Last year I hosted two guest-post series on France: A Passion for Paris and Beyond Paris. The intent was to have other bloggers living in Paris and around France share their stories about this city and country I love.
This year I am pleased to bring the series back with the participation of some fabulous bloggers. By the way, if I missed contacting you and you are interested in writing for either series, please email me, I'd love to have you!
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I could not think of a more perfect person to inaugurate this year's A Passion for Paris than Amy Thomas. You see, I think our soul was separated at birth! She writes as if she is in a torrid love with Paris, exactly like I do. As Paris is not a mistress that is likely to be monogamous, I am willing to share!
And here is Amy sharing her story.
A Passion for Paris: Le Coup de Foudre
I’ve always likened my passion for Paris to a relationship—that’s what it’s like; a love affair. The City of Light is something I feel in my heart and in my bones. It’s something I carry with me; it has become part of me. When I see photos or films of Paris when I’m not there, I get as weepy as a deprived lover.
And when I am there, basking in her beauty, connecting with her soul, I am affected. I feel inexplicably but profoundly moved. And I have greater jolts of joy! bliss! and wonder! in Paris than anywhere else in the world.
So where does this passion come from? Why do I feel so devoted, so connected, so, so… in love with Paris? Like every great relationship, I suppose it happened in stages.
1993: The First Encounter
I remember hearing an ambulance siren outside the hotel window on my very first day in Paris. I had landed there as a college junior through what was essentially a process of elimination. I had known I wanted to study abroad and simply whittled down my choices; the City of Light was on my list and, voila, suddenly I was there.
That siren’s bleating was the first of a million subsequent feelings of giddiness once I arrived. The sound, and the feeling I got from it, were so different, so distinct—so foreign. It was a rush—I was 20 years old and I was in Paris, France!
There were other modest, but no less exciting, discoveries in those five months. I had never even seen a clementine before, but I practically depleted the marchés on rue Cler of their inventories once I tasted their sweetness. Another edible obsession I came to know was the oozing, buttery flavor of brie—a delicious world apart from the slices of orange American cheese back home.
2001: The Deeper Connection
Eight long years had passed and, though I often flirted with the idea of returning to my love, Paris, I was in an actual relationship in San Francisco. Finally, I persuaded my then-boyfriend to make the trip with me. We departed on September 9, 2001.
Three days later, we stood for a moment of silence inside the Musée d’Orsay, honoring the previous day’s tragedy. It was a sad, surreal week. Every day, we convened at Le Dome—which had been known as the “Anglo-American café” in previous generations—to pour over the international newspapers and piece together the insane story unfolding back home.
But, being marooned in Paris, we also adopted daily routines to try to eke out pleasure. The Raspail Market was right outside our door—the smell of roaster chickens and potato galettes cooking beneath our noses was both consoling and transporting. Across town, we found the most delicious almond croissants on earth. To this day, I wish I knew what boulangerie that had been.
New Year’s, 2008: A Fun Fling
I needed another fix of Paris. Once again, too much time had passed and I was craving Paris’ charm, beauty, and mystery. New Year’s Eve, I figured, would be the perfect occasion to scratch another seven-year itch.
I orchestrated an apartment swap with someone in the 18th arrondissement, giving me a taste of the local life in Paris. I shopped for cheese, bread, and fresh leeks on rue de Levis (See a pattern here? Love Paris, love its food!), drank rich chocolat chaud served by the waiters in long white aprons at Brasserie Wepler and explored the chocolatiers—Patrick Roger, Jean-Charles Rochoux, Michel Chaudun, Michel Cluizel—on my forever-expanding list. The visit was fast and fun and, it turns out, a bit fateful.
Summer 2008: Head Over Heels
All my previous Parisian experiences had been in the fall, winter, and spring months. I knew Paris to be cold, damp, and grey. Going for a summer jaunt, when the sun hung in the sky until 10 p.m. was a revelation. As were the then-nascent Velibs. That week in 2008 turned into an epic summer romance.
Every day, I peddled: from the 13eme to the 10eme. From the 7eme, back to the 3eme, to the 6eme, and all along the Seine’s quais. Biking was the perfect way to counteract my chocolate and pastry binging. By the end of the visit, I had perfected a circuit to all the city’s best chocolatiers, which would go on to be known as the Tour du Chocolat.
2009: The Dream
It was actually in the autumn of 2008 that my dream took root; it was then that the New York ad agency where I was working approached me with an opportunity to go to the Paris office. On the Champs-Elysées. And work on Louis Vuitton. Needless to say, I said oui.
I made my home in the Montorgueil quartier, steps away from the boulangeries, fromageries, and boucheries of this historic market street. I Velib’d around town every weekend, sampling patisseries and new restaurants. I met expats and befriended bloggers and even got to know some locals.
For nearly two years, I was in heaven. But even the best love affairs eventually cool down. And sadly, even after you’ve found The One, things aren’t easy. After nearly two years in Paris, I decided to call it quits and return to New York.
Un coup de foudre is the French expression for a sudden and intense feeling of love. Every time I go to Paris, I experience it. Every phase pulled me in deeper and deeper. So while living the dream in Paris is over for now, I know the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) will have new ways to seduce me in the future.
As an official Sweet Freak and Francophile, Amy Thomas was powerless to say no when the opportunity arose to go to Paris in 2009 and work on Louis Vuitton’s digital advertising. Although she currently lives in New York, she left a little piece of her heart in Paris and still blogs about her glory days of sampling viennoiseries, admiring high fashion, and eating up the expat lifestyle at God, I Love Paris.
Amy’s work has also appeared in the New York Times, National Geographic Traveler and she is currently working on her second book.