TRAVEL – I lived in Paris for 3 years. I arrived in this city in 2012 on a whim, with a broken heart and two huge suitcases. I was 25 and I was completely lost, betrayed by my first love, unable to move on. He had tackled me in the middle of a kitchen, in an explosive argument where pasta flew, doors slammed (him) and tears flowed (me). After several months spent moping, I had decided to resign from my press officer position in New York to move to Paris and start a Master at the French Fashion Institute. At least that was the official reason.
“It’s not possible”
These are the first words I heard when I arrived in France. Everyone had only these words in their mouths – the real estate agent I asked if my rent could be taken from an American account, the banker with whom I tried to open an account without owning of French address, the IFM teacher to whom I asked for a good plan to take French lessons, and the waiter at the brasserie where I wanted to order a salad without a poached egg.
After two weeks, I met a super tanned guy, with slightly oily hair, who pretty much corresponded to my idea of French flirtation: charming, photogenic, no smarter than that. What I discovered on the first night when I entered his home was that he was living with his mother. This was evident, as every square meter of the apartment was filled with his personal effects. He seemed so comfortable with it that he even suggested to me, even as an impromptu romantic dinner, a tray of grated carrots prepared for him by mom, which he offered to defrost in the oven at microwave.
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The moment he leaned in to kiss me, his acrid breath mixed with the smell of thawed carrots just scared me away. At the bottom of the building, I hailed a cab which told me a few minutes later that it did not accept the credit card and did not want to stop at an ATM either. His last words before throwing me out of the car? “It’s not possible”. I felt like I was the victim of a huge plot in which every person in this country had set out to teach me a lesson. Here in France, you will never get what you want. You will never be accepted. You will never fit in.
And yet, Paris …
However, I spent three years in Paris. Little by little, and especially thanks to my progress in French, life has become easier. And I began to understand the French worldview (in this case, that life is made to live and not to work and that the customer, contrary to popular American belief, is not king). Their incorrigible stubbornness began to become a little more bearable. New friends have entered my circle. The alcohol flowed freely, we went out every weekend until the early hours of the morning, strong in our carelessness and our youth.
I would love to tell you that I only have to cross the Parisian street to meet Prince Charming, but that would be a lie. I am rather entitled to the exhaustive panorama of the male sex. There was this egalitarian, gender-averse classmate who charges me all year for his sandwiches at Paul’s. There was this Australian expat who had just come out of a nine-year relationship and who took me for his personal therapist. There was this English pseudoaristo who manages to convince me to extend my stay in London for a week and then vanish 24 hours later. One after another, they take me on an emotional roller coaster, pumping me with hope and then piercing me like a ball, leaving me very skeptical about my chances of ever finding love again.
Maybe I’m not the luckiest in love, but I felt something change inside me. I had more and more confidence in myself. I started a blog to tell about my adventures, I got an internship in a reputable comm agency. Instead of looking for love, I enjoyed my own life – the nocturnal walks on the banks of the Seine, the endless evenings in the brasseries, all those wonders that seemed to await me around every corner. At the end of the day, this trip that started out as a mess quickly became the youthful adventure that any foreigner would dream of living in Paris. I was free, I was happy, I was me. Everything was possible.
“Paris is a party”
Hundreds of clichés have already been written on this theme. I am well aware that I echo it. However, when I returned to the United States in 2015, I left with more than two huge suitcases. I left with the links forged through my encounters, with the experiences I have had and all the lessons I have learned. And, above all, with that feeling of freedom and faith in the future that Paris had given me.
Today, as we find ourselves deprived of so many of our freedoms, everyone needs a hope to hold onto.
In my dream, I am walking somewhere in Paris with my boyfriend and our soon-to-be-born daughter, telling them about my past adventures. The breweries are open, the music is playing, the city is full of life, and in those few moments everything is perfect. As in my memory.