Au Revoir to Paris

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.

We decided the best way to approach these last weeks was to have a picnic every day in a different place, that way we’d see all our favourite spots again, and maybe a few new ones. We’d also eat all our favourite French foods with abandon. Chateau Fontainbleau was on my list, Emmanuelle wanted to picnic on the Champs de Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, and Charlotte chose the Paris Plage on Canal Saint Martin where they have erected a zipline over the canal for the summer. (Like Murray, she’s a thrill seeker.)

We went to one last vide grenier under the beautiful Pont Alexandre III and found 12 perfect Cristofle dinner knives to complete our set and a beautiful vintage Hermès wallet for Murray (with not much to put in it at this point). We celebrated with a ½ bottle of Champagne we’d brought home from the Chateau de Pizay in Burgundy (4 Euro if I recall) and had a picnic on the Seine, where blue lounge chairs have been set up by the city.

We organized a treasure hunt in Parc Monceau for the girls and their school friends, which ended at the buvette beside the carrousel. We hosted one last dinner party. For the kids, Murray replicated – perfectly – the compté macaroni-and-cheese that Daniel Bouloud offers at Champeaux. The kids declared it even better. The adults had duck breast and pommes Dauphinoise. I made my last chocolate gateau moelleux from the Monoprix mix that we sent home with almost all of our visitors to Paris, and served it with crème fraiche. Magnums of rosé and an ample cheese course accompanied. Appetizers, like at many French dinner parties, were from the gourmet frozen food chain Picard: Gougères, the little cheesy puffs of choux pastry that are delicious and a hassle to make yourself so why would you?

I took Charlotte through the free collections at the Petit Palais to see Monet’s Sun setting over the Seine one last time, and Murray snagged a ticket to a Paris Saint-Germain soccer match to see the Brazilian superstar Neymar play for the first time.

We lunched on the tiny Boulot mussels that come out this time of year, with a splash of Pastis, and made salads and omelettes with “alumettes,” the matchsticks of bacon we have come to love. We drank French cider that is packaged like Champagne, and bought our croissants and baguettes at L’Atelier du Pain, a new bakery that we decided is even better than Eric Keyser.

While we are sad to leave Paris we know we will come back, especially now that we have good friends here to visit. My final post will go live next week, but I’ll leave you today with the last paragraph of Ernest Hemmingway’s classic A Moveable Feast, which now, as then, sums up what it is to live in Paris as a young family.

“There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.”