Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Before I moved to Paris, and in the first weeks when I settled here, I certainly had enchanting little images of what my daily life would be. Snapshots or movie vignettes, perhaps, but they were as clear in their emotional pull as they were gauzy but forceful visually. Oh, the life I would lead!

I recall these images now, each morning as I sip my coffee from my impractical but lovely large coffee cup, fine English Bone china decorated with little sparrows. I remember what I envisioned my Parisian breakfasts to be when I bought that pair of cups and saucers on an impulse in the wonderful old-fashioned cutlery store in the 2e arrondissement.

My image: intimate breakfasts by myself (or even with a fabulous amant), or with my visiting children, always with warm croissants or crusty baguettes and homemade jam, steamed milk, coffee press coffee, sitting at a table reading Le Figaro as sunlight streamed in the room, listening to jazz or classical musical, before heading off to some meaningful quotidian activity. First, perhaps a soft-boiled egg. Even the crumbs or the overflowing egg yolk looked exquisite and were so tasty and picturesque. Like all those photogenic foodie photos.

But here's the twist. Paris doesn't let you do that. Guess what? Life doesn't let you do that. Not mine, anyway. The imagined life is just that -- imagined.

Well, my usual morning reality is that I zap a pitcher of Candia boxed milk, put the pod in the Nespresso and whack the machine's backside until it begs for forgiveness, then turn on the laptop and start the daily onslaught of emails, news and what-have-you on my dining room table that hasn't unlearned its role as an overloaded desk. Breakfast is a banana from the Shopi, hopefully not overripe.

Hey, wait! This wasn't part of my Paris croissant dream.

Hey, wait! One French woman I just read about says she hasn't eaten a croissant in 10 years.

This is so depressing.

Where is my Paris of my imagination? And while we're at it, où sont les neiges d'antan?

Here is real life: Every morning I make plans. I vow to really get into shape, to return to my pencil-thin former self to blend in seamlessly with the chic Parisian women. So now part of my new Paris reality entails a daily hour inside some sweaty gym instead of spending that hour living the real Paris?

This was definitely not a part of my Paris dream. In my Paris dream I was speaking French all day long, working alongside some fascinating cultural powers-that-be and spending evenings hosting witty salons and attending glittery champagne-soaked soirées and glamorous theatre openings in stilettos, and afternoons in hip unknown cafes sipping café express with important people, perhaps.

Here's my reality.

I shudder as I examine the piles of to-be-opened mail from my three-week departure. I look at the still unfinished IKEA desk that I simply must do something about. Bureaucracy to deal with, plumbers arriving, and on and on and on.

But here's the deal. I get up and walk out the door and more than ever Paris is more than my dream come true. My "indoor" Paris - the cozy flat with its "parquet-moulures-cheminées" (hwf, fpl, mldngs) has the bones of the Paris ideal. A splendid backdrop. But life is life, and bills must get paid, dishes washed, groceries bought, laundry cleaned, calls returned. But then I walk just a block or two down the street or ride my bike to the marché, and there is nothing -- I'm sorry ladies and gentlemen, but NOTHING -- that compares to the sheer exhilaration of living in this city. Just the everyday errands -- oh, go to the dry cleaners -- and the beauty of life that swirls around all the mundane stuff on a daily basis makes it worth every minute.

Paris the flaky-croissant-cliché is not here -- it's better than that.

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