I suddenly realized we had exactly two weeks left of our year in Paris. Our visas would expire, and we’d be personas non gratas in France on August 29. I booked one-way flights to Vancouver for myself and the girls with a sense of wistfulness. I’m very excited to see friends and family back home, but I did run through all the things I still wanted to do. Murray is under less time pressure, as he will stay on for another month on his Irish passport and participate in the grape harvest, the vendanges, in Champagne.
I’ve read dozens of books about Paris this year, and these six are my new favourites.
Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan (translated by George Miller)
Part of the trending auto-fiction genre (autobiography mixed with fiction,) this book was made into a film by Roman Polanski and premiered at Cannes this year. It’s a thriller about a female author who lives in contemporary Paris. One of the most creative and multi-layered pieces of writing I have ever read, where one is never quite sure what is true and what is not. Like me, you may go back and read de Vigan’s entire award-winning oeuvre.
When I first heard that Chantilly was only 25 minutes by train from Paris, my first thought was…whipped cream! Of course there is the famous Château with a painting collection only second to the Louvre, the world-renowned horse races and jumping shows, the rolling green hills, but really, it’s all about the Chantilly cream.
Our list of great quality, good value, healthy –ish, new and fun places to eat with friends and family in Paris right now.
After being here almost a year, our kids have been invited to quite a few birthday parties. What I like about them best is that they are very inclusive and often co-ed, where the entire class (or entire school in one case) is invited.
Chanel Huile de Jasmine Revitalizing Facial Oil
First launched in France, this cult facial oil had so much buzz up to its release in April it promptly sold out. The bottle is beautiful and smells like jasmine. Look for it at Chanel’s new beauty store on the Champs Elysées (about 120 Euros).
“Have you noticed that everyone is taking a cake to work today?” asked Emmanuelle on the way to school. “And everyone is taking a cake home, too?” It turned out to be the Fête de la Galette, a time in January when everyone eats these flakey round cakes and the person who gets the piece with a bean hidden in it is King or Queen for a day. The Fête de La Galette seems to go on and on. I was sweeping crumbs off the kitchen floor for a month.
I get letters from readers around the world asking for advice on their upcoming Paris sabbatical years. Usually they ask about apartment brokers and schools. But the other week I got a letter from a mother in Calgary and she asked, open-endedly, if I had any advice. This is what I wrote her.
"In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language."
- The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain
Murray’s and my French have improved dramatically since we got here but we both make lots of mistakes. Especially me, as I do most of the talking. The French word for misunderstanding is “malentendu,” or mis-hearing. We’ve come to be quite familiar with it.
Airport Arrival Hack
If you are travelling with luggage and/or kids the best way to get to central Paris from the Charles De Gaulle airport is Uber. The drivers hang out at Departures on the lower level, so request one via the app and start moving (take the elevator) as it will be there right away. Cost is 45 Euros versus 65 Euros in a taxi give or take.
The first time I heard the expression “C’est dûr, Paris” (it’s tough in Paris) was from a waiter in a brewpub in Richmond, BC. I was waiting on a kids birthday party at a trampoline park in the middle of nowhere so I wandered over to the nearest restaurant. The waiter had a Parisian accent of all things, and I mentioned that we were moving there in a few weeks. “C’est dûr, Paris” was his response. He’d tried it but couldn’t take it. But boy did he love Richmond, BC!
In France, just as there is a song for everything, there is a time for everything. They even have an expression that translates roughly to “Before the hour, it’s not the hour; when it’s the hour, it’s the hour.” It sounds a bit weird in English but the French take it very seriously.