Now it’s November and Paris is gray and thick. I find myself wading through fog like a little piece of ham, floating in a city that has turned to pea soup. Most days I walk around like I’m living some sort of speechless dream.
When you first run away to Paris, it’s easy to keep running. The whole world is new, and like a child, you are in awe of every cake in the front of bakery windows, and by each tiny car driving on the street. Running from arrondissement to arrondissement, from museum to museum, from friend’s apartment to friend’s apartment, and from typical Parisian sight to typical Parisian sight, pure entertainment comes easy. Your mind never could have imagined the characters you will see at the Marché aux Puces, or that a public park like the Tuileries could have such luxurious reclining metal benches. You might discover a favorite restaurant that serves food from the Basque country, and to your very mature salty-sweet American palette, this will seem très exotique. You’re going to run around in effort to experience, and experience you will.
But then, maybe on day 64 or 65, you’re going to wake up one morning and realize the severity of the fact that this is the longest vacation you’ve ever been on. All vacations are supposed to end and stop happening at some point, but this one is not. Being excited for two months straight, without any time for rest, is tiring, really tiring. But the trip is not over and in fact, it has just begun.
You’ll try and accept the fact that you’re here, for longer than you’ve ever been anywhere. This is when survival mode kicks in, and you begin to try and create a home in this city where there is no word for “home”. You might seek asylum in your chambre de bonne, which although it is really nothing more than a glorified closet, it can be enough to feel grounded in a city where you have no where to really go home to.
You will grow attached to your neighborhood, which, especially if you live in Passy where the average age of resident is probably over 60 in both human and dog years, will surprise you. The constant procession of old ladies carrying baguettes on the street with rolling grocery bags will become part of you. You’ll make sense of living in the sixteenth by imagining that you’re living in a real cultured, Floridian retirement community, with better food, and more buildings made of stone. You will discover the Bois de Boulougne and its lakes, hills, paths, big trees, boats, birds, and serenity. It can be all yours on a cold day and finding a secret path in the forest that crosses the Autoroute will make you feel like you’ve really discovered something, and you have; it is your experience of Paris.