From the City of Light to the City of Angels
I left Los Angeles in 1994. It wasn’t about ‘leaving’ Los Angeles. It was about embarking on a new adventure in Paris.
Our friends had a hard time understanding how we could give up our home, our cars and our California lifestyle for some unknown existence in a strange land with a strange language and a strange culture. They were happy in their big houses, driving their fancy cars and working hard to achieve their creative aspirations. We were happy, too, but the yearning to experience life on the other side of the ‘big pond’ was like a bug we couldn’t get out of our systems. We simply had to do something about it.
We really didn’t know what to expect, but I don’t remember being frightened — only excited about what the future would bring for the three of us — my husband, my daughter and myself. Every moment, from the time we made the decision, to even this very moment, has been an adventure — 20 years of non-stop new challenges.
Life in sunny California was not like that. Like watching a movie with a predictable story, so was our life in the U.S. There were no big surprises and expectations were largely met. It was comfortable, we loved our assortment of free-thinking friends, the paradisiacal weather, the myriad of fun things to do and the light-hearted spirit. It wasn’t something we wanted to give up…but then there was the calling of “Paris.”
Just saying the name, “Paris,” is magical. It reeks of romance, mystery, history and excitement. Put the name “Paris” on the cover of a book and it sells off the shelf. Use it in the title of a movie and it will be a box-office hit. Name your child “Paris” and she will be the star of her class. There simply isn’t another place on the planet with so much appeal.
The city itself is seriously one of the most beautiful man-made places on the planet, if not the most. In spite of the gray tones of the stone buildings, of the waters of the River Seine, of the skies that less often turn blue, of the Parisians’ wardrobes, it’s a sight for sore eyes. There is a kind of symmetry in the Haussmannian architecture, a balance in the weight of the Left and Right banks of the river, a flow of the boulevards carved to make sense of a once undefined web of pathways, and a human connection between the cobblestones and those who cross them. It’s not obvious at once why so many fall so madly in love with the city, but I believe it’s in this harmony that makes us feel so totally at home.
We felt that way — at home, from the first time we landed in the city. The apartment we rented was not our taste, but it didn’t matter. The language wasn’t one we understood, but we didn’t care. It was a ‘Disneyland’ of wonder from the warm croissants in the morning dunked in a “café crème” to the museums filled with the world’s greatest masterpieces. Not a single day was just the fulfillment of an expectation, but an adventure one could talk about, write about and could contemplate.
I write this now as I am 50,000 feet in the air headed back to Los Angeles for a brief visit. By the time you read this, I will have already landed in the City of Angels and be among my closest old friends. These are the people with whom we have never let the City of Light come between us. I look to them now to act as a mirror — to reflect who I was to who I have become.
I wonder if living in Paris these 20 years has changed me fundamentally as a person or just the exterior signs…such as fluency in French, well toned calves, polished manners, urban clothing and a broader palate for culinary delights. How has living in the romantic, mystical, magical, historical and exciting city of Paris changed me?
One reason I am here is to find out.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris & Director of The Adrian Leeds Group
(Photo by Erica Simone)
P.S. Watch House Hunter’s International episode “Living a Teenage Dream in Paris, France” on December 19 at 10:30 p.m. ET / 9:30 p.m. CT and December 20 at 1:30 a.m. ET / 12:30 a.m. CT. Can a former Paris exchange student who has long dreamed of living in France find a Parisian apartment when she hasn’t given much thought to what she wants in her new home? Tune in and find out!