Saturday, August 31, 2013

Closing the chapter that is Paris

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
-Ernest Hemingway, "A Moveable Feast"

I say goodbye to Paris tomorrow, and hop a bus to Belgium.  So ends my stint of living in Paris.  I hadn't expected to spend two months living in Paris, but I hadn't expected to fall in love with the city as deeply as I did.  After two week on, I knew there was no way I was leaving in another two weeks.  Maybe I should have know, given that my francophilie runs in my blood.

I am both sad and ready.  That is a good thing.  Sad to leave a city I love, but ready to move on because I have work to do- things that I can't accomplish from here.  But it has been a supremely wonderful chapter in my life that I will not soon forget.

I dare say I fell in love with the city, and its people.  I found Paris to be a such a beautiful city, with charm to be found wherever I wandered.  The city is truly an enigma; it always has, and always will be.

And I truly loved the Parisians, with their warmth and grace, their subtle expressive mannerisms that always made me smile.  Contrary to the stereotypes, I found Parisians to be so friendly and charming- even with my poor French. Perhaps because I am not an Ugly American, I never encountered a Rude Frenchman.  Or maybe they could just tell in my eyes and smile that I loved and respected their culture, and so they welcomed me in return.

Paris has been a font of creativity and inspiration, and made for the perfect sabbatical spot to recharge my batteries.  I set out to do some reading, writing and thinking, and I did exactly that in chez Paris.

Unfortunately, I did not get to write my magnum opus memoir or tome of public diplomacy played out in the field.  The only mistake I made was to think that I could focus on the past while being surrounded by such present adventures.  Perhaps for my next sabbatical, I will need to get a cabin in the woods so I can have less distractions; perhaps not, as I would probably ended up writing Walden, or at least something akin to Walking to Vermont.

As Ernie knew, Paris will stay with me for the rest of my life.  And maybe I will return to live.  I can't rule it out.  This was the first ex-pat community I actually liked and respected.

As I wrote when I left for Paris, the words of Jimmy Buffett: he went to Paris, looking for answers to questions that bothered him so.  Some answers I found; some still remain there for exploration.

I will close this chapter with the words of another fellow who also spent some time in this fair city.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

So true, Scott.  So true.

As always, Journey On!

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