Les Deux Magots

I write this from the infamous café Les Deux Magots, which had been frequented by Hemingway, Picasso, James Joyce, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Oscar Wilde, and Julia Child.  This Parisian café in Saint-Germaine-des-Pres has been around since 1812.  This is the location I am choosing to complete my final edits for my proposal of my next book and send them to my literary agent.  I’ve been working on the proposal for one year, and am feeling confident about this.  I’m hoping the old artistic spirits of this establishment will send their creative vibes and support with the last touches, as I push send to my agent. 

I can’t help but be compelled to live the cliché of an American writer who dreams to live the idealized Parisian life.  This is why I’m here in Paris for the year (or at least one year).  It’s a city meant for the act of walking (flaneur), daydreaming (reve), and romanticizing (romancer) how life once was and how life can be.  My French visa was approved to begin literally 100 years to the day that Ernest Hemingway moved to this city.  I plan to walk in the steps of him and those of the Lost Generation.  

I had coffee with a French man yesterday, who warned me that Americans have an idealized romantic view of Paris.  “It’s not reality.”  He reminded me it’s an expensive city, and is just as glamorous as any other city with the same problems of traffic, dog poop, and endless tourists.  This is all true, I cannot disagree.  But I can’t help but be lured by the Haussmann architecture that pulls my eye towards the skyline, the passages filled with quaint shops, or the intoxicating smells of fresh croissants at the boulangeries that frequent every block.  Yes, it’s cliché and still I’m sold to the American dream of Paris.  Perhaps my perspective of Paris will change the longer I live here, but for now I’m still under it’s spell.

I push send and wait for the magic to begin.

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”-Ernest Hemingway

Creating a Neighborhood Vibe in a City

Whenever I relocate, I am prepared to enter a manic state.  This was the case during my final week in the UK.  Even though I was over caffeinated, I was getting tasks done, all was well.  I moved to Paris, and remained in that heightened state for a week.  Yet, as the week passed, and the initial buzz decreased, my logic set in.  I realized I had lost a credit card my last day in England.  On checking my account, multiple charges were made in one day.  I automatically cancelled the card, and refuted the charges.  Luckily it wasn’t excessive, but I knew this only happened because I was in the “moving mind” and not my regular mind.  I had compassion for myself at the moment.  

The same day I realized, I had lost a rain cap somewhere when roaming the streets of Paris.  I was not attached to this cap, and recognized it was not meant to be.  My brother and I entered a café, for an afternoon oat latte.  Although we were hoping to explore a new café in the Marais, we opted to return to one we had frequented the day before.  We ordered our lattes, sat in the front of the shop, and as I stared at the register, I saw my black I had lost the day prior.  It was waiting to be found.  The barista staff at the café asked if I was searching for it and knew it would be there.  “No, it was pure serendipity,” I responded.

This small find of a simple rain cap was comforting to me.  The big city of Paris momentarily shrunk into a bite size town, which held familiar people and my hat.  I couldn’t take away the fact that my credit card was stolen, and I had to await the charges that were disputed, but I could appreciate this moment.  I found a piece of me in a café.  

There’s such a large part of my heart that embraces experiences like this.  They seem so minute in the grand scheme of things, but it’s refreshing to know there can be moments of joy in the midst of being overwhelmed.  

“What people call serendipity sometimes is just having your eyes open.”- Jose Manuel Barroso

Living in Beauty

“When you regain a sense of your life as a journey of discovery, you return to rhythm with yourself. When you take the time to travel with reverence, a richer life unfolds before you. Moments of beauty begin to braid your days.” 
― John O’Donohue, Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

I’ve been an official resident in Paris for three days now, and there are many things I love about this city.  A colleague warned me that Paris is currently the most expensive city to live in the world at the moment.  True the square footage one gets for euros is minimal, but one of the things I love most costs nothing.

It is seeing beauty everywhere I turn in everyday life.   This is in the architectural styles of the buildings, the charm of the passages lined with stone streets, people taking their time to sip their coffees and people watch, the fashion on the streets, and the diversity of the residents and tourists that gravitate here, and the appreciation of indulgence.  I was walking my dogs this morning on Rue Cler, a historical market street.  The shops were just opening, but I found this mundane morning stroll was electrified with beauty.  I walked by the aromas of a fromagerie, a luxurious chocolate shop, fresh bright seasonal fruit, the rainbow colors of a local florist, Lauderee the infamous macaroon shop, a store specializing in whole rotisserie chickens, a luring boulangerie, and the Christmas lights that lined the street.  Residents of all ages were beginning their morning either picking up a baguette, walking their dog off leash or their child to school, or pausing for a croissant and latte.  I didn’t have to buy anything to inhale the luxury, but I realized that simply having beauty exist in my atmosphere inspires me to want to live a creative beautiful life. 

Regardless of where I have chosen to live or travel to, beauty is a top priority.  Beauty definitely exists in the natural scenery we witness among scenic mountain landscapes, ocean backdrops, or soft pastel sunsets.  But beauty can also be found in heightening all of our senses.  We don’t have to live or eat in excess, we can simply bear witness and inhale the beauty the lures us.   

The Test

“That step, the heroic first step of the journey, is out of, or over the edge of your boundaries, and it often must be taken before you know that you will be supported.” Joseph Campbell

         Did I really want to move to Paris?  But this was one of the biggest risks I would take.  I had planning it for months, quit my job of 8 ½ years, got rid of my car, put everything in storage, and now was ready to make the Great Resignation during the pandemic to start my new life.   This was all because I was tuning into listening to my intuition and not just following out the logical path.  

But there were numerous tests along the way.  I would have to get a negative covid test 24 hours before, my dogs needed their health certificates, I would navigate sleeping on the floor for five days as the movers came, and numerous other minor details.  But the massive test came several days before.  On Thursday December 16th, France made a declaration that the only people from the UK that could come to France were those with a “compelling reason,” this meant residents, French citizens, or those travelling for a funeral.  I was going to be a new resident, would that count? 

         We had to think quickly.  My mother had flown from the US to assist with the move. Decisions were made for her to fly back in two days to Philadelphia to not chance it of being rejected into the country.  The taxi driving me and my dogs from the United Kingdom to France cancelled on me without giving any alternatives.  I chose instead of freaking out to think of other solutions, I could freak out later.  I called the taxi company pleading to ride with another family days earlier.  I then phoned my moving company to see if my dogs and me could ride with the boxes to France.  Both said no, but I was eventually able to find a company that assisted with ease. 

         For one week, I lived in shock, mania, and extreme caffenation.  I knew I could do this.  I knew I could empty out a four floor house and squeeze into less than 300 square foot apartment.  I made too many sacrifices to quit now.  And I pushed through. 

         I took the risk and it paid off.  

         In the midst of this, everyone is asking the following questions: 

         What do you want to do first thing when you get there?

Answer: sleep and rest (which works because I have to quarantine for 48 hours)         

         Do you speak French?

                                     Answer: No, but I will learn.

         Do you know anyone?

Answer: Acquaintances, but I will meet people in my French classes.

How does it feel to be here? 

                                     Answer: relief, joy, and gratitude.  

And so it is…

Whatever dream that is pulling at your heart, know it’s possible.  Adversities will arise, but so will angels to help you out.

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” Joseph Campbell