Monday, May 25, 2009


OK, I'm back, sitting at the kitchen table, with my 25 days behind me (and god only knows ahead, cf. "jour no. 21"), listening to moody Chet Baker play his moody trumpet, and being very moody indeed.

Actually, I'm moodier than I'd expected. To be honest, I was expecting to enjoy my time in Paris, maybe do a little reflecting on my life and my future, eat some yummy food, and then come back home, ready for whatever's next.

Instead, Paris slowly, over the course of my 25 days, got completely under my skin. In addition to the sheer pleasure the city offers, I also liked the challenge of speaking French (and feeling like I was improving), and I really liked my blog. It gave me a good focus on my experience, and it made me appreciate what each day gave up to me. I'm going to miss it! {Merci beaucoup for your clicks and comments.}

And of course, Paris also represents something, something that I, in my aimless state, am very susceptible to: it represents a life lived with meaning, in beauty, a life lived richly.

Unwisely, on the plane I chose to watch "Revolutionary Road," a movie that I'd initially avoided, but then became curious about as I heard the backlash to its negative reception, and even more curious after I saw the well-received "Reader," which I deeply loathed. I figured, maybe I'd just got my Kate Winslet movies crossed.

At any rate, as many of you know, the plot point for "RR" is that its protagonist (Kate Winslet) wants to escape her typical 1950s suburban life and move her husband (Leonardo DiCaprio) and children to Paris - "to live," as she puts it. Paris is the Shangri-La, the city on a hill, the antidote to the regular-old, garden-variety, 40-hours-a-week life that pretty much all of us figured we were going to avoid, and which pretty much all of us now have - some of us contentedly, god bless you, and some of us, not so much.

Of course (and I really don't think this is giving away anything, since it was all quite clear from minute one), the new life in Paris never happens, and much tragedy ensues.


{last pic: painfully appropriate detail from Rodin's "Porte de l'Enfer" at Musée d'Orsay}


  1. i'm so glad you have posted all of this. it is truly a delight.

  2. thank you for the weblog, I've enjoyed the trip.

    "a life lived with meaning, in beauty"

    meaning you can find anywhere, beauty is harder. I do agree with your perception though: living in the US so often seems to require not just denying an aesthetic sensibility, but
    refuting, negating, and reprehending it.

  3. Douglas, thanks for your note - I'm glad you enjoyed my posts.

    I completely agree that meaning - and even beauty - can be found in many settings. I think what I'm trying to express (both to you, and also to myself) is that Paris *represents* that kind of fulfilled life, somehow, and I want to keep that in mind as a kind of lodestar, as I search for some answers in my life. That's why that damn movie hit me so hard: it showed this kind of search to be a life-or-death issue, with "Paris" as the antithesis of just coasting along, in a seemingly easy life that is ultimately anything but easy.

    oof! maybe we should just talk about pastry...

  4. I found your travelblog via James Wolcott at Vanity Fair and I've loved it. I feel about London as you do Paris, but I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm never going to live in a little cottage in Surrey. Alas.

    I know coming back from trips can be depressing, but it'll work out for you, I'm sure.

    Again, thanks for the lovely blog, the wonderful photography and the to-die-for cuisine on show.

  5. "just coasting along, in a seemingly easy life"

    I grew up in S. Africa during the apartheid years, with more meaning than I could deal with. Escaping to the US was precisely to achieve an easy life or at least a less guilt-ridden life. It's worked mostly; but the inchoate longings for Paris or an English country cottage remain, of course. I can feel homeless anywhere in the world.

    Meantime I console myself with Isabella's quiche, which is the food they eat for breakfast in heaven. She and her husband have just opened a French bakery in a strip mall near us. There you can get perfect croissants and French practice.

    hope you can find a way back to the life of Paris..