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Sunday, August 14, 2011

I dreamed of Paris

I literally 'dreamed of Paris' for the last two years.  At least three nights a week I would have the same basic recurring dream, that I was in France, somewhere near the coast.  Some times it would be with my children, other times with my parents or sisters, even cousins or all.  I would always arrive in the dream knowing that I was in France, looking for a patisserie and then with a panic realizing that I had not yet gotten to Paris and there were only a couple of days left of my trip.  I would then spend the rest of the dream figuring out how to get there by bus or train.  My dreams were clearly telling me that I needed to get to Paris.

Going to Paris was always something that other people did, people who had the financial means, who led exotic lives, lovers on a honeymoon, etc.   Not a newly single mother of a teen and a 20 year old,  living on a modest income, renting a small two bedroom in Vermont.  When the soul speaks it's time to listen.

I decided to answer the call and within one month I had booked three round-trip tickets to Paris and rented an apartment for two weeks.  I let go of the worries about spending the money, a little on a credit card and the rest my year's tax return, c'est la vie.  I was taking my children to Paris to celebrate a high school graduation, a turning 21 and LIFE!  
We arrived to find our little apartment in Montparnasse, just on the border of the 6th Arr., a perfect location not in the center of tourist mayhem but close enough to the central arrondisements to walk.  The apartment was exquisite, a second floor walk-up, compact but perfect.  The owners, who live there when not at their country home outside Paris, were gracious in every way, welcoming us to make ourselves at home and offering suggestions for all that we would want to do and see.  After they left , we danced around, threw open the six foot windows,  and investigated our home for the next two weeks, an authentic Paris apartment. To our surprise, an added bonus, we had a grand view of la tour Eiffel from our bedroom window! At dusk, views of the city in that famous Paris 'rose glow' were equal to any work of art.

 Seeing Paris on foot is the best way to really get to know Paris. We were a ten minute walk to le Jardins de Luxembourg  We ventured out each day and got "lost" down many an alleyway where Paris life slowly revealed itself to us like a trusting new friend.  I fell instantly in love.  The architecture, fabulous structures from Haussmann's renovation of Paris, cafes, shops, parks and gardens captured our hearts. 

Each morning I ventured out to gather breakfast, croissants, pain chocolat, chausson pommes, quiche and baguette.  On Saturday and Wednesday mornings I awoke to the open air market on Edgar Quinet Blvd just outside our door where I would shop alongside the Parisians with their market bags, listening intently as they negotiated with the vendeuses for cheeses, meats, and vegetables with grace and an air of deserving only the best.  I would return to wake the children,  who would sleep until 1pm if allowed, making steaming bowls of cafe au lait to rouse them in to planning the day.  My favorite time of day, cafe au lait in hand ,sitting in the large kitchen window watching the morning activities, the windows beginning to open on the backs of apartments on the courtyard behind (my favorite a large red and white striped curtained window directly across from ours), swallows diving and swirling among the baked orange clay rooftops.  The smells of the patisseries, coffee and summer flowers mingled and danced through my window ,heaven on earth for a francophile Vermonter.