Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Au revoir, Paris

It was early on Sunday afternoon. I had spent the morning planting window boxes for our balcony and Understanding Frenchman had been trying to repair a wardrobe and organising things in the cellar. At about half past one he reappeared and asked if he should go and buy bread for lunch.

"Is the bakery still open?" I replied. He looked at me with an expression of dawning realisation: we were not in Paris any more.

We moved almost two weeks ago and the bits of the flat we're actually living in (as opposed to the part that will need to be redecorated following the flood in July) are pretty much sorted now. Water damage aside, the flat is great and I think we're going to be very happy here. Nevertheless, despite all my moaning about Paris over the past three years, I couldn't help feeling a little pincement au coeur as we left.

I think what I'll miss is not so much the city as a whole, but our quartier. UFM and I lived together for the first time, got married and had a baby in our little corner of the 12th arondissement. We chatted to the baker, the greengrocer and the pharmacist, who all knew who we were and would ask how the baby was getting on. Our local boulangerie sold the best baguette I've ever tasted, and knew that we liked it bien cuite. When we wanted lots of fruit and vegetables, we walked down the Promenade Plantée to the Marché d'Aligre to buy them at one or two euros per kilo. My friends and I knew a selection of friendly bars where we could meet for an apéritif. We could go almost anywhere using public transport options that were practically on our doorstep. And when we wanted to escape from the city, the Bois de Vincennes was a pretty good retreat.

However, it turned out that even in the suburbs you can buy bread until 2 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, so we didn't go hungry. And there are compensations for becoming banlieusards. I still get a little burst of exhilaration when I step out onto the balcony in the morning and breathe in fresh air rather than exhaust fumes from the péripherique. (Did I mention  that we have a balcony? Actually, believe it or not, we have three - two little narrow ones and a bigger one where we can fit chairs and sit and watch the sunset. Yes, we are totally spoilt!) It's nice having a bit more space: we can now open our bedroom door fully and don't trip over a carrycot as soon as we step into the room. And no doubt we'll get to know people around here quickly too - nothing stimulates chit-chat with strangers quite as much as carrying a small baby!


  1. I love that you have fresh air now! We just moved from a city of 600000 people to a city of 123000 people and even with that I can tell that there is a difference in air quality. I wish we could live in a nice village somewhere though!

  2. It's always have to leave, to change, to move on. But these are positive changes!

    Plus, come on, if you have a bakery nearby, you're pretty much sorted out :-D

  3. You like it bien cuite? Lucky you, I always feel slightly judged when I ask for pas trop cuite :)

    1. Hehe, you need to move to Paris! According to UFM's Breton family, soft city types all want baguettes with insides like chewing gum because they're easier to eat. There must be some truth in it, because the bread definitely has a whiter crust here than in Brittany.

  4. The Parisians I know would envy your balcony! I remember when one of my friends moved from Paris to Charenton, his greatest pride was his terrasse.