Saturday, January 19, 2008

Paris, I Knew You Well


There was a time in my life, too many years ago, when Paris meant France and France meant Paris.

As a French teacher in the USA in the 1980s, I took a number of trips to France, including a 6-week stay in Paris on a Rockefeller Foundation Grant. My French stays always included at least a week in la capitale -- and preferably many more. By 1989, I felt much more at home in Paris than Seattle, even though the Emerald City was only 60 miles from my home town.

Sure, I had visited parts of la province, all of which somehow felt parenthetical compared to the big city.

I had even spent four months as a student at the now-defunct "Stanford in Tours" campus -- only a few hours from Paris by train, by the way, even before the TGV. In those heady days of Eurail Pass train travel, my friends and I would sometimes "hop up" to enjoy a Parisian dinner. We would leave Tours at about 5pm, get to Paris just in time to eat, and catch a midnight-ish train back.

I moved to France in 1990, with visions of Paris dancing in my head. Not that I necessarily wanted to set up house and home there... but if I had spent months in Paris while living in the USA, I was certainly going to be heading there all the time...wasn't I?

Or was I?

What do you think?

16 comments:

spacedlaw said...

Not likely. It's quite a way away from where you are...

Randal Graves said...

Yet it's close enough that it's not a cross-continental journey whenever you need your Paris fix.

wcs said...

Paris, like New York, or Sydney, or Hong Kong, are the center of some universe.

But, as I have come to understand, there are many universes out there with many centers.

Wherever you are is the center of your very own universe. And it's really kind of cool when you realize it.

Paris is my favorite city. It's followed closely by many other cities I know and have lived in.

But my universe is here, in a lost town in the middle of France. At least for now. And I'm in the center of it.

Betty C. said...

wcs -- The feeling you described was, in a way, what led me to start writing about Aveyron. And yet...

Anyway, a lot of interesting comments arecoming in on this post, which actually has only scratched the surface of what I've been thinking since a one-day business trip to Paris last week.

I'll add more when I've heard from more of you -- thanks for the remarks so far.

Alisa said...

Paris is France to most people in the US, but after visiting many other regions I have found that there are other cities just a great as Paris - Toulouse for example. I think once you branch out and see other areas you realize that yes Paris is a beautiful city, but there are other amazing cities in France too. And I have found that once I explored different regions Paris is too big for me...I love the smaller villages. Of course, I live in Los Angeles!

Bolder said...

Every time I go to Paris, I fall in love with it again... and with France for that matter. It reminds me of so many things I once dreamed about when I dreamed of France. But as always happens, what once was a dream becomes day to day life, and we don't always get around to keeping in touch with what was once so important.

I seem to get to Paris less and less.. but did just book a flight for the Salon d'Agriculture in a month!

Colleen said...

I love Paris, but - like the posts above - there is more to France than Paris. I get a little peeved when people automatically think I want to live in Paris..(Don't know why..hhmmm) Though fabulous, there are so many other places in France that have that, well, je ne sais quoi.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

As you know from reading my blog, I'm into OTHER places than Paris. But, I do appreciate it for what it is....and appreciate other places in France for what Paris is not. Wow, does that make any sense now that it exited my brain? haha!
Anyhow, I find the "real" France to be outside of the touristy center arrondissements of Paris.
It's late, I better go to bed ;)

katiez said...

When we moved to Andorra (from Ireland) we used to do an annual spring weekend in Paris - it took us about 12 hours to get there. Now that we're 4 hours away... never!

sarala said...

Hey, I did Stanford in Paris. When were you there? I was at Stanford from 1979-1983 and was in Paris from Fall 82-Winter 83. I loved every minute. Did you major in French?

Betty C. said...

Soacedlaw -- No, I don't get there often, but there is a direct train line from Rodez. So I really don't have any excuses except the usual (time, money, organization...) As Randal said, of course I could get up there more often -- if I got my act together!

To wcs, alisa, Colleen, C. Café -- of course there's much more than Paris in France! I've built my whole life around that fact! It's just I feel that somehow I have neglected the Paris part.

Katie -- You definitely know where I'm coming from!

This may merit a second post as I still feel I have more to say about the subject; Thanks for al the comments.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Il y a Paris, et puis il y a la France.

Mais Paris, c'est aussi la France.

That's what they used to say...

Pardon My French said...

Funnily enough, I never wanted to live in Paris. It's a wonderful city, great to visit...but I'm a country girl at heart. Now it's looking like I'll stay around here longer than I thought...

Terina said...

the majority of time i spent in france was not in paris. i have only been to paris 3 times. i wish i knew the city better. but i have learned to love orleans, pau, limoges, and even angouleme. i had to ride a bike over all of those darn hills. there is so much more to france than just paris. i feel very at home in france too. i feel way more confident finding my way around there, than i do here in NC, where we just moved. i would take france anyday...

maitresse said...

les provines, paranthetical? eh non... I live in Paris and love it beyond all rational explanation, but it's France-- la France profonde-- qui garde mon coeur. If my boyfriend said let's buy a house and go live in the country I'd do it in a nanosecond.

As long as we could keep our pied à terre in the 5e :)

Betty C. said...

Maîtresse -- I think that would be the best of all possible worlds!