The plan was simple. Go to Paris for two weeks so you can spend the first week doing all the irresistible tourist stuff you can’t not do no matter how many times you come here. (And yes it takes a full week just to do the minimum.) Normally my husband and I hit all the sights and museums and then drag ourselves exhausted and bleary-eyed back onto the airplane when the week’s up to head back to our daily round and life back home.
Not this time baby.
This time I was smart.
I booked us—for the first time since our honeymoon 25 years ago—two weeks in Paris. Yesterday we finished the first week of walking everywhere in town. (Fitbit claims we averaged 13K steps a day. If only exercise was so effortless back home!) We’ve hit every chocolate shop, stuffed down pain au chocolat at every boulangerie on every corner–even when we weren’t hungry—(what’s hunger got to do with it?) and made lunch a bigger deal than Henry VIII in his great hall.
We went back to the old haunts so we could reminisce (“Oh! Remember when John Patrick was little and he fed the sparrows here in front of Notre Dame?”) and to visit favorite restaurants and neighborhoods for that sense of familiarity and—in the case of Paris—awe.
So now we’re ready to be normal.
Except I’m not sure, after three years of the kind of work schedule both my husband and I’ve had, if we know what that means. My first inclination is to say, “Let’s look it up on Google! I’ll type in normal and see what we get.” That got us nowhere. (Although I’m glad to report we’re nowhere near normal.)
But one thing I knew was that waking up at ten every morning and eating flaky pastries two hours before a gargantuan lunch was not normal. For the last seven days I’ve told myself that a year of tuna salad sandwiches and yoghurt cups await me back home so eating pot au feu TWICE in four days was okay. (Honestly, I still don’t see the problem with it.)
But being normal for this last week in Paris is important to me. While not the reason for the trip (that’s to research my current novel) it is the whole point of coming for two weeks. The second week is the part where we stop feeling like tourists and start feeling like we live here! And eating big heavy lunches every day and a pound of artisan chocolate doesn’t fulfill that—even for a Parisian.
So today I’ll get up early, work for a couple of hours in the morning then wander about the neighborhood just to wander. I’ll go hang out at a café and people watch, and not see a single thing all day that’s famous or is featured on a postcard. I’ll take pictures (covertly) of the every day things that will remind me of this week-as-a-Parisian (because after all I do know my time here is finite and the Florida suburbs await me). I’ll eat when I’m hungry and stay my hand on all the amazing and omnipresent sweets—just like I’d do “normally.”
Instead of endlessly revisiting Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower, I’ll memorize the bones of the beautiful Haussmann apartment buildings that line almost every avenue in every neighborhood I walk through and I’ll watch the faces of the Parisians hurrying by. I’ll concentrate on the fragrance of the coffee in the cafés, the rolling burrs of the natives speaking all around me, and I won’t look at my blasted smart phone once.
Well. Just to get the GPS coordinates to find my way back to the apartment of course. I mean getting lost is fun with you’re twenty years old but I’m wearing very fashionable ankle boots with two-inch heels on cobblestones here. (A lot of things may have changed in Paris since you were here last but trust me on this, Parisian women are not running around Paris in sneakers.)
So wish me luck on being “normal” in Paris this week. I’ll report back as to my success. Who knows? If I can manage it here, I might try it back home too. I mean, that’s the perspective shift we all get from going on vacation, right? The way we can see our lives back home so much more clearly? And then make the changes to fix the things you didn’t even know needed fixing?
Or maybe I’ll just focus on café-sitting and people watching.
That would be good, too.
And of course, it wouldn’t be truly Parisian if I were to eschew all chocolate…