I just got back from a weekend in Paris. Yes, a weekend. Living in London, it's an easy thing to do to hop on the Eurostar and emerge on the other side of the English Channel two hours later. Timewise, it's just like traveling from New York to Philly. Well, sort of.
It always surprises me how many Americans I hear, see and meet when I visit France. Truly, we are all over that country. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, as it's the world's most popular tourist destination, but I can hardly turn the corner without hearing the lovely dulcet tones of a thick American accent. My English husband just raises his eyebrows as if to say 'that's one of yours, dear', while I cringe as the stereotype reinforces itself.
On this trip, however, I had not one but two of those experiences that proves just how small the world is. On the Eurostar, I sat next to a family from LA who grew up in Manhattan. A quick conversation uncovered a mutual acquaintance; someone whom neither of us had seen in a few years but whom we both knew. Six degrees, indeed.
Later that night, my husband and I were at a restaurant near our hotel and it turns out our table-mates live in Philadelphia (where I grew up), and she grew up in Manhattan not far from where I last lived. No friends in common there, just a geography, but I felt like I was amongst people I'd known a long time.
Some things make you realize how far from home you actually are. You try getting a DJ to play some decent music at a Parisian nightclub and you'll understand why it's those times I wish I was back on Hudson Street in the dive bar Antarctica, with it's huge juke box and plenty of space to dance. Unless it's Madonna or Lady Gaga (same thing, really), French clubs play French music which is -- and I mean this in the nicest possible way -- really crap. And that's not just because I can't understand a word. It's because it sucks.
But Paris continues to hold the allure of the exotic and I suspect no matter how easy it is for me to get there, it always will. I grew up dreaming of a day when I could speak French fluently (still can't), living in a garret in a fashionable part of Paris (still don't) and being altogether so cosmopolitan it hurts (still am not). Like any dream, it's what drives me and I resolve every year to take steps that will get me closer to realizing it.
Who knew that the biggest hurdle standing in my way would be my English husband with his inbred disdain for the French? I hold out hope however, that this will melt away with every mouthful of Epoisse cheese he eats and every swig of fantastic St Emilion wine he drinks. He'll get there, I'm sure of it.