Paris Review

Paris? Oui!

I highly recommend it. It is beautiful and magical. It really is something special.


So Many Reasons.

The light. The quality of it. The way it reflects that sort of glitters.
The architecture with all its attention to detail.
The fact that it has no tall buildings in the old—the main—part of the city.
That it has so many parks and so much green space.
That it is beautiful structure after structure after massive historic structure.
Its unending beauty.
Its layout.
That it is very old and yet it doesn’t feel it.
That it’s so well kept.
And, seriously, the light. How it happens that the light is different I have no idea, it just is.

Interestingly, Paris reminded me of Washington, D.C. But only if D.C. were on steroids–and only when steroids make something way better and not just bigger and weird.

So my lovely sister—who has no children let’s just establish that right from the get go–had been planning this trip for maybe a year. She wanted to turn 50 someplace special.

She chose Paris.

She took French classes. She did her research. She found a great apartment, through Vacation Rentals by Owner, in the 8th Arrondissement (or what you and I call a hood) near the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs de Elysee. It was a two-bedroom flat on the top floor of a five-story building. I think it faced north though I found myself turned around in Paris from the moment of touchdown. I’m usually well-oriented when it comes to directions and using maps but once I get turned around and get a place set in my mind as being oriented a certain way, turning it around right in my head is nearly impossible. And such was the case here. But that only managed to be a problem every time I left the building.

So a lovely flat. Nicely appointed, as they say in realtese–a language I try to never remember–with tasteful everything. Everything was streamlined and European in the modern-design sense of that word. The flat stove had one knob for three burners and attached by magnetic force. It required lessons from the Super, who was super-annoyed with us from the moment we met him. Maybe even from birth. He was our second introduction to The French and he was so bitchy. Bitchy, I tell you.

He yelled at us for taking too long to get our luggage up the closet-of-an-elevator. We required TWO WHOLE TRIPS. I know. How dare we? Apparently the fellow building residents called him to complain we were hogging the elevator and taking too much time. It was 2 in the afternoon after all. You know, when no one’s rushing to go anywhere. I reminded him that he had anticipated our requiring THREE trips but I shoved everything in in two and walked up six stories worth of stairs (because even though I said we were on the fifth, and top, floor, it was actually a six-story building, it’s just that ground level was numbered Zero–in Paris math is not a priority, it seems. (You can’t be perfect all the time, I guess.) This six-stories-of-stair-climbing was an act of self-sacrifice on my part since I’d had all of three hours of sleep in the past 24. But don’t you worry about me, Olivier. I’m pretty easily dragged as I understand it. So, yes, we got yelled at straight off and everything negative I ever heard about The French was confirmed in my first five minutes at our flat away from maison: impatient, rude, self-centered. I think Amy and I ended up softening Olivier up a bit with our humor by the end of our little orientation to the building but she and I can only accomplish so much in such a short amount of time with a Frenchman.

We made it our goal to never-not-once find any reason to require his “help” the rest of our trip.

We, however, did not achieve our goal. We choked. Well, Amy choked.

Within less than eight hours of our arrival she tried to ruin any chance of having a great birthday vacation by way of suffocating herself with a piece of hard plastic that the Brie she was determined to enjoy was wrapped in. She was on the phone with Olivier not even eight hours after our arrival. Maybe it was not even quite six. When I’m exhausted, math’s not my priority either. So at around 9 p.m. she found herself in a cab heading to the American Hospital in Paris to get some assistance. She got herself a cab. Alone. She went to the hospital. Alone. Because she actually could breathe. And she actually could even talk. But that piece of plastic was lodged, or felt lodged, and she needed medical intervention. She’s a nurse practitioner so she knows what she knows and she knew what she needed. Help. So the rest of us–what with our unmitigated concern and insatiable worry about our Parisian raison-d’être–went to bed.

The beds were really very comfortable and were made up with at least 100,000-count linens, I swear. Before climbing in to their beds though, our mom and Amy’s mother-in-law found it in their generous, tired, elderly selves to go to the trouble of making up Amy’s “bed.” (Amy had only gone to the trouble of planning the whole trip, booking the flat, renting it for the whole week, and then not asking a single one of us for a dime toward the cost, so she definitely had no good reason to expect to sleep in comfort. And we all tacitly agreed. If it weren’t for her and her birthday we wouldn’t’ve had to go all the way to Paris after all.) For seven nights she slept on what no person should ever call a “bed.” It was a glorified connected set of cushions that could turn into a cube if folded up. But don’t feel sorry for her yet. She got to sleep in the living room where she had no real privacy and where every morning the bright sun shone through the skylights and woke her up earlier than anyone—she did, after all, get us a top-floor flat so it serves her right. Plus, she was on vacation and who wants to waste their time sleeping late on vacation? Just like our father always said, she really is “so selfish.” The original plan was that we would take turns sleeping in the living room. But what with Amy never-not-once complaining, no one saw fit to deny her her treasure in heaven. So we all stayed put. (I should probably stop reminding her the injustice of it all.)

So, the place. It was modern, comfortable, bright, beautiful. It had Viceroy & Boch table settings, Miele appliances, a huge flat-screen T.V, a nicer-than-my-own bathroom with dual shower heads and a gorgeous tub. The place was swank. It was chic. It was class. Just like mon Amy.

So that’s where we stayed. And that’s from whence every Parisian adventure we went on began. There’s so much to tell. And the telling of it really is–as my first mentor said–the best thing about writing about your experience: you get to live your life twice.

33 rue de lisbonne 2


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