Love Letter to Paris


To my beautiful, magical, wonderful City of Light:

I’ve felt a sadness sneaking into my days over the last few weeks. It’s in the background, this melancholy, like a lingering goodbye. I wander the streets of Paris and think about the things I will miss most about this magnificent city that I have loved.

Of course, I will miss the light. Paris is the City of Light, after all. There’s a softness to the violet-blue of the day, and a gorgeous tinge of pinkness that starts to take over at the end of the afternoon. By sunset, everything turns an almost violent orange and pink. And then, after twilight the sky turns indigo. It’s a beautiful, tranquil, dark blue that reminds me of a big, old blanket. And all the street lights flick on in the evening, creating brilliant stars of white light along the streets and boulevards. This city feels magical, no matter the time of day.

Without a doubt, I love the people more than anything else. My husband and I have the best neighbors we’ve ever had in our lives. We’ve been to dinner at each other’s homes more times than I can count. We kind of alternate, back and forth, but each time, the meal centers around the beautiful wines that Olivier and Miriam bring over. We talk and laugh, and we enjoy each other’s company. Even the teenaged boys, Antoine and Nicolas, cancel their plans when we decide to have dinner together. This, in my opinion, is a modern day miracle: no iPods, iPads or cell phones whipped out at the table. Just all of us, talking and laughing together for hours. It has been a wonderful year, sharing the floor of our building with this beautiful family.

I don’t know where we’d be without our best friends here: Florence and Pascal. They are the most loving couple I’ve ever met. And they are not only loving with each other, but with us as well. We cherish our time with them. Pascal and Leon share a passion for vintage cognacs and they always manage to end our evenings together with a glass of something spicy and special. Florence is amazing. She’s a supermom to all of her children while working full-time and making everything look effortless. The time that I have together with Florence is time that I cherish. She is truly a kindred spirit. The thought of leaving her always brings tears to my eyes.

Then, there are the guys at Mon Bistrot. Yann, the chef and co-owner, is a mad genius of the culinary arts. Franck, the other owner, runs the front of the house and always slips us a little something wonderful from the bar at the end of the meal. Julien is our waiter. We don’t even have to ask for him. Everyone just knows that we MUST have Julien. He is like our lucky charm, and we love him. Leon and I have even had Julien and his beautiful wife to dinner at our place. And Etienne is Julien’s partner in crime, helping keep every table on track and happy. These four men make up the magic of our favorite restaurant in all of Paris, and I consider them “my guys.” I am going to miss my guys terribly when we leave this afternoon.

I have this friend Lucy, who works at our favorite boulangerie, Julien’s. This darling girl gave me French lessons every time I came into the shop when I first moved here. Even now, when she sees me, she squeals, starts waving and gives me kisses — one on each cheek, very French.

My other beautiful shop-friend, Serap, works at the corner Monop where I buy my groceries. She and I always greet each other with kisses. Every time we see each other, my day is automatically better by at least 20%. When the terrorists attacked last November, I didn’t see her for almost a week. I was so worried that something awful had happened either to her or someone she loved. When we finally saw each other, she came out from behind the counter to give me a long hug. She whispered into my ear that she had been so worried about me. I’ve loved her ever since.

I’m also going to miss these two homeless men that I bring lunch or dinner to every couple of days. They each have beautiful, well-cared for dogs that they love with all their hearts, which is, of course, what made me start to care so much for them. Now, whenever I walk by, their eyes light up, and they get big old smiles on their faces as they pop out a happy “Bon jour, madame! Comment ça va?” and we chat for a bit as we pet each other’s dogs. One time, I only had one of my dogs with me because Molly was down with back pain. One of my guys asked where she was. I told him that Molly was at the vet — that her back was very bad. For weeks afterward, he took special care with Molly whenever he saw her. He would pet her gently and speak soothingly to her. And he would always, always ask me how she was doing. I love these guys. I’m going to miss them, more than I ever imagined was possible.

There is a gentility to the people here, a graciousness and formality that is respectful and intimate at the same time. Just the ritual of looking into each other’s eyes and saying “Bonjour” whenever you encounter someone on the street, in a shop, wherever. It creates a connection from one person to the next that makes you feel…part of the world. I know it’s a small thing, but it has huge repercussions. Trust me. I’ve seen it work its magic over and over. There is a connectedness here that I don’t feel anywhere else.

Aside from the people though, I think the thing I will miss the most is the amount of life you have in your life here. In Texas, each weekend was devoted to shopping at five different grocery stores in order to throw a dinner party. It was a lot of work, and while it was fun to see our friends, we were usually busy most of the day and night with prepping, cooking and cleaning up. That was pretty much what we did every week. Not a lot of rest during your weekends that way. By comparison, here in Paris every weekend feels like a vacation. And there’s so much to experience here. So many “souvenirs” — treasured memories I’ll take with me.

Fireworks at the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day are unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like them. Bastille Day fireworks are a “day-long, into the night” party! In the afternoon, people start setting up picnic dinners on the great lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower (aka: the Champs de Mars). Everyone drinks wine and waits for the darkness. In the meantime, an orchestra starts playing a concert at the base of the tower that begins at sunset. The music helps pass the time before the fireworks display. Once those fireworks begin, even the biggest cynic on earth starts to believe in magic. The fireworks are synchronized to the music played by the live orchestra. And the most amazing part? The fireworks aren’t just set off in the sky. No way. The fireworks for a full 40-minute concert have been loaded onto the Tower itself so the fireworks shoot off of her, in spirals, with words, in rhythmic patterns. It’s like the Dancing Waters at the Bellagio Hotel, only with fire AND colored flames. It leaves you at once breathless and screaming. No one does fireworks like the French on Bastille Day. No one.

I adore the Musée de l’Orangerie with Monet’s grand canvases. And our afternoons in the Tuileries will be lovely memories, just sitting by the fountain with our feet up, staring over at the Musée D’Orsay. Being a tour guide at the Louvre, for friends and strangers alike has been great. I’ve loved going to church at Notre Dame Cathedral, and then strolling over to Quartier Latin for fondue.

Of course, the architecture is as breathtaking as everything else. It is so special, so uniquely feminine with its curving wrought iron balconies and the rounded buildings everywhere you look. Just walking down the block makes you feel as though you’re on vacation.

Since the landmark Arc de Triomphe is in our back yard, we are there almost every day for one reason or another. It’s only about a 10-minute walk from our apartment. We love that boulevard. It’s amazing how much fun it is to live in this neighborhood. We’ve been on the Champs Élysées for the Bastille Day parade, watching in awe as the military planes flew overhead streaming red, white and blue smoke. We’ve watched the winners of the Tour de France cross the finish line here. We’ve seen the United States Secretary of State lay flowers on the tomb of the unknown soldier at the base of the Arc de Triomphe. While he did this, the French Military Band solemnly played the United States National Anthem as a tribute — to thank our country for its help during World War II. Embassy representatives from all over the world looked on with respect and admiration. I have never been prouder to be an American.

We’ve picnicked on the Champs Élysées, and even been to wine tastings here when they closed the boulevard to traffic. I love it when they do that. Then it feels like the main drag of a huge university campus. We’ve wandered through the Christmas bazaar here. We’ve even watched the beginning of the Paris marathon as group after group began their race to the beat of the drums.

We’ve been to both memorial events for World War I and World War II on the Champs Élysées. We’ve seen thousands of French citizens turn out for these tributes to their veterans. We’ve seen the soldiers themselves come out by the hundreds, some walking, some in wheelchairs, but they are all proudly decked out in freshly pressed uniforms, saluting as they pass each other on the street.

Even when we just want to walk the dogs in the evening, we always seem to stroll the ten minutes to the Etoile, and stare up at the Grand Arch, while we watch the tourists take photos of it with their cell phones. We feel possessive of that gorgeous monument, somehow. Protective, even. I suppose it’s because we’ve seen it so often. We walk there almost every night, standing in front of it for a few quiet moments before we turn around and go home. I am going to count my days living near that beautiful piece of history as a miracle, a gift from God.

In fact, my favorite memory of Paris is, oddly enough, a moment shared with a total stranger. Just next to the Arc de Triomphe, at the World War II memorial event, a very old soldier in a wheelchair and I caught each other’s eyes. I held up my camera and shrugged my shoulders to say, “May I take a photo of you? He smiled, nodded, and saluted me. His photo is the last one in the series above.)  Anyway, I saw him sitting there in that wheelchair, and I was overwhelmedby his service. As a thank you, I bowed my head to him. In response, he blew me a kiss, and I blew one to him. I felt closer to him in that moment than almost anyone I’d ever known in my life, and I began to weep. He just smiled and blew me another kiss. There was pure love, flowing in both directions. I know nothing about him, not even his name. But, I will never forget that moment…or him.

Thank you, Paris, for everything.
Je t’aime, ma belle amie.

Best Friends in Paris

How can words adequately describe the love you feel for your very best friends? It’s almost impossible, right?

Now, imagine people who have greeted you with open arms when you felt your most vulnerable — who have become your best friends by welcoming you into their country, their home, and their hearts. Friends who have helped you learn to speak a new language and learn a new culture. These loving people have even seen us through some of our scariest and darkest moments during the last year.  It is said, true friends are those who laugh with you, cry with you, and love you unconditionally. It’s my belief that the only words to describe that kind of good fortune are those of gratitude.  So…Thank you God, for our best friends in Paris, Florence and Pascal.

My husband, Leon, met Pascal years ago, through work. A few years back, we were coming to Paris for the holidays, so Leon called Pascal to ask if he’d like to get together. Instead, Pascal and his new wife, Florence, invited us to stay with them for our entire visit. Mind you, this is kind of a huge offer, since they live in the center of Paris in a beautiful, but tiny brownstone with their “Brady Bunch” family.

Pascal has three children from a previous marriage, and Florence has two. Together they have an adorable little daughter, Hélène, and she was two years old at the time. Pascal’s older two children are grown with families of their own, but their younger four children (Anne, Théo, Clara and Hélène) lived with Pascal and Florence. There was only one working bathroom because their second one was being renovated. Yet, they invited us to stay with them in their home for 10 days. Can you even wrap your brain around that?

When we arrived, Florence had a beautiful dinner waiting, and we met the entire family. We sat there at the table, talking and laughing for hours. When we went to our room, there was a beautiful coffee table book about Paris lying on the bed, a gift from Florence and Pascal — to help us remember our vacation in their beautiful city.

Pascal is your typical suave Frenchman: long and lean, handsome and laid-back, and always dressed in the classic French style. He loves cognac and armagnac almost as much as Leon. They are a match made in heaven. And it’s the same way for me and Florence.

She and I are soulmates. We both love cooking and mothering. And we adore our husbands…can’t get enough of them. But we sure do look funny together. First of all, Florence is about 5′ 2″ tall and maybe 85 pounds dripping wet. I am just under six feet and weigh…well, let’s just say a LOT more than 85 pounds. We don’t even look like we’re of the same species!

Their children are all smart, funny, interesting and just plain wonderful. Théo is 17 years old now, a handsome guy with Hugh Grant hair. Clara is 14. She’s the beautiful, quiet one, quick with a smile and a kiss. And Hélène at 6 years old, is the Energizer Bunny. That girl never, ever stops! Needless to say, I love them all. We have dinner with the family quite often. And we even go on weekend vacations with them outside the city.

In fact, as I type this, I am sitting in the back seat of Florence and Pascal’s gigantic “Space Wagon” as the four of us drive to La Rochelle for a short holiday on the coast. Miles Davis is grooving on the stereo, and Leon is discussing his favorite wine regions with Pascal and Florence. I’m just sitting here, with the dogs at my feet, writing — and reveling in our good fortune.

We have amazing, smart, loving friends back home in the States, all of whom feel like family by now: Joy and Craig, Leesy and Mary Ann, Shawn and Dan, Missy and Marvin, Karen and Kevin, Diane and David. Here in Paris, we’ve found new friends, beautiful ones. They’ve adopted us as their own, and for that, we are truly grateful.

If wealth is measured in love, my husband and I are rich beyond measure. Thank you, God, for the friends who become your family.

The Best Restaurant in Paris – Mon Bistrot


What do you call a Guide Michelin restaurant that breaks all the rules, but still manages to treat you like family, and consistently turn out gorgeous French food paired with beautiful wines and champagnes? You call it Mon Bistrot. And my husband, Leon, and I call it our favorite restaurant in Paris.

Mon Bistrot is owned by two remarkable men: Yann and Franck. Franck works the bar and the front of house. He’s a real sweetheart and is a lot of fun to hang out with, not to mention he pours some pretty great cognacs, armagnacs and calvados from behind that bar. Yann is the genius in the kitchen, creating beautiful food based on the French style, but with his own unique flair — every dish, a bit unexpected and fun. Since Yann has a young daughter, he doesn’t want to work on the weekends, so the restaurant is only open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday. They’re also closed the entire month of August so Yann can go on holiday with his family. Told you they pay no attention to the rules.

The waiters here pamper you within an inch of your life. (I won’t insult their level of attention by simply calling it “service.”) Julien and Etienne cater to your every need. They are both wonderful. And Marciel, the brilliant sommelier, is a charming flirt. Everything about this place is fancy but informal. It’s a wonderful contradiction.

Leon discovered this little gem through tripadvisor. (It’s one of our favorite resources for finding “the great and unusual” wherever we travel.) We were still living in Dallas at the time, but Leon had to travel to Paris every couple of weeks for work. Since he’s a real foodie at heart, he was looking for something extraordinary near his office. Boy, oh boy, did he find it.

The first time he took me here was about six weeks after his first visit, when I tagged along for one of his business trips. At that point, Leon had been here four times already. The second I walked in the door, Yann ran over to kiss me, saying, “Madame Leon! Madame Leon! We have the best table in the house just for you!” Thank goodness everyone falls in love with Leon the second they meet him. I was golden by association – even before I said hello.

That first night, when I was leaving, I was still confused about the whole French “kissing on the cheek” thing, so I asked Marciel, the sommelier, “I forget. When I am leaving, is it one kiss or two for goodbyes?” Without missing a beat, he very seriously replied, “Pour moi? Quatre!” Since then, every time I see Marciel or Julien (our favorite waiter) they get four kisses each. I forgot once, and Marciel was actually shocked and hurt. I can’t tell you how much we love these guys. They are just like everything else here, very elegant but at the same time, wonderfully friendly and welcoming. The interior design of the restaurant manages to walk that line perfectly as well.

It’s beautiful here. The walls are painted this dreamy, robin’s egg blue. There are massive, gilt-framed, art gallery originals lining the walls — vintage ads for liqueurs and absinthe; I lust after them every time we have dinner here. As if that weren’t enough, in one corner, there is a huge crystal vase simply packed with cherry blossoms. The flowers float across the ceiling in the corner of the dining room like a giant canopy of pink butterflies.

Dinner that first night was incredible, and to this day, every time we visit, we have a ball. The food is always special. Whether it’s lobster, smoked duck, risotto with grilled shrimp, or tuna tartar, everything here has Yann’s special magic. His menu changes constantly, but two dishes are ever-present. One is Leon’s favorite main course, and one is my favorite dessert. Let me tell you a little bit about them both and you can see why everyone raves about the food here.

We’ll start with Mon BIstrot’s famous steak called the “Johnny.” Yann flies all of his beef in from Argentina weekly, and the meat is so tender you would almost think the cows got spa treatments every day. The “Johnny” is a filet mignon, barely seared on one side, then covered with a mustard sauce to allow the rest of the steak to warm. This dish only comes one way — bleu. (“Bleu” means practically raw but warm.) You cannot order it medium, or even rare. It is ALWAYS served bleu. (I truly believe you could get this steak up and walking if you had to, so it’s not for the faint of heart.) Leon gets the Johnny almost every time we visit, and he always recommends it to friends. Once they’ve tried it, they’re totally hooked.

My favorite dish is, of course, a dessert, Yann’s deconstructed lemon tart. It’s served in a beautiful, three-tier, crystal dish that looks sort of like a glass Christmas tree. The top tier holds a toasted, marshmallow-y meringue. The homemade crumble lies in the tier below that. And in the largest crystal bowl on the bottom is the silky, tangy, sweet, lemon crème. It’s served with a long wooden spoon which you draw through the meringue first, coating the spoon thoroughly. Then you swish that through the homemade crumble (which stays on the spoon thanks to the sticky meringue). Finally you scoop up the lemon crème. Once all three components are loaded onto your spoon, you get a bite of one of the most special desserts you can imagine. In each spoonful you get cool and warm, sweet and tart, creamy and crunchy. In short, it’s perfect.

And it’s not just these two dishes that blow everyone away. It’s the unexpected way that Yann puts everything together: fresh popcorn in a chilled, zucchini soup, veal carpaccio with fava beans, grilled polenta and smoked duck, glazed with a balsamic reduction. The dishes are all delicious, and they are so beautiful that they look like art on a plate. We have brought all sorts of people here, and whenever we bring a new group, Mon Bistrot becomes one of their favorite places in Paris too. The food is that good, the wines are that beautiful and the people are that special.

One time last year, we had brought two friends to join us for dinner. We had a table for four in the corner, and at the other end of the dining room, there was a party of about 12 people. Throughout the night, we noticed that the restaurant and bar were completely full, but the table for two right next to us was always empty. At the end of the night I asked Julien about it. He said, “Ah yes. Well, Yann didn’t want you all to feel crowded, so he told us not to seat anyone there for the evening. We turned away about 26 people tonight.” That’s the kind of thing that make this place so extraordinary. That’s why people keep coming back over and over — because they make you feel cared for, like family.

From Leon’s first visit, Mon Bistrot has been our favorite place in the city to bring friends, family, business associates, even neighbors. Everybody we can possibly bring, we have brought. When we found out a couple of friends of ours were coming to Paris for their honeymoon, we knew we had to give them a wedding dinner here, complete with free-flowing champagne. The guys here really know how to pull out all the stops.

Everyone we know in Dallas already loves the place, whether or not they’ve been to Mon Bistrot themselves. They love it just from the all the stories they’ve heard about how lovely these men are. It’s like going to a Michelin star restaurant that just so happens to be owned by your crazy-funny family. Serious food, but lots of laughter and irrepressible joy.

The next time you’re in Paris, stop by and tell them Leon and Grace sent you. You’ll be glad you did!

To read more about Mon Bistrot, or even see a video of Yann making the “Johnny” for the local news, check out their website.


Fajitas in Paris


After all these love letters I’ve written about Paris, you might think I never get homesick, but you couldn’t be more mistaken. Surprisingly, the thing I’ve missed the most while living in France for more than a year is good, old fashioned Mexican food: homemade guacamole and margaritas, mostly. As hard as I tried, I hadn’t been able to find a single, passable Mexican joint in this city of 13,300 restaurants…UNTIL I found a quaint little place in Saint Germain called Fajitas. My husband, Leon, and I did a lot of desperate research on the internet trying to find somewhere that I could get a decent margarita on the rocks. Finally, we stumbled across reviews for this cozy little hideaway on Rue Dauphine, and we decided to give it a try. I’m so glad we did.

The restaurant is owned by a wonderful couple, married for 22 years. Amy is from the United States, western Massachusetts to be precise. Her husband, Miguel, is from Vera Cruz, Mexico. He is the chef for this little gem, and Amy handles the front of  house. The main floor only seats about 30, and the lower level can seat about 15 more in a pinch, but it’s used mainly for private parties. Don’t even think about coming here for dinner unless you book a few hours ahead. I’ve seen them turn people away at the door more than once, simply because there wasn’t enough room. It’s not a “turn ’em and burn ’em” kind of place either. Once you are seated at a table, it is yours until you want to leave — no rushing allowed.

Fajitas opened in 2001 and has been sold out every night that I’ve eaten there. The regular crowd seems mostly to be made up of Americans: both tourists and Expats. You’ll get the occasional French couple, but primarily, the language you hear at the tables is English with an American accent, another unexpected taste of home! Amy and Miguel had another restaurant before this one, and from what I understand, it was also a big hit, open for years. But, I think Fajitas is the restaurant they always wanted: small, friendly, crowded and fun…Just my style.

The interior is charming. It feels like the back patio of a grand hacienda somewhere in Old Mexico. Hanging from the ceiling are thick, ropey braids of garlic, strands of dried peppers and worn, old, terra-cotta pitchers. Lining the stone walls are decorative planter boxes stuffed to the brim with dried wheat instead of flowers. And since almost all of the tables seat only two to four people, the restaurant feels very intimate even when it’s filled to capacity (which it always is).

I have to say, to have a woman like Amy, with a good old American accent come to your table and ask in English what I’d like for dinner — well, that makes my night, in and of itself. Not to mention the fact that she is always floating around the restaurant, making sure everyone is happy and well cared for. She runs the register, brings the food, mixes the drinks and handles anything that comes up -before it can become a problem. If she sees a scarf on the floor, she quietly drapes it over the back of the owner’s chair. The second someone walks in the door, she drops what she’s doing to greet them with a smile. She’s like the perfect blend of circus ringmaster, CEO and Fairy Godmother.

Miguel is no slouch either. He makes this spicy salsa from scratch with three different kinds of peppers. It’s totally addictive. I put it all over everything. My husband, Leon loves it so much, he eats it with a spoon, like soup. Oddly enough, I’ve never tried the namesake fajitas here. I’m sure I will, but so far, my cravings have been all about their chicken enchiladas and homemade guacamole. And, somehow, these cravings are always accompanied by the desire for a good, strong margarita. Amy, acting bartender, never disappoints. I like that gal.

There are a lot of wonderful things about Paris, but to me, the best thing about Texas is our Mexican food. And this cute, little spot helps me get over my homesickness every time. I’ll always be grateful for that…and for the margaritas!

If you want to check it out for yourself, the Fajitas website is

The Art of Politeness


(Footnote: The people of Paris are looking forward to Christmas. They’re making plans, shopping for gifts and spending time with family and friends. They’re leaving the terrorist attacks of November 13th in the past -where they belong.  So I’m going to make a right-hand turn here as well, and talk about something altogether different from my last two posts.)

Politeness is a lost art.  Americans in general tend to think of it as a silly formality or a waste of time, something quaint from a bygone era. But Parisians have a concept they actually call “l’art de la politesse” and they live by it every minute of every day. Let me tell you, it makes a HUGE impact on your life here.

Being polite, if you do it correctly, absolutely forces you to be present in the moment with the person in front of you. It is a magical concept really, if everyone embraces it as a way of life. And here in Paris, everyone does. The best way I know how to illustrate this beautiful principle is with a comparison. So I’m going to give you two illustrations of a trip to the bakery. The first will be done the American way. The second, will be the Parisian way.

As an American, you tend to be busy, running through your “To Do” list each day. So, as you pull into the parking space for the bakery, you grab your purse and run into the store. And quite often, you are talking on your cell phone as you enter. When you get to the front of the line, you might say hello to the person behind the counter, but even if you do, you are usually looking directly at the bakery case, deciding on the things that you’d like to buy. (You may still be on your cell phone at this point.) As the clerk rings up your total, you start pulling out your wallet, already beginning to think about the next errand on your list. You pay, and you usually throw out a “goodbye” or “thank you” over your shoulder, as you are running out the door to get to the next errand. It’s efficient. It’s hurried. And your mind was hardly present for any of it.

As a Parisian, you walk into the boulangerie, wait your turn, and as you arrive at the front of the line, a social encounter takes place. There is a ritual to these interactions. This is how it’s always done, so everyone knows how to do it. You make eye contact with the person behind the counter…and you smile at each other as you say hello back and forth. You both mean it. Before anything else happens, two people make a personal connection with each other.

Only after that’s done, you point out what you would like. She looks at you and asks if there is anything else you need. Then she boxes up your things, and goes to the cash register to ring up your total. This entire time, neither of you is doing anything else but this. You pay your bill. And before you leave, there’s a goodbye ritual as well. You and the woman behind the counter make eye contact again. She smiles and says “Merci.” You reply with “Merci.” She says “Bonne journée” (which means “Have a good day today.”) You say something along the lines of “á vous aussi.” (which means “to you as well.”) And then you both say goodbye to each other. Only then, does she move on to the next person and you leave.

I’ll point out that this version has taken almost no more time than the distracted, disjointed American way. But instead of just scratching something off of your “To Do” list, you have had a real moment with another person. You can recall almost every detail because you were actually present in your own life for that period of time. And since “l’art de la politesse” is so important to the French, this happens all day, every day, wherever you go.

Dining is made infinitely more fun by this commitment to politeness as well. In Paris, when people share a meal together, they are sharing their lives for that moment in time. There is no wolfing down the meal, no checking your cell phone at the table, no video games for the kids. You are just there to BE with the people you are with. You tell each other stories about your day. You relish every sip of wine and every bite of food that goes into your mouth. You laugh. You take time to really SEE each other, to share yourself with your friends. It’s beautiful.

You find that after a very short while, you start to do this automatically, everywhere you go. Even the homeless men on the street engage this way. They don’t shake a cup in your face as you walk down the street. Whenever I walk by, they look at me, nod their heads, genuinely smile and say “Bonjour, Madam.” And I make eye contact with them and smile as I reply “Bonjour Monsieur.” They get called “Sir” throughout the day. I can’t help but think that feels good. It makes the world seem very sweet.

And this politeness, this kindness made it very hard for me to understand why American tourists constantly complain about the rudeness of the French. So, I started paying attention and I noticed something.

The French don’t react well to our self-centeredness. Many tourists never even bother to learn a word of french before they get here…not hello, not thank you…nothing. And, when someone walks into a shop here and immediately starts dictating what they want, without ever making eye contact, smiling or saying hello, it throws the French for a loop. They feel as if they aren’t being treated as a person. It shocks them, and they feel almost assaulted. So, they don’t respond well to it. They frown and shake their heads and just try to get through with the encounter as quickly as possible.

It’s a shame. We’re the ones being rude -and yet we get offended.

I think we as Americans should try to slow down and see each other as people. If we could learn to do just one thing at a time, we would have so much more LIFE in our lives. Europeans have known this for centuries. When will we ever learn?

It Takes A Village, People…

I know it has taken me a long time to get this blog on its feet, but I’m not very tech savvy. (My husband is probably laughing hysterically by now.) Writing is always intimidating to me. Facing a blank page and creating something out of nothing is a Herculean task – especially if I know that other people will eventually read it. But I finally got to the point where I thought, I want a journal of my time here, and I don’t want to bore my friends on Facebook with story after story. Thus, the blog idea.

The Search for a Blog Title: My friend Wendy came up with the official title: “Graceful Paris.” Genius, since my name is Grace. And I wanted to add the second part, “The Accidental Parisian” because moving to Paris has felt like a phenomenal, wonderful, happy accident…total kismet. I still wake up and think to myself “How on EARTH did I get here?!?”

So here’s how it went…

My husband, Leon, and I left Texas last year to spend the Christmas holiday in Paris and the Netherlands. We found out the day after we left for vacation that some big deal got signed with his company, and they wanted Leon (and therefore, me) living in Paris the day AFTER we got back home from vacation.  God has a fantastic sense of humor.

After hearing the news, we celebrated at the George V with two cups of hot chocolate (30 Euros each…I’m not kidding.) It was there that we struck up our plan for the move. The day after we landed in Dallas, Leon would fly back to Paris, start work and look for an apartment. Meanwhile, I would handle all of the details of our move from Texas.

I began to freak out over how much I would actually have to deal with on my own during that six weeks. Not only would I have to interview and find movers and a storage facility. I would have to pack up everything in our 4-bedroom house, find renters and a property manager, get the dogs approved for international travel and see all of my MANY doctors, and a bunch of other stuff that would take far too long to list. Anyway, before I could completely lose it,  one of my friends talked me off the ledge. Her name is Leesy. She is a sweetheart and a true best friend. I don’t know if you have a friend like her, but I pray that you do. Anyway, Leesy said that while we were still on vacation over Christmas and New Year’s, she would start packing up our house so I wouldn’t have to face it all alone when I got back.

Can you even wrap your brain around that? Offering to pack someone’s home for them…by yourself…over Christmas and New Year’s? Let me also say, that if it were anyone other than Leesy, I couldn’t have handled the stress. You see, I am a control freak at heart. (I know that will come to a huge shock to all of my former students.) But, Leesy just knows how to do things the way I would. She can actually DO that…think the way I think. Weird, but great. So, she and I talked on the phone every morning and every night, going through what Leon and I might need in Paris and what she could safely  pack away for storage. And thus, my nervous breakdown was avoided. She packed our entire kitchen, two guest rooms and all of our books and keepsakes. Way to go, Leesy!

Once we got back from vacation, we hit the ground running. All of our friends offered to help. I don’t know what I would have done without them. Mary Ann & Mark stored our car in their airplane hangar. Other friends volunteered to keep the other things we couldn’t just store in a warehouse: the wine fridge, the 500-pound ceramic grill, the giant safe filled with important papers, outdoor furniture, jewelry, art, even Leon’s pride and joy…his beloved bar. All of it is safely tucked away in homes all around Dallas, awaiting our return.  Just writing this makes me all weepy again. We love our friends, and we are grateful for them. Like I said at the top, it takes a village.

While I was busy at home, Leon was working all week in Paris, and then on the weekends, he would go with a realtor there to look at apartments, skyping me in on the really good ones so we could pick a place together. He found an apartment that was gorgeous…I mean, it looked like Coco Chanel had lived there…seriously.  We signed the contracts and learned the first lesson of real estate in Paris. Even after you’ve agreed on everything and signed the papers, the owner can bail if she thinks she can get more money working with another real estate agent and dumping you. This happened on the Monday before Leon was flying home on Wednesday to pick me up and move us in to our new apartment. So, he booked one last-minute appointment with a realtor, and skyped me for the walk through. The whole thing was over in three minutes.  I basically just asked “Does it have a quiet bedroom?” “Yes,” he said, “It has TWO.” “Does it have closets and a washing machine?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. “Let’s take it,” I said. “OK,” And that was that.

Wow…talk about a happy accident. This is the PERFECT apartment for us. It’s HUGE by Parisian standards, about 1,000 square feet. It has two bedrooms and a completely ridiculous amount of closet space…even for an organizing freak like me. It is a 4-minute walk to the Champs Élysées and a 8-minute walk to my favorite park in the city, Parc Monceau. I ADORE this apartment. Leon adores this apartment. And the dogs love it too.

We knew this move to Paris was a God thing because of this one last detail. Leon proposed to me on the Champs Élysées on Valentines Day, ten years ago. And ten years later TO THE DAY, he moved me here as his wife. We now live about a 10-minute walk from the very spot where he proposed. Now that I think of it, that first trip to Paris is a story all on its own. And it deserves its own telling.  But that’s for another time.