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.

Wednesday
Mar262014

Old friends and new cities

A new town can suddenly feel familiar once you have your first opportunity to show old friends around.

This week, two important people are here visiting: Sonal, one of my oldest friends, and Karen, my aunt. Although I've been to Paris on previous trips with both of these ladies, it's been a healthy exercise introducing them to the city I am getting to know as a resident. And I know more than I think I do: how to get to the Louvre, what to say-ish to waiter, which butter to buy at the grocer to try and stash home on the plane. They are insights I am starting to feel proud of, and these women are the right audience on which test out my new knowledge. They're supportive and encouraging and positive; I am free to just try with them cheerleading me on.

There is also a small sigh of relief that comes with having them here. There are instant shortcuts in coversations, inside jokes, and immediate understandings when I need to take time away to tackle various work assignments. (Much to my chagrin, I'm not the one on vacation in Paris, you know?) With them, just like that, home is here. As she would in New York, Sonal texts me at the end of the day from her hotel room, and we gossip about Gwyneth Paltrow and How I Met Your Mother and then plan our next dinner. As we all walked through the Musée d'Orsay today, Karen and I reminisced about the many art exhibitions we've attended together over the years, and then caught up on family gossip. (I know. That seems like a lot of gossiping. But like I said...old friends and everything.)

It all frankly has me wondering where or what or who "home" really is. I don't have an answer right now. I don't. Yet I think by having this safety net of dear, know-you-better-than-you-ever-even-realized-it friends who are encouraging me to try just try, I could eventually be on the right track.

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

Tuesday
Mar252014

5 Paris restaurants worth a second visit

I can't stop eating. Here's why.

1. Frenchie To Go: First of all, there's the fact that the word "Frenchie" is part of its name. Yes. Second of all, it serves breakfast items all day. Yes, yes. Third of all, that breakfast includes granola and fromage blanc plus a bacon sandwich that will haunt your dreams. (Get the extra œuf and cheddar, if anything just for the fact that you will get to say "œuf.") (That's "egg" for you non-Frenchies, meaning mostly me.) Oui, oui, oui. 9 rue du Nil, in the 2nd

2. Gyoza Bar: This small, spare restaurant in a classic Parisian passage serves two things: gyoza dumplings stuffed with pork loin, and rice. The price is right, too--you'll get a perfectly portioned meal including a glass of wine for about $20 a person. The bar upstairs is fun, but ask to be seated downstairs at the large family-style table to feel like a super-cool insider. 56 Passage des Panoramas, in the 2nd

3. Le Mary Celeste: If Mary was a real person, I'd bend down on one knee and propose. The small-plates-focused restaurant in the Marais whips up one creative dish after the other (the menu changes daily). You must start with the deviled eggs. And then you will cry tears of joy, hopefully into one of their imported beers or handcrafted cocktails. 1 Rue Commines, in the 3rd

4. Al Taglio: They sell their pizza by weight. And they cut it with scissors. And it tastes really good. I am not sure who really needs more than that, you know? 2 Bis Rue Neuve Popincourt, in the 11th

5. Verjus Bar à Vins: I've been to this wine bar three times in three weeks. That is all you have to know. Now go. 52 Rue de Richelieu, in the 1st

For the record, these are all pretty affordable spots! To find restaurant recommendations, I first consult Lost in Cheeseland and then the New Food Lover's Guide to Paris app--which has been completely worth its $4.99 price tag.

The Paris Plan - Achieved Today: Yeah. This is totally a rule #5 situation.

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