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I’m moving to Paris. And here is why…
I am having a love affair.
A long-distance love affair.
That’s much more of a challenge – right?
It is not tousled hair I am dreaming of but snappy scarves worn so handsomely, the ends tossing in the brisk wind.
It is not my lover’s glances that I miss, but the look of a stranger carrying a fresh baguette under his arm, stealing a bite off the end, as he strides past.
It is not a log cabin that I long for but a stylish Haussman building with wrought iron rails and endless flights of stairs to climb where a limited view of Parisian rooftops makes my heart soar.
This is not a simple affair.
I am not yet fluent in the language, although smitten with the flow of the French language.
Most importantly, being a foreigner, I am only permitted to stay ninety days. This is simply not ample time.
I know I have competition. For this Parisian affair is a notorious one, one that has transpired countless times over the centuries.
I have fallen hard. Paris invades my thoughts.
I am scheming a way to return to my beloved city of Paris.
“I’m moving to Paris,” I keep telling myself.
“Ah, Paris,” you murmur. “How cliché.”
But when I wasn’t looking Paris seeped into my soul.
Was it the Frenchmen playing boules in my favourite park or the lovers on the Pont Alexandre III?
Possibly it was the vin chaud. Who can resist that delight when a bitter wind is blowing?
Was it the dancing on a quiet Sunday morning after a church service on Rue Mouffetard?
Was it the everyday corner café where I perched under a heat lamp and observed the locals?
I wrote those words (all those words you just read) four years ago.
The draw to live in Paris was undeniable. Its call coursing through me.
The seeds for the Parisian love affair were planted many moons ago.
I was born in Montreal, Quebec and although I never knew him, my grandfather, Léopold Beaudoin, was French-Canadian. Do the French genes I hold and the traces of French blood running through my veins have anything to do with this Paris passion? Quite possibly.
As a twenty-year-old, I backpacked through Europe and during those six months, I spent time in Paris on five separate occasions.
The last line of my journal from those travels reads,
“Remember, Alison, anything is possible in Paris.”
Clearly, I had fallen under her spell.
And then, just like that, I forgot about Paris.
Many years later, I came to France and never even considered going to Paris. A friend commented, “You’re going to France and not going to Paris?” My flippant and callous comment was, “I’ve been to Paris. I don’t really need to go back.” Evidently I had forgotten how Paris made me feel.
When I did return four years ago, something ignited inside my soul. There was a sense of familiarity, even though I had not been to Paris in decades and an immediate recognition of belonging. And thus began the intense love affair.
Moving to Paris, for me, is highly connected to a feeling.
A L I V E
is the word that best suits.
It’s about stepping into a space where, amidst the hustle and bustle of a busy city, people enjoy the small pleasures of life. Be it dancing by the Seine or biting into the perfect baguette.
Maybe it is taking the time to notice where the light is falling or talking to the local barman who prepares your coffee.
Perhaps moving to Paris is about stepping into my space. Living my dream. Honouring the momentum that has had me hurtling towards this city.
On moving to Paris, a dear friend who once lived in the city wrote to me, “You really need a year in Paris to get to know her deeply. She is so rich, and complicated, and deep, and secretive and mysterious. She needs time to be explored.”
I’ve begun to walk through my year in Paris, as a flâneuse to be exact, with a deep desire to know her intimately and an open heart. It’s where I belong, for this year at least.
“To be Parisian is not to have been born in Paris, but to be reborn there.”