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revisiting la motte-picquet.

May 2012

I admit it's been quiet on the blog this year. The reason is that I have been hunkering down on projects, submitting essays, and considering some new opportunities. This has meant spending my days confined to my desk-slash-dining room table with my thinking beret on, fashionably wearing my blue Sports Authority sweatpants, with my short hair pulled back into a wee ponytail. Hardly a riveting blog post. Aside from being called a deaf girl who doesn't speak French by a toddler (they're still failing to understand that I'm not allowed to speak French to them!), life for this américaine in Paris has been less action-packed than it normally is.

With hints of an early spring season charming the city, and a special meeting with blogger-turned-friend Sara Louise to commemorate her last day in France before moving back to the States, it was time to get l'enfer out of the house!

Meeting at Bar au Central for an early evening glass of wine, Sara Louise regaled Kristen and me with her jaw-dropping French stories as she reflected back on her ten years in Europe. (Girlfriend needs to write a book!)

On my walk home to the metro, I passed the iconic Parc du Champs Mars, and couldn't help but recall my own journey. To bring my sense memory to life, I reached out to my former roommate Charles-Henri to see if he wanted to meet up with me before I jumped back on the 6 to go home. 

My first year as an ex-pat was not exactly typical, but really whose first year is? Because finding an apartment in Paris is pretty much a nightmare, not to mention, that my status was not attractive to French landlords, for the sake of cheap rent and to actualize this dream of living in Paris, I shared a one bedroom apartment (READ: one bed) with a guy I barely knew. As you could imagine this set-up triggered a host of "situations" where I still cringe when I look back at some of the discussions I forced upon poor Charles-Henri.

Luckily he didn't hold the 2009 me against the 2014 me, and agreed to meet with me for an impromptu dinner at the apartment on La Motte-Picquet.

It's funny how our memory gets distorted over time; the spiral staircase leading up to the apartment was slimmer than I remembered and, the smell that I had grown so familiar with had evolved into a different odor that I no longer recognized. 

I rang the doorbell that had a higher pitch and some man, who was not Charles-Henri, answered the door. Apparently, I even forgot what floor I used to live on.

"Oh my god, you look like a wife!" Charles-Henri proclaimed after opening the correct door and giving me the once-over.

"Why? Because my hair is short?" 

"No, because you're wearing a wedding ring, cocotte."

(Beat)

I helped myself to my former bathroom and through the faintly frosted window saw that the same neighbor still lived across the way. Well yeah, of course he did. This was the neighbor who had told me five years ago, that he and his daughter could see me sitting on the pot and performing other bathroom activities when they ate dinner at night. 

"What happened to the blinds we put up in here?" I screamed through the walls, yanking my tights up.

"Oh, they fell down a few months ago." 

That's it. They just fell down. No further explanation, which I recall being a typical Charles-Henri response: so direct and assured. He knew exactly what I was suggesting but he didn't care, and I suspect the neighbors also know that he doesn't care since they have never approached him about it. Only I got to enjoy the privilege of that conversation.

Sitting in "our same seats", over pinot noir, poulet rôti and steamed brocoli, we dished about the present while entertaining ourselves with tales of the past. He is the only person I am still in touch with who witnessed the insanity of my first two years here and met the oddball characters that, even then, he vehemently disapproved of. 

Extending my visit to the last drop of wine, it was time for me to say goodbye to 2009 and go back home to 2014.

"You really did it," he said as I was putting my coat on. "You came to Paris to learn French, to make a life, and to get back to writing, and voilà, tu l'as fait."

"I do forget that I was hanging by a thread for a long time," I acknowledged, "And it's nice to be reminded sometimes that life has a way of working itself out."

"We learn and grow more from our failures than our successes." he said, never ceasing to impress me with his English and his astute outlook.

"I wasn't sure what I was doing with myself in those days," I mused, "For a while I felt like a loser, but I was secure in the decision to come here. I'm glad it wasn't all for nothing." 

"It never is, cocotte."

A brief visit with my past was just the refresher I needed to continue on with my future. And what better time to look forward in Paris? I hear it's lovely in the springtime.

19 comments:

  1. Lovely post. It seems like we are all reflecting right now while in the midst of pushing, pushing forward.
    And I am jealous that you were with SL on her last night in France!
    xo
    H

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    1. Thank you, Heather. Spring has that effect on us, doesn't it? Did you guys get much of a winter down where you are? Paris didn't and I almost feel guilty for basking in the sudden spring glory. I don't feel like I earned it with an icy winter!

      It was so nice to finally meet Sara Louise after all these years! She was just as funny, sweet and entertaining as I had imagined her in real life to be. It was such a treat!

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  2. What a sweet reminder of how far you've come! I'm also jealous I didn't get to hang out with you ladies!!

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    1. Hi Gwan, Yeah, it was a nice reminder and also to see my friend. Staying with him in that arr. was the perfect introduction to Paris.

      We had a lovely time. I wish you were there too. I miss you!

      I need to catch up on everyone's blogs (starting with yours) to see what you all have been up to. I admit I have been out of the loop on social media. I hope you're well! xo.

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  3. Great post. A trip down memory lane :)

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    1. Thank you. It was a lovely trip with all around lovely company. : ) A perfect way to kick off the spring!

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  4. I had a neighbour in Ottawa that I could see on the throne... I finally met him a few years later in a bar in South Korea! I kid you not!:)))

    I like your old 'hood:) Your new one too, but I'm particularly fond of the old one, and so is my hubby. We have good memories from our times there:) I'm glad you walked down memory lane. It's always good to look back and to take stock:) You've come a long way, girl:) Power to you for forging ahead and making your dreams come true!:)) It might not always have been easy, but it's thickened your skin so you won't choke in the future when the going gets tough:)) (Je sais que tu sauras être à la hauteur des défis qui t'attendent:))

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    1. AHH! You didn't tell him, did you? That's terrible!!! What was the set up like that you could see him? When I was in Japan, the first hotel I stayed at in Shinjuku faced a corporate office building and the Men's bathroom had floor to ceiling windows next to the urinals, so my first moments were spent watching grown men piss. Good times.

      The 15th is a great area, especially that Motte-Picquet/Emile Zola area. I hold a fondness for it and am happy to see I'm not the only one!

      I didn't think I was going to make it, I think 2011, after the robbery was the final straw where I had no support here or back home. Friends and family were only concerned about me attending their weddings in NY as I am sitting in my trashed apartment picking up my destroyed belongings. It wasn't my favorite moment in Paris, but l stuck it out and things turned out much better than I could have planned! : ) Thank you for this kind comment. You're the best.

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  5. oh to be in Paris in the spring....I wish...you guys have been having such a mild winter compared to here...

    lovely to be able to saunder down memory lane and go home to your future.:))bisous

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    1. "To be able to saunder down memory lane and go home to your future"... both in Paris, I might add!:))

      Love it!:)) So well said!:)

      As MK mentioned the other day, too bad there is no "like" button on this blog!:) I would have "liked" every single comment about this post:))

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    2. Hi Deb! I am actually surprised by this year's "winter". No snow, mild temperatures, sunshine. It's not that Paris winter I know of, but I'll gladly take it. You guys got it bad this year. I know NY is still extremely cold, what's it like in Toronto?

      It was quite a saunter! I had been wanting to get in touch with him for about a year but just never got around to it. Seeing Sara Louise off as she closed one chapter seemed like the perfect opportunity.

      Thank you for dropping a note and I wish you a happy weekend! Stay warm. : )

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  6. I love this post so much! It's always so inspiring to look back at where we came from. And it's even sweeter when the place we've arrived at feels pretty damn good. I'm proud of you, cocotte ;)

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    1. Thanks guidette-soul-sister! The other day you and I were on chat and Aurel asked if I was talking to my lover and I said, "well, close" and he said "Oh tell Cara I say hi." Thought you would get a kick out of that!

      Sometimes looking back is the perfect jolt to propel us forward! Thanks for this comment, broccoli di rabe!

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  7. Aww, glad you got to spend time with Sara before she went back to the us. Fun trip down amnesia lane too!

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    1. It was so lovely meeting her. I hope it was as special as it was for her as it was for me. It's not everyday you hear a live narration of LPV stories!

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  8. i loved this one. it gave me goosebumps! i always get very nostalgic and pensive when the seasons change and spring is no exception!

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    1. Oh, thank you so much! : ) It was such a special evening, starting off with seeing you and SL. It's like an insta-memory for me. :*) Happy, happy spring! I'm just reeling over this weather! (Oh and I'm reporting that I found kale at that big indoor marché in the 10th.)

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  9. Yet another lovely post, you do have such a wonderful way with words.
    It is definitely the time to reflect and move forward. And it's time for Charles-Henri to hang up some new blinds ;) x

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  10. "Voilà, tu l'as fait" - the perfect [French] summation of how far you've come since 2009. Or, as we would say in the USA, "You go girl!" And an added bonus is that you were able to meet Sara Louise before she moved back to the States.

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