Paris. City of love. City of dreams. City of splendour. City of saints and scholars. City of gaiety.
Sink of iniquity.
In two thousand years, Paris had seen it all.
This quote is at the beginning of Paris, an historical fiction novel by Edward Rutherfurd (one of our favorite authors) that weaves the lives of mostly fictional characters into real events, and I think is a prerequisite for any lengthy stay in Paris. The book captures the Parisians’ intimate, proud, and complex relationship with their oft-troubled past.
For most of the cities and places we are seeing, we breeze through in a matter of 2-5 days, see the top sites, and get a basic flavor of the culture and cuisine. Not so in Paris; our longer stay has given us time to live like a Parisian – at least to a small extent.
To ‘live like a Parisian’ could mean a number of things, but one thing it most definitely means is that quality of the local boulangerie (bakery) is one of the most important factors in your life – although boulangeries in France are like Starbucks in Seattle; there’s 4 on every corner. And while I love bread dipped in a great olive oil/vinegar combo, I don’t see the draw yet of just a baguette by itself. (Well for the sake of full disclosure I did basically eat a full baguette in one sitting but after a few bites I kind of forced the rest down out of habit.)
Baguette-downing aside, we really love what we’ve seen of the Parisian’s approach to life, which seems to include an awareness of one’s impact on the environment, a real appreciation for their city and culture, a focus on family and friends, and a general ‘joie de vivre’ that defines every aspect of life here.
Pace of life in August (in general and for us)
You hear all the time that ‘Europe shuts down for the month of August’. But then you travel to cities and everything seems to be open and plenty busy – so what gives? Well, truth be told, the tourist-machine never shuts down.
Go a little further out, say to the 19th arrondissement (where we are), and all of the sudden you see entire streets with very few shops open and (at times) very few people out and about.
This doesn’t really affect us much – it’s just a little more difficult to find services and items. When finding the closest boulongerie, for example, I passed 3 or so that are closed for the entire month of August (don’t worry I’m only getting croissants). We also wanted to find a yoga studio, but virtually none have opened up until the last few days.
So what is our pace of life like here in Paris? Just how we like it – plenty of activity, but also plenty of time to take a breath and slow down (see picture with Terra knitting).
In the last week, a couple of factors have slowed us down even more than normal: 1) a true “Joy cold”, and 2) a true heat wave.
If you’ve known me for any significant amount of time you have probably experienced a Joy cold alongside me (I’m sorry), but if not here is a small primer.
Days 1-2: Small sniffles or a sore throat appears. The sick Joy goes to local store and says “Give me all the kleenex that you have.”
Days 3-6, 7-12, 13-16: These date ranges represent stages, all of which can vary in ferocity but almost always result at some point in near complete incoherence in a normal conversation due to amount of sneezes and could result in one or more embarrassing moments at work.
While I wouldn’t say this has been a true, classic Joy cold…it was pretty bad. And I gave Terra a version of it as well (who fortunately is immune to the ‘Joy-cold’ and just got a normal cold).
As far as the heat goes, as my great friend Martin Alleman said, “Hot in Paris is really hot.” We are talking 95-98 degree heat for almost a week straight without any close water to just go and jump into. Too hot.
While these factors have slowed us down a bit, each day we have been able to have some cool experiences, from something as small as finding a great local restaurant on one day to something as large as doing a full day tour of the Loire Valley another. We’ve been able to read, create, blog, relax, eat, drink, and slowly immerse ourselves in Paris. It’s been great!
Friendships – Our World is Expanding
All of the tours and exploration is great, but for us the people we meet make the trip. So far this has included both local Parisians and other tourists on vacation. Strangely enough most of the people we have connected with are from a small region within Ontario (huh? I mean ‘eh’?).
We met a great couple from Hamilton, Ontario, on our trip to the Loire Valley. Afterwards they invited us up to the hotel deck that happened to have just about the best view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Seeing Paris lit up from that vantage point is something that we will never forget – what an experience! And we had a great time sharing a bottle of wine (which, by the way, was the best $5 bottle of wine we’ve ever tasted) and getting to know such a great couple!
One of our tour guides (Quentin) whom I mentioned in my last post also happens to live close to us. Yesterday he took us to a great little hidden gem of a restaurant in Belleville. It was really great to get to know him better, and through that, understand a little more about what it’s like to be from and live in Paris. We’re meeting another new Parisian friend tomorrow, and we’re excited to continue those relationships over time.
As I mentioned before, French history is…complex. Take these two lovely looking gardens at the Chateau de Chenonceau. Garden 1 is on on side of the front of the castle, and was designed by Diane de Poitiers. Garden 2 is on the other side of the castle was designed by Catherine de’ Medici. Seems like just a couple of fairly similar gardens until you understand the story behind the gardens’ creation and the history, intrigue, and high drama associated with them.
I’m not going to pretend to understand how the ‘average Parisian’ would view current events such as the recent terror attacks, the wave of immigration from Syria, Brexit and the rise of a far-right political movement in France (and other places in Europe). But as we get to know people throughout Europe we hope to at least to begin to understand how their rich history impacts and informs the way they approach and think about modern-day issues, as well as how they perceive the election in the US.
In any case, below are a few more pictures of our recent adventures. Please comment on anything that strikes you in this post!