I’m sitting in our Parisien apartment, suitcases packed up and ready to head out in the morning to start the rest of our adventure. Our last day in Paris wasn’t spent in a spectacular fashion. Just a cafe lunch at the same place we visited the day we arrived and some errands. Walking back from the drycleaners, I tried my best to drink it all in.
Living in Paris for the past three months, I’ve enjoyed the sparkly Eiffel Tower moments and incredible Louvre-y art moments and fascinating historical site moments. But the things I enjoyed most of all were the mundane, normal, every day moments. The way the waiters all wear down vests when its cool. The smell of exhaust from the scooters when the light changes green and they all take off from their pole positions. The fact that you need to package and weigh your produce before you hit the check out in the grocery store. The thoughtfulness of women who always carry a tote bag for their shopping so they don’t need to ask for a plastic bag. The sight of the searchlight atop the Eiffel Tower swings over our apartment every few minutes every night. The reality that people greet one another with a Bonjour before they start any conversation or transaction. The feeling when you fumble through a restaurant order in French and the waiter is just so proud of you for trying. The clinking of wine bottles being dumped into the recycling bin outside the restaurant back door across our courtyard. The cool breeze that hits you the minute you get close to the Seine or the feeling of the gale force wind whipping all the way from La Defense, through the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysees, up the Jardin des Tuileries and into the Cour Napoleon at the Louvre whipping up the dusty pea gravel.
If anyone wondered what my goal was living in Paris for this time, it was all of this. To experience Paris with all its ups and downs and marvel at all its incredible beauty.
Tomorrow, we’ll head out and won’t be back in France again on this trip. We will of course be back sooner rather than later, but I will always appreciate this time here to try to feel like a local. To have someone ask me for directions and be able to give them, in French. To have mastered enough of the French language to be able to crack a joke with the taxi driver or the waiter. To know shortcuts to get places. To ”have a guy” where we get our roast chicken/ bread/ berries/ flowers. To know which streets have the best trees to walk along on a hot day. To know which cafes will have a table for you on a sunny day.
I loved our days walking up and down Rue Montorgueil or Rue des Martyrs picking up things for dinner. I loved the fleeting moments when I got lost, only to walk a little further and know exactly where I am. I loved stumbling upon awesome things like Porte Saint Martin or the amazing Village of Saint Paul in the Marais (sign me up for any tour that starts with ”The Secrets Of…”).
Living in a big, bustling metropolis was a lot for us Vancouverites. But we figured out how to manage on foot, to buy only enough groceries that we could carry, to find the best and closest dry cleaners etc etc. We coped with living on the 4th floor (aka 5th floor in North America) with only a phone booth sized elevator which is now currently broken – wish us luck with the suitcases tomorrow! We survived French plumbing and electrical. We learned to live with the smells and sounds of a city full of life. The constant sirens – one guide reminded us that they just turn them on to show off.
We’ve packed up our winter clothes and school supplies and sent them home to Vancouver. We’ve cut ourselves down to two suitcases and four rolling carry-ons. We’ll see how we manage! But European rental cars are not forgiving on space and schlepping on and off trains can be daunting with more than one bag each.
Monsieur and I have travelled a lot in our lives and we love it. But even with the experience of travel and for me being on tour, we forgot that while its exhilarating and amazing it can be equally exhausting and stressful. Moving around a lot means new beds every few days and it means packing and repacking bags. It means not quite eating the way you’re used to. It means being able to go with the flow when things don’t go as planned or as expected. It means missing home and routine more than you ever imagined. Every day we feel grateful for this opportunity and try and roll with the punches when it gets a little rough.
For now we say “À bientôt” to our Parisian home and look forward to all the new experiences and adventures awaiting us on the road.