Monday, June 8, 2009

Where are all the Canadians in Paris?

Where are the Canadians in Paris? And why aren’t they writing about it?

I (again!) spent too much time this weekend reading yet another book about an American who leaves their small Texan town, their safe job, their wide open spaces, etc. to pursue a more exciting life in the City of Lights. I have probably read about seven of these books this past year – typically penned by journalists, nannies or college drop-outs – and each time I have hoped in vain to feel a connection to the writer and each time I have been disappointed with their now predictable conclusion that indeed the United States is not only the best, but the only county to live. This past weekend’s reading provided me with a faint connection when the writer described how they developed a love of apricots while living in Paris. I as well became enamoured with apricots after several trips to Paris, particularly the jam, and I often search my hometown’s grocery and specialty food stores for new, French imported apricot products.

A bit of a delicious digression that still doesn’t answer my question about Canadians in Paris.

I first became aware of Paris as a pre-teen when I enrolled in a French Immersion language program that used, among other things, a book about the hapless adventures of “Claude” and “Jean” as they raced throughout the streets of Paris, often near the Eiffel Tower, to solve petty crimes while wearing black berets and striped shirts. In my 12 year-old mind’s eye, Paris was a small city of interlocking cobblestone streets that all led to the Eiffel Tower.
As I moved through my teens and into my early twenties Paris was never far from my thoughts or dreams. I kept up with my French lessons and learned, courtesy of my gentile “step grandmere” to eat salad after dinner, not before. As a family we hosted a French exchange student one summer from Bordeaux and I fell in love with her exotic smelling perfumes and impeccable style. I bought French Vogues; I read French history books, French art books and French memoirs – anything that hinted at Parisian life.

And then one morning I woke up, 25 years old, never having been to Paris, and recently single. I was utterly alone and suddenly Paris became the answer to all my problems. Moreover I was terrified that I would grow old – like into my thirties– and would never have made it to the city of my dreams. I know this reads as though I am going to recount a similar story to those Americans I scorned paragraphs earlier but it really isn’t.

You see I have never lived in Paris. I have never quit my job, quit my life or quit my wide open clean, Canadian spaces to chase a new existence down the cobblestoned streets of Paris. Rather at 32 years old, I have just returned from my third trip to Paris in six years – this time with my husband.

The fact that I have been to Paris three times in the last six years is amazing. My friends and my family remind me of this when I regularly moan about missing Paris and already wanting to return.

Paris is one of the great loves of my life; it is often the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and it is often the last thing I think about before I drift off to sleep at night. Last night as I fell asleep recalling moments of my most recent trip, I decided that maybe if I wrote about Paris, it wouldn’t seem so distant...

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