I have returned from my third ever weekend trip to Paris, all of which have taken place in either October or November. Just the way things have been. I would like to go in the springtime, but so far it just hasn’t happened.
But ah, Paris. What a great place to spend a weekend. First of all, you can take the Eurostar from London, and there’s nothing better about living in England than being able to take a train to France. Especially given how painful flying has become. And how much I have no choice but to fly to places like America and Australia for which trains aren’t an option. But the best thing about Paris isn’t Paris per se. One of my good friends lives there. My only expat friend who I knew back in the states. We moved abroad about 18 months apart, first me to England, then her to Paris. And in both cases, we were doing something that seems relatively unusual in the expat community: we moved as single women, solely for the purpose of jobs. We weren’t going to meet up with British men and live happily ever after. We weren’t moving with American partners to keep us company abroad. We are both living in 1BR apartments alone, working too much, and experiencing a slightly different sort of expat life.
I arrived at her metro stop in the 16e at 6 pm Friday, and we stayed up until 6 am talking. We did stop off at the Halloween party at the Australian embassy, but we only stayed for two drinks and then went to find food. The Aussies were only offering up sausages, and neither of us eat sausages (I’m a pescetarian and she’s a Muslim). So no go on the sausages. We ended up at an Italian place run by a Sri Lankan in St. Michel. And then back to her house for wine and gossip.
Saturday we rolled out of bed at about noon and got ready for ahem brunch, which ended up being coffee and omelets at a cafe at about 3 pm. We wandered through the Jardin des Tuileries, which was full of fall colors and I was a sleep-deprived idiot who had left my camera back at the apartment. Next we were off to the Louvre, where instead of going to the museum, we went to the museum shop and the other shops in the adjacent mall. This is part of our typical style; when she came to visit me in England, we got as far as Pizza Express and John Lewis. The point of these weekends is for us to talk, not for us to be tourists. Saturday night we walked up the steps at Sacre Coeur and then sampled some food and drink on the way back down. Again back to her place for more wine and gabbing. Again past 6 am. We really outdid ourselves this trip, 5 am had been our previous record.
After sleeping in again, Sunday noonish we did exactly what we had done the last time I was in Paris, and ran out to the market in Passy for fresh bread and cheese for brunch. I had to take the train out at 5 something, so it was one last trip on the metro before checking in for the Eurostar.
It was an amazing weekend for many reasons. We had so much fun talking about our expat existence. It was great for me to see and discuss with her the pros and cons of our very simple apartments. While she has a shower, I have an oven. She’s just in the process of getting a toaster oven-like thing that apparently is about the best that can be done in her kitchen. We both have washers but not driers, and we discussed the fact that after some time abroad, we are nesting and buying nice things to make our homes feel more like home. We’ve both been buying artwork. But the basics of the expat life are the same. We have to both do our jobs and enjoy our surroundings. As she said, “I may have to pick up my dry cleaning today, but I get to pick up my dry cleaning IN PARIS!” It was a good reminder of the things that expat life can hold. Admittedly she has it spectacularly well, her office has a picture window looking out on la Tour Eiffel.
The other funny thing that happened, and that was a big difference from my last visit to Paris a year ago, is that her French has become really proficient. Whereas last time we were two clearly American girls in Paris, this time she was a local. Her confidence had increased to the point that she spoke en Francais all the time, and even asked to speak in French when waiters or store clerks did switch over to English after hearing us chatting. She kept doing the “J’habite ici” thing, which then had a funny side-effect. I started listening to the French, and suddenly a few years worth of high school French kicked in. I really did not realize how much I had picked up, and never used, after so many years away. I laughed at a waiter’s joke without thinking. I chimed in with “moi aussi” (me too) at one point. Baby steps, for certain. But really, really fun. So I have a new expat life resolution: to start working on my French, so that the next time I get to visit my dear friend in Paris, I’ll be able to play along.