Six months ago we heaved our luggage, for the final time, down the narrow and steep spiral staircase of our temporary little home in the beautiful city of Paris. We rolled our suitcases onto our little cobblestone side street, adjusted our backpacks, took one final glance at our favorite cafe, and began our journey home.
Here we are in January and I never really “finished Paris”. During the last few days of our stay, I disappeared from blog land and was never heard from again. I understand this makes me somewhat of an unreliable travel writer and I’m sure I won’t be hired by the Travel Channel anytime soon. However, I feel my reasons are justified. Simply I was devouring Paris. Eating it up, one incredible morsel at a time.
After Paris, we returned home to NJ and traded our new European lifestyle for our real life. No more croque monsieurs in the Tuileries on a lazy afternoon or multiple hours at a cafe sipping espresso. Our strolls down busy city streets and through perfectly landscaped parks were now history. Our plane landed, our busy teaching careers resumed, and our view of the world was forever changed.
Paris does that to people.
We eat less. We walk more. We bought an espresso machine.
We don’t speak loudly in restaurants and we are a little snobby when it comes to the quality of our bread.
Yes, life post Paris has been full of revelations…
Like getting over the “everything is better in NJ” complex…
I will admit a Jersey Girl cannot go long without some comforts of home. Therefore, on the night we returned to America, my mother-in-law responsibly placed an Italian sub in our refrigerator so that it would be ready and waiting upon my arrival. Of course, always thinking ahead when dealing with food, I arranged for this prior to leaving Paris. It was all I could think about on the flight home. I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into a Jersey sub. I was salivating thinking about the familiar taste of bread soaked in oil and vinegar. But something crazy and unexpected happened. I ran into the house, unwrapped the sub, bit in, and wondered why the bread tasted stale. It was hard and tough to chew. Paul thought the same. And then we realized it. French bread ruined the Jersey sub roll for us. My whole life I was under the impression that bread in NJ reigned supreme.
This is when I realized Paris is powerful stuff. It can tone down a Jersey girl and all her views on Jersey bread.
Or the American “all-you-can-eat” attitude…
Every time I see the advertisements for the Endless Shrimp at Red Lobster I cringe. When I was 15 or so, my friend Jessica and I drooled over those over-played shellacked shrimp commercials and one day treated ourselves to the most immense shrimp dinner you could ever imagine. We had shrimp fried, grilled, stuffed, skewered, you name it. It was intense and like they promised, endless. I remember staggering out of the place feeling bloated, nauseous, and downright disgusting. I believe I woke up the next morning with a shrimp hangover. I’m surprised I can even look at shellfish today and no, I haven’t been to Red Lobster since.
In Paris, endless is ridiculous (unless you are referring to wine or cheese). Portion sizes in France are much smaller than in America. Order a single plate of food here and you could probably feed a family of five. Order the same plate of food in France and you’ll feed yourself. No doggy bag necessary.
In Paris, Paul and I ate good food in small quantities and never ever felt deprived or hungry. When you do this for a month, your taste buds adjust, your stomach shrinks, and your eyes are no longer bigger than your appetite. You start to actually taste food. It is more flavorful and definitely more satisfying.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not “forgetting where I came from” or claiming that Paris is perfect. I’m just saying Paris changed me. It changed us.
If you only stay in one place and surround yourself with the same things, you’ll never see beyond your own village. But if you venture outside your comfort zone and give it a go at living across an ocean, in a land totally different from your own, you see outside yourself. You realize your way isn’t always the best way or the only way.
Until we meet again Paris. For now, you’ll always live in me. In us…
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast”-Ernest Hemingway