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The Paris Plan:

1. Create every day.

2. There is Paris outside your window.

3. Listen. (No earbuds!)

4. Exercise.

5. Eat.

6. Don't freak if you gain 5 lbs.

7. Speak French daily.

8. Don't buy into the fantasy.

9. Don't forget the men.

10. Leave the city sometimes.

11. Know your numbers.

12. Read lit about Paris.

13. Wear the right shoes.

14. Embrace the unexpected.

15. Sometimes forget the rules.

Monday
Apr142014

#9, Les Hommes

I'm going to be honest here.

No matter how hard I try to emphasize to folks that my Paris Plan is about creativity and connecting and exploration and growth, all most people really want to hear about is one thing:

Rule #9. The guys.

And alriiiiiiight. It's kind of embarrassing to me and sort of personal, but I get it. I mean, after all, one of Paris' many nicknames is "The City of Love," right? Also, I do realize the questions and comments I hear are often about people projecting their fantasy of what dating might be like here, of all places on the planet. (Although, as I am learning, those comments and questions are not too unlike those I get about being single in The City That Never Sleeps.) (P.S. Is this all Carrie Bradshaw's fault??)

I've been writing on this blog for almost five years, and although relationships have come and gone since then, I've never made it a habit to discuss them in this space; I think it's only fair and appropriate for all parties involved. In the case of Paris, though, I will make a slight exception and share some general info. I get asked quite often, so it's clearly of interest! [Insert blushing-smiley-face-emoticon-thingy or whatever here to visually convey geniality mixed with slight discomfort.]

So, listen, #9 does happen to me...#9 is never actually a problem. Overall, it's been fun to date in Paris. The differences are this: dates seem to include a LOT of walking--around the city, in parks, on the streets--for MANY hours. There is less drinking of alcohol, and more drinking of coffee. There is more taking in of views, and more time spent outdoors. There are more displays of affection, and they are taken more seriously. (For example, a first kiss is a HUGE deal, and it is not rushed.) (I think that's nice, actually.) You will be expected to TRY to speak or at least repeat some words in French. And you will be gently corrected when you screw it up, which I inevitably always do. You have to be a bit more flexible in that nothing is planned too, too far in advance. That means you just have to go with it; if you're a Type A, you simply have to shift to Type C+ to keep things rollin'.

There are several (several!) things I haven't completely figured out yet. (And yes, I will admit that, for reference, I recently re-watched the Sex and the City episode called "The Ick Factor"--the one where there's a fainting spell outside the opera, remember?) Yet there are lots and lots of articles in the world that talk about what it's like date a French man, so that "helps." (Who knew? I didn't.)

The one thing I am confident about, though, is the same thing applies here as it does in the States. To make it work, you need to be armed with a willingness to communicate and the ability to be vulnerable. Also helpful? The guts to ask questions--even if it means you have to occasionally consult Google Translate, or, God help us, Carrie Bradshaw.

The Paris Plan - Achieved Today: Rule #9.

Tuesday
Apr082014

Things that are bonnie

One good thing about being in Paris (other than the fact that you're in Paris) (okay, I know) is that you can easily leave it to visit the UK.

I spent the last weekend in Aberdeen, Scotland, visiting my dear friend Dawn. Part of me thought I'd blather on here about how I felt inspired by the dramatic landscape and the moody granite-stone architecture and the history of a castle we visited. But I'm just gonna be real, y'all. Here's what we really did:

Dawn has five kids. F-I-V-E.

At the same time, she's in medical school. M-E-D-I-C-A-L  S-C-H-O-O-L.

In the middle of her no-nonsense schedule, she made time for us to sit down and catch up. We drank coffee and tea. We ate a meal made by her husband. We washed dishes. We watched "Frozen" with her wee lass. We joked with her three big boys; we cooed over her infant one. We went to the store. She turned her head while I loaded the cart with too many Cadbury chocolates (a by-product of a time I lived in London). And on the way to the airport, we dropped by Crathes Castle for lunch.

She did it all with grace and humor and complete take-chargedness. And dang if she didn't look good the whole freakin' time.

I seriously didn't need people in kilts or rolling emerald hills to find inspiration in Scotland.

The Paris Plan - Achieved Today: Rules #6 and 10.

Monday
Apr072014

New friends, and feeling less lost

This post is in response to one written by Lindsey Tramuta, creator of Lost in Cheeseland, and my new real-life friend.

If you've read my Paris Plan--the 15 rules I created to guide my time in a City of Light--you'll notice there's a comment at the bottom from Susan Hutchinson, creator of Fleurishing and also my new real-life friend. She wrote:

"Love them all...and I have one to add. #16 Make new friends. Done and done."

Susan noticed, and maybe you did, too, that none of my Paris Plan rules include anything about friends. Sure, I mean, it briefly acknowledges dudes. (And also making friends with all sorts of food...maybe even too much on that.) But when I wrote that list before I left New York, I didn't really give "new friends" a second thought.

Three months in Paris--with lots of time spent with my between-countries roommate Nichole and with several girlfriends and colleagues coming to town--didn't seem like an opportunity to form meaningful new friendships. I didn't think it would be a thing. I'm such an independent traveler, and besides that, I've lived happily alone in NYC for forever. I had no inkling there would be time to get lonely. And hey, in between visits from folks, there would be baguettes and chocolates and strolls along the Seine with my camera quietly in tow, right? I am someone who needs downtime, right? Being apart from others reinvigorates me, right?

Wrong. Nope. Not right. No. I instead found the total, total opposite.

There is a surprising aloneness that comes with not understanding the everyday language around you. It is startling. If I was here for a longer length of time, I'd be diving into an intensive French language course--full on, all in. By not having the ability to completely express my needs to my neighbors or my grocer or to the child zooming at me on his scooter, absent-mindedly aiming for my foot, I am not fully able to take care of myself. I feel intensely vulnerable on a regular basis.

It's not a familiar role for a professional communicator who is adept at fending for herself.

Despite it all, however, new friends have found me. Through the magic of long-standing social media connections and Nichole's generous in-person introductions, I have met an impressive and gracious group of women. And yes, yes, they all speak French in addition to English. And yes, yes, they all take care of me when they're around. But yes, yes, and whatever, whatever, these are all genuine friendships I intend to keep well after Amy's Paris Escapade: Spring 2014 turns into Amy's Back in Brooklyn: Summer 2014.

Their invitations to dinner parties and brunches, how-are-you? texts, and larger French vocabularies have become a soft place for me to fall. But more than that, I'm beginning to realize they're actually teaching me a larger, much-needed lesson.

I am at an age where friends are married, having kids, and moving beyond New York. I, on the other hand, am moving to Paris with my camera. It's simply who I am--a traveler who is not settled, a "child of the world" as a cousin once called me. Part of me choosing to go freelance in 2012 was so I could get back in touch with that side of me--to have the flexibility to do things like move to Europe on a whim. But, in all honesty, what held me back was the idea that people in new cities wouldn't be looking for new friends--that their spouse or kids or long-term BFF would simply suffice. Does anyone at this point really have the time or the room or the need?

Whether they know it or not, my Parisian friends are showing me much more than how to ask the waiter for the check or how to order a bigger slice of cheese. They are showing me that this is possible. That moving neighborhoods or cities or countries doesn't have to be something you do alone, even if you are doing it alone. You just have to speak up, and say the word.

The Paris Plan - Achieved Today: Rules #1, 8, and Susan's #16.
Sunday
Apr062014

5 places to enter a croissant coma in Paris

Yeah. You just gained two pounds looking at these pics. Here's where to do it in person in Paris:

1. 134 RdT: When Sonal was in town, she spearheaded a croissant crawl, which should tell you a lot about why Sonal and I are friends. We found this award-winning pick to have crispier, flakier edges than most, with smooshy-soft insides. (Its photo is at the top of this post.) 134 Rue de Turenne, 75003

2. Boulangerie Julien à Paris: Oh, such a perfect crescent-shaped specimen! (Middle photo up there--check it. It's so pretty...doesn't it seem like someone should paint it, using, like, watercolors or something?) This was our favorite pick of the pack. Exactly what you want in your butter croissant--not TOO flakey, but flakey enough. 24 Rue Saint-Martin, 75004

3. Boulangerie L’Essentiel Mouffetard: You will have a hard time choosing just a croissant--everything is beautiful in this space. But you'll be glad you did. It would probably be perfect just out of the oven! (Now how do we figure out when that happens?) 2 Rue Mouffetard, 75005

4. Stohrer: Our neighborhood pastry shop, introduced to me by Nichole when I walked in our apartment for the first time: she welcomed me with the legendary store's blow-your-mind-OMG-you're-in-Paris tarte aux framboises. I've been there so many times since that the clerks now recognize me. (Oh, bonjour, yeah, moi again.) Their pitch-perfect chocolate croissant makes me smile a thousand smiles. Next on my list: their famous éclair. 51 Rue Montorgueil, 75002

5. Du Pain et des Idées: Disclaimer: I've actually not been here yet, but I keep reading more and more about this joint and am d-y-i-n-g to go. Check out their site--there seems to be some sort of rose croissant concoction and a green tea situation happening. And that means me + des Idées is also totally happening in the VERY near future. 34 rue Yves Toudic, 75010

 

As always, for restaurant recommendations, I visit Lost in Cheeseland and Paris by Mouth. I also often use the New Food Lover's Guide to Paris app--a steal at $4.99. Worth it!

The Paris Plan - Achieved Today: Rule #6, obviously.

Monday
Mar312014

The Left Bank at rest

It was a sleepy, spring-y Monday.

The Paris Plan - Achieved Today: Rules #1, 2, 4, 13.

P.S. Inspired by a suggestion from Kristin Appenbrink, I'm now including a short version of the Paris Plan in the sidebar on the right. Thanks, KApp!

Thursday
Mar272014

Cheeky chairs

The green aluminum seats that beckon visitors to rest in Paris' public gardens seem to have a personality of their own. A modern reinterpretation of the original chairs created in the 1920s for the Jardin du Luxembourg, the designs are by Frédéric Sofia and are available through Fermob.

(The lazy, low-slung armchair is especially tempting.) (Do you think people ever steal them?) (I mean, I am NOT implying that I would ever do such a thing.) (But I do want to point out that I have a really big suitcase and I am AMAZING when it comes to packing a bag. Like, AMAZING.)

The Paris Plan - Achieved Today: Rules #1, 2, 13.