days and then think that they’ve seen the city in its entirety.
Day 2 of our last 5 in Paris was a special day that only comes around once a year - my birthday, of course! We set out for Parc André Citroën with the intention of accomplishing another bucket list item, as well as visiting a park we had never set foot in.
That bucket list item was the Ballon de Paris, which offers a view of Paris that I have always been interested to experience. It is a hot-air balloon that doubles as both a weather balloon and tourist attraction. People can pay for a 10-minute ride in what is touted as the world’s largest hot-air balloon right here, in Paris. Just take a look at the position of the balloon in the photo to see where this story is going -
Yup, you guessed it. Another bucket-list fail. The balloon only goes up depending on weather conditions, and despite the beautiful birthday sunshine I was enjoying, it was deemed too windy. So I chalked it up as another reason to just have to return to Paris someday and continued on with the day.
Which leads to the moment of redemption in the Parc André Citroën - we found one of the public sparkling water fountains! Paris has regular water fountains all around, but it’s less common to come across a sparkling water fountain. I was so excited that I promptly dumped my water bottle full of boring water and replaced it with some fancy fizzy!
#4: Picnicking on the Champ de Mars isn’t just for tourists.
The lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower is a perfect spot for tourists and locals alike to enjoy, and was the location we selected for my birthday picnic celebration. We had been a bit preoccupied with our road trip and the move when we realized we hadn’t solidified plans for my birthday. With only about four hours notice on a gorgeous Saturday, somehow many of my friends were able to come out to celebrate my birthday.
Above: When you do picnic on the Champ de Mars, be sure to take obligatory food pics with the photogenic lady.
Bring a blanket, food and drink, and friends for a perfect picnic in view of the Eiffel Tower. Bonus points if your friends bring amazing picnic supplies - as in champagne, homemade rhubarb compote from Normandie, brioche aux pralines, lots of wine, handmade chocolates, and more.
#5: Red House is always a good cap to the day.
Step two of my birthday extravaganza was just as successful as the first part. Red House is my favorite bar in Paris (shocker), and it’s no surprise that it was the most perfect ending to my special day. I will always recommend stopping by Red House for a fun evening soirée, though if it’s your birthday, the lovely and talented Jen might make you a drink as complex as it is visually appealing.
#6: When you hand over your keys to the landlord, things are pretty final.
If you’re like me, you might be reading this and wondering why we were leaving this beautiful city and so many dear friends. I thought the same thing as Michael and I went over to our old street to reminisce and spend quality time in the Marais. Maybe we could just write it off as a momentary lapse of judgement and get the keys back to our old home?
Nope. We noticed our former apartment window was open. As we stopped and stared up, a guy came to the window to close it. Undoubtedly it was the new tenant, perhaps creeped out a bit as to why we were zooming in on his apartment windows with a DSLR camera. Yes, we were taking some weirdly invasive photos. But it was merely because our house plant, Jacques, had been moved to the window, and we were having a moment!
[The quick back story is that when we moved in, our landlady told me that my job was to take care of her large potted plant. I have no green thumb, but I’m proud of the happy relationship I cultivated with the plant, who I named Jacques. Jacques even served as our Christmas tree for three years and was an integral part of the DePasquale family in Paris.]
There were a ton of loved ones waiting for us on the other side of the Atlantic. That fact, coupled with the reality that if we willfully missed our flight, we would have no place to live, ensured that we did the responsible thing that Wednesday.
#7: Pierre Hermé macarons are still the best.
His were the first macarons I tried when I moved to Paris, and though I have done my fair share of “research,” they remain my all-time favorite. The texture, the inventive flavor pairings, and the overall perfection of the pastry make Pierre king of the macaron. These treats can be enjoyed anywhere, but best brought to a pretty spot to maximize the experience.
#8: It is possible to bring back a little bit of France home with you.
After lamenting the reality of #6, we decided to regroup. We couldn’t stay in France, but maybe a little piece of France could come back with us. While we brought home wine (oh, did we), we also sought out another item. A lighter souvenir to considering stashing in your suitcase after a visit is confiture. I wouldn’t have croissants to slather some deliciousness on anymore, but those NJ bagels on the horizon were about to get "Frenchified" in the best of ways.
#9: The Eiffel Tower sparkling still stops me in my tracks.
It’s proof that we didn’t overstay our time in Paris. When I catch that Iron Lady twinkling on the hour during the evening, I have no choice but to stop and smile.
#10: The only way to get over moving away from Paris is to keep returning.
Everything feels new to me in NYC, and as I start to settle into our new home, I’ve been really trying to avoid drawing comparisons between the two cities. I hope that living in New York will grow on me like Paris did over time. But no matter what, I know that I will never get that beautiful City of Light out of my system. That’s why I have a trip booked later in the year to visit!