Seeing Paris through young eyes

Me at age eleven with my very-quotable father. At the Frankfurt Zoo.

Me at age eleven with my very-quotable father. At the Frankfurt Zoo.

My father had a very cool saying (one of many, trust me) that basically said “Paris should be seen through young eyes.” I don’t think he meant nine years old but that’s how old I was when I first saw Paris. Even though my folks took me to Paris several times during my childhood (my father was in the USAF and we were stationed in Europe in the mid-sixties) and I always felt an indelible connection to the city, I never went back as a young woman.

I don’t know why I didn’t. I had friends who went right after college but I never found myself thinking Oh, I should do that too! And that was odd because I defined myself as a Francophile from a very young age. We lived in a village in Alsace-Lorraine and I attended school in the village convent school, so when I returned to the States I always took all-things-French as my thing. Which is why it was so weird that all throughout my young adulthood—through moves and careers switches and various boyfriends—I kept Paris as my internal magic place…the place I imagined I’d l someday live when real life settled down—but never went.

When my husband and I married and talked about having kids, we always painted a picture of throwing the little fellow in a backpack and moving to Europe. My husband actually did live in Europe when he was a young man. He did see Europe through “young eyes,” Paris included. But as for tossing babies in backpacks and heading out to live an expatriate life of adventure, stepchildren, mortgages, aging parents and careers kept the concept firmly in fantasy realm.

I suppose if I’d REALLY wanted it badly enough I could somehow have made it happen. I wrote a book in 1992 called “Quit Your Job & Move to Paris” where I researched how it might be done. Like a lot of things—here comes another quote from my dad—I took the thought for the deed—and that satisfied me well enough such that I didn’t have to rip up my life (or need to talk my husband into ripping up his too) and actually move to Paris.

I had an expatriate experience in my early thirties—young enough that I wasn’t too set in my ways but still not really young—and coming back to the States after two years in New Zealand felt like taking off a hat that was three sizes too small. As much as I loved the experience and am eternally grateful for having had it, living overseas was harder than living here. (And that was in a (largely) English-speaking country!)

The door to my next adventure!

The door to my next adventure!

Which brings me to the present. It seems life has settled down somewhat and the roadblocks to moving to Paris have budged at least a little. I still have an aged parent I don’t feel I can abandon. Plus, I’m a little aged myself these days which brings with it its own level of hesitancy. (Bathrooms—location and cleanliness—matter more to me than when I was right out of college.) Also, while it’s true my son no longer requires my attention the way he did, I’m not yet at the point where I can comfortably live an ocean away from him—not for longer than a few months anyway.

But there is presently a bit of a gap through which I can see a possibility where moving to Paris might still be in the cards for me. Which is why I’m throwing hesitancy to the wind and finally doing it.

I’m  moving to Paris.

For a month.

Well, okay, not quite a month. In fact, just over two weeks. Not a life-changer. Doesn’t require visas or house sitters back home. But it’s as close as I can get—maybe ever—so I’m not waiting. It’s already too late for the “young eyes” thing. I don’t want to be looking into websites touting wheelchair access in Paris ten years from now.

A nutritious and healthy breakfast every single morning I'm there...!

A nutritious and healthy breakfast every single morning I’m there…!

Two weeks is better than nothing. And next time as God is my witness (as Scarlett used to say) it’ll be four.

I’m going to live in Paris with a boulangerie down the street that will become my boulangerie for fifteen full days. The ladies at the neighborhood Tesco will recognize my face, my body will memorize the steps to the Gallerie Lafayette (or Ladure!) and the Tuileries. I’ll write while I’m there, bien sur! I’m scheduling a big Maggie Newberry mystery for autumn—and setting it in Paris—so that I can walk in Maggie’s steps, imagine dead bodies bobbing up in the Seine as I walk alongside it each morning, and observe blatantly suspicious-looking Frenchmen plotting murders as they hunch over their morning cafés.

Hoping to find a favorite neighborhood café during my stay in Paris!

Hoping to find a favorite neighborhood café during my stay in Paris!

Sound good?

I can’t wait.



11 thoughts on “Seeing Paris through young eyes

  1. You are never too old to see something through young eyes. It isn’t our age that makes us young or old. It is how we choose to experience things. Children look at the world with wonder and imagination. Sit low on a step, think as a small child might, looking at crumbling cement and tracing the cracks slowly with your fingertips. Lay in the grass, look thru the tree branches, and imagine the clouds as your own new world. Spot a caterpillar (or pretend you have) and become it as you wrap yourself in an invisible cocoon and imerge as a butterfly able to flit where you choose. Butterflies live a whole lifetime in a month. Enjoy your flight!

  2. I follow a couple of Paris photobloggers. One lives in Birmingham Alabama, but each year goes for two or three weeks and sees the city and takes a year’s worth of photos in the process.

    • I wonder does he/she go at the same time of year? If I could go three weeks every year, I think I’d be tempted to hit each of the seasons. Or maybe not. Maybe it’d feel more like home to go the same time. My new goal…

      • In case my previous comments didn’t go through, check my blogroll. There are three of them for Paris. ParisDailyPhoto wrapped up its run after ten years. Paris And Beyond and Paris Through My Lens are active daily. Virginia runs the last of those, and she varies her visits to Paris, while also doing a Birmingham photoblog.

  3. An adventure in Paris is always amazing. And you seem to be quite young at heart, even if your body doesn’t agree with you (don’t you wish it would? Gosh wouldn’t that be something!) I have a feeling you are going to enjoy Paris even more now than ever before because you are young at heart and yet have the wisdom of experience!

    • That is a great attitude and POV, Sahar. And you’re right, of course. It wouldn’t occur to me to do much shopping in the food markets at twenty years old…so there’s that! And I’ll likely save a fortune NOT shopping in the boutiques. Altho, honestly, I’ll still shop there. 🙂

  4. It is wonderful that you can spend a whole month in Paris! That way you’ll explore the culture and people and probably find the answer why you didn’t want to go there earlier! It doesn’t matter what age are you when you feel excited when moving abroad! What is important at the end of the day is the satisfaction of the present moment! Greetings

  5. I am in the middle of a three-week stay in Nice with a dozen college journalism students, and their “younger eyes” seem to be trained inward. Their focus is mostly on the beach and taking selfies in a city full of beautiful visuals, amazing food and wonderful stories, but we are coaching them to look outward more. I think it is working. The bounty and beauty of France is good for travelers of every age. Thanks for the post. Our students are posting their work at

  6. I loved hearing this! It puts a whole different–but entirely believable–twist on what I always thought. And it comforts me, too since I missed the boat on seeing France “thru young eyes.” I checked out some of the blogs your students are doing and really enjoyed them. It’s true the kids may be more focused on their handhelds than looking outward than they would’ve been twenty years ago but they’re clearly “getting” it where it counts. Thanks for writing!

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