Entries in the paris plan (5)

Thursday
Apr162015

What happens when your plans change?

A couple have friends have commented to me recently that they've been missing this blog.

I admitted to them that I do, too.

But here's the truth: a few things have happened over the past year that have speedbumped me, in a way. And I've been bashful about bringing it here.

Last spring, I moved to Paris for three months with an idea to come back to States refreshed and reinvigorated about living in New York City. I hoped that a set of guidelines I created--dubbed "The Paris Plan"--would put me on the right path toward appreciating my own city again.

That plan didn't pan out as I'd hoped.

Instead, those 15 rules of mine--which included a 9th about "not forgetting the men"--managed to send me back to Paris again. And again. Also again. And will do again this summer. Because I played by my rules, and didn't ignore the guy thing, I met one. A French one, in fact. And now I am finding myself in Paris part-time.

It's weird and awesome. I am smiling a lot. And I don't want to go into the details, since it's a private/personal thing. (I knooooow. But you get it.) Yet I also don't want to avoid writing here, because if you follow me elsewhere--on Instagram, for instance--it's clear, but probably confusing, that I am not in New York all the time.

So I had to say something. Moving forward, I want to say even more--specifically about the challenges and opportunities I am finding shuttling between two countries. I've learned so much about myself and how to conduct my freelance business in the last year. I've become a better traveler. I am paring down the things I own to make space for flexibility. I beginning to learn French. I am learning to cook in a foreign kitchen. I'm just--learning. Open to things. Realizing there's more. In a great place. Or places, that is.

My goal is to be here on a more regular basis and to share a bit of what's up. So you start dropping by a bit more often, too, okay? And let me know if you're ever in NYC or Paris. We can grab a bite or a beverage--I've now got a few decent coffee shops and restaurants we can scope out in the City of Light, and I'll always know where to go in the City That Never Sleeps. Plus, if there's cocktails involved, maybe I'll even give you the dish on my dude. ;)

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.
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.

Friday
Mar212014

Schooled

I'm in mega-learning mode right now, and I am so thankful for my teachers along the way: Lindsey on where to eat in Paris; Kasia on where to shop; Nichole on how to survive it all. And then there are the classes on the REALLY good stuff--French wine and macarons--taught in, le sigh, English. Since I've been here, I've sipped Champagne and Bourdeaux during a wine-tasting class from Wine Tasting in Paris and have learned to make macarons (!) at La Cuisine Paris.

And ooooh lordy. How I rejoiced in being able to understand every.single.word.

For the record, the wine-tasting class was on a boat on the Seine, and the macaron instructor sent us all home with at least a dozen holy-cow-did-we-actually-MAKE-these? treats. I know.

I keep pinching myself. And also the extra inch that may be slowly appearing around my belly. Rules number 5 and 6 in The Paris Plan: IN EFFECT.

 

Tuesday
Mar182014

The Paris Plan: 15 Rules for Living in a City of Light

Last week I mentioned that I put together a list of rules to live by while I'm in Paris. I am slightly nervous to share them--are they weird or obvious or stupid or too personal?--but these three months are all about living a little better and a little braver, so I'm sucking it up and placing them down below.

(It also makes it feel more real if I just put it out there, you know?)

My hope is these guidelines will inspire me to maximize my time here. And when that time is up, maybe they'll even help me shift the way I experience my everyday in Brooklyn.

Let me know if I've missed anything or if you have suggestions!

-The Paris Plan-

1. Create every day, whether it's via writing or taking photos. (Preferably both.)

2. There is Paris outside your window; make sure you don't stay inside too long. Be efficient and realistic, but don't miss out by overthinking your client work or by the inevitable urge to watch the "Game of Thrones" episodes you're missing back home. Winter is coming, but in this case, it can wait.

3. Listen better. Don't let iTunes substitute for the sounds of the city. When you're out, leave the ear buds at home. (Unless you're exercising.)

4. Exercise.

5. Eat. And eat and eat. This is France. Have the butter; try the cheese. Be the woman walking down the street with the fresh baguette.

6. Don't freak out if you gain 5 pounds.

7. Talk to someone in French once a day. Even if it's just to say good morning. Or hello, nice to meet you. Or "Please feed me croissants because I have committed to not freaking out if I gain 5 pounds."

8. Don't totally buy in to the stereotypical Paris fantasy. Live it. Smell it. Taste it. Appreciate what's real around you, and try not to get caught too often in the shadow of big tall towering things. Unless they are men.

9. Don't forget the men.

10. Leave the city on a regular basis. Find out if you miss it.

11. Know these numbers by heart: your passport, your Paris address and cross streets, your Paris phone number, your landlord's cell, emergency numbers.

12. Read literature about where you are. Understand why Hemingway called Paris "A Moveable Feast."

13. Wear the right shoes. Make sure they're comfortable. Walk like you know where you're going, even when you don't.

14. Embrace the unexpected. Because there will be speedbumps, and there will most certainly be cobblestones (and they're even harder to deal with if you aren't wearing the right shoes).

15. Listen, girl. Don't forget that sometimes you need to forget the rules.