My Love Affair with France

My interest in France and French culture became strong in high school.  I took two years of language for college requirements, despite my first choice of French, I was encouraged to take Spanish, so I did.  But I was not satisfied.  I decided to take beginning French my senior year, I had to fulfill my heart’s desire.  The French classroom in my high school was painted and decorated as a French village, so I could not resist signing up for the class.  I felt at home in this class, I loved the sound of the language, and everything I learned about French culture.  I then took beginning French in my first semester of college and followed with another semester, but I struggled.  To this day I do not do well with language, and still have very poor French language skills.  In my high school class, the students had a chance to sign up for a French pen pal, I immediately jumped at this opportunity.  I was very lucky to have connected with my pen pal.  She and I lost touch after college, but found each other again with social media.  I visited her family twice now and am blessed to have a wonderful friend in France, even though it has been difficult to communicate with our language difference.  Dictionaries and phone apps do come in handy.

I had dreams of studying abroad in France, but I stopped taking French classes and focused on my nutrition degree.  I let fear get in the way and was afraid of homesickness and felt I should be responsible and focus on finishing my degree.  Do I wish I did things differently, ABSOLUTELY!  That fear seems to pop up a lot and is a continued struggle.  But that’s another topic.  I knew people who traveled abroad after college, did I do it…no!  Focusing again on other things, while I continued to have this dream of traveling to France.  During the years, I dreamt of living in Paris, or any where in France.  I watched movies related to France, read books, magazines, and looked at any picture I could find of France.  My favorite calendar is 365 Days in France.  A gift from my parents every year.  In my home, I surround myself with treasures, photographs, and books that remind me of France.

Finally visiting Paris in 2008 was a dream come true.  I went on a whirlwind 2 week city tour of Europe with my friend in order of London, Edinburgh, Rome, Prague, Cologne (train layover), and Paris.  Gosh was I excited to get off that train and step outside Gare du Nord and see Paris for the first time.  I was there for 2-3 days but we saw all the tourist attractions we could.  I wasn’t sure I would ever have the chance to go to Paris again so I savored every moment.  I had read about the salon de the (with an accent on the ‘e’)  Angelina.  My friend and I went there for the exquisite pastries and I tasted the most amazing chocolat chaud I had ever had.  Not only did I love Paris, but I loved all the cities in Europe that I had seen, and it sparked the flame that still burns.

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Fast forward to 2012 and I planned a solo trip to Paris.  This trip included a 5 day stay in London, which I love as well, and 3 weeks in Paris.  It was a dream come true again.  Few nights in a hotel in the 7th Arr. and then a studio apartment I booked with Cobblestone Paris Rentals in the 11th Arr.  The apartment was a fabulous decision, it became my home.  I would frequent the boulangerie next door for my morning croissant or pain au chocolat.  I used the laundromat down the street, shopped at the local markets for my groceries, and ate at the lovely cafe’s, bistros, and restaurants in the neighborhood.  I must mention the Restaurant Astier, on the same block as the studio, where I had the most amazing meal, and treated like a queen.  I still think of the baba soaked with rum.  During this trip, I ate all the pastries, chocolate, and macarons I could find.  I drank my share of chocolat chaud.  click here for my Youtube channel and see my Parisian adventures.  Last year I had a fabulous trip to Italy with my cousins, I was able to spend a couple days in Paris and in northern France visiting my friend before my route home.

IMG_0720 View from my Paris studio

Why do I love Paris?  I am caught under the spell.  I love the food, most importantly the cheese, and pastries.  Many people may love the wine, but sad to say I don’t love wine, however I love a kir royale and any champagne.  Paris has it’s share of gorgeous pastry and chocolate shops.  I missed so many wonderful places that I now have discovered on Instagram and I make a note of future places to try.  I love the café culture, I love to sit, drink a café and people watch.  I love to walk for hours down the main streets to narrow roads, and look up at the beautiful Paris architecture.  I love to go in the supermarkets to see what food is available, and the difference from America or pop into the pharmacy and look at all the French skincare products.  I love the fashion boutiques.  I love the outdoor markets.  I love to see what women are wearing, the handbags, the perfume.  I feel elegant in Paris.

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My favorite place in Paris is Jardin du Luxembourg.  In the middle of the city, a beautiful manicured garden, where one can sit in the sun, and stroll along the paths.  I also love Montmartre, I love the quaint shops, cobbled streets, and the garden behind the Sacre Coeur holds a special memory in my heart.

076 Sacre Coeur. Could not find the picture I had of the garden near this

Allure:  the quality of being powerfully and mysteriously attractive or fascinating.  This is what I feel for France.

I have been to Paris and Arras, and a stop in Hendaye, in Pays Basque before travelling to the Spanish Basque country (an area which is more beautiful than I ever would have imagined).  But I want to discover all of France.  I have a desire to be in the culture and see how people live throughout France.  There are many books and blogs that describe the things I love and dislike about France or Paris, and with these I am able to dream about France while enjoying my daily life.

In the 1995 version of the film Sabrina, the character played by the French icon Fanny Ardant says to Sabrina, played by the lovely Julia Ormond, “I found myself in Paris”.   I did too, traveling by myself was something that is hard for me to describe. Excited as I was  I cried in the airport leaving the US as I was scared and I knew I would be homesick.  Luckily, I had a phone and able to speak with my parents, and after that bout of homesickness, I discovered my dream, and the confidence in my being.

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