My Paris

I'm planning to link to favourite posts and to recommend some sites, experiences, and restaurants. But this will take time . . . please be patient with my learning curve. Meanwhile, I thought I'd anticipate a few of your questions, and try to answer them. And if you have more questions about visiting Paris, send them to me, fsproutATgmailDOTcom, and I'll see if I can answer them for you.

What's with your fixation on Paris? How did that get started?
I first visited Paris with my husband and our four children (then aged 5-14) in summer, 1990. We spent a week in Versailles before our 3-week stay in the Loire Valley, and we travelled into Paris most days of that week, seeing the regular tourist sites. We marched them up the Eiffel Tower, steered them through crowds to stand in front of the Mona Lisa, rode a bateau-mouche along the Seine, lit candles in the dark, awe-inspiring interior of Notre Dame, pawed through the books at the legendary Shakespeare & Co, ate crêpes and baguette sandwiches and frites before heading back to check out the Impressionist paintings at the Orsay. It was all wonderful, but I was surprised to be haunted by my pre-children self, the traveler who suddenly recognised how much she'd put aside to be a Mom.

So we went back to France, just Paul and I, the following year, to walk for ten days in the Haut-Loire with friends from the Auvergne. Then Paul went back home, and I stayed in France another two weeks on my own, spending the last 4 or 5 in Paris. A splendid, rejuvenating, exciting adventure, but I followed it up with one in a different direction, completing first my BA, then going on to grad school. Most travel was put on hold during those years of juggling school, work, and child-rearing.

Finally though, to celebrate defending my doctoral dissertation in spring 2005, we planned a holiday. The destination was arbitrary, although we wanted to be in Europe somewhere.  The most time we could coordinate together was ten days -- my teaching schedule meant I wasn't free until May and his busiest season at work began before June.  That narrowed our destination to somewhere that would keep our interest for ten days so that we didn't need to exhaust ourselves packing and unpacking to travel around between various points. London was one possibility, Paris another. And since Paul had just completed a long and intense period of French-language training for work, Paris won the coin toss. Who would have thought we would go back every spring since -- we've now been there 10 times, and the plan so far is to head back in 2013.

If your choice of Paris was a bit of a coin toss in 2005, what made you keep going back? After all, there are so many other great places to see?
True enough, but for the following few years, we had the same time restrictions -- a ten-day period within a very specific part of the calendar, both of us coming out of fairly stressful work environments. Going back to a place we already knew meant we didn't have the added stress of learning a new city, coping with another language OR -- and this is important -- with feeling we had to see any requisite tourist sites. In Paris we could just wander together, enjoying food, wine, people-watching, and walking, walking, always walking, in each other's company.

Where did you stay that first visit? Do you think that made a difference to your overall impression of Paris?
Absolutely! I often wonder if we would have committed to Paris so completely if not for the marvellous warmth of Jennifer at Hôtel Residence Les Gobelins in the 13th arrondissement. We were made to feel at home from the moment we arrived in this bright, clean, charming, and affordable hotel close enough to  major attractions but not overwhelmed with tourists. Most days would start with us walking through the vibrant market street, Rue Mouffetard. They'd end with us walking back exhausted and content, sometimes after a fabulous tajine just across the street in a favourite Moroccan restaurant, Le Sirocco. Being recognised by the owner of that restaurant the following year might have clinched our deal with Paris. Somehow that neighbourhood made us feel like honorary citizens, even if we could only manage living there for a week or two each year.

ADDED May 2013:  If you're interested in the idea of renting an apartment in Paris, I've mused here and here about our experiences renting apartments in the 7th arrondissement  in Spring 2011 and then in the 6th in Spring 2012.  I don't spend much time in these posts on the technical aspects of the rentals, focussing instead on the different sense of connection with the city I felt in our own flat; I also try to sort out what the difference is between Parisian apartments and more typically North American ones. But I'm happy to answer any questions you might have about renting, with the obvious qualification that my experience is limited (and we stuck to budget options), and I'm pretty comfortable recommending Paris Address.
Again, if you have questions, you can email me:  fsproutATgmailDOTcom

ALSO ADDED May 2013:
Links to the posts describing My History with/in French (but written in English, bien sûr
1. My Life in French, Part I, -- family heritage, my upbringing, education
2. My Life in French, Part II -- detour, marriage, kids
and July 2013
3. My Life in French, Part III --Encore un Passeport pour Maman, travelling with kids

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