There were a million things going through my head on my first trip from Australia to France.
I was travelling with a heavy heart and the thought of somewhere foreign, a country where I didn’t speak the language (who hasn’t heard of a horror story), a country full of strangers where even if I tried, I couldn’t escape myself, my thoughts and my heavy heart.
With a million thoughts cooking through my head, I arrived in Paris in the dead of winter, 2 days before Christmas. From that very first time I laid foot on her soil, with snow, icy chilled air, beautiful twinkling Christmas lights, she won my heart.
From the very first time, she graced me with her light and took my heaviness away. The light that I felt had been turned off suddenly shone bright within.
I felt as if Paris had embraced me and held me close in her heart. She comforted me with the warmth of a ruby red glass of Bourgogne. Like the bubbles sparkling in her synonymous drink, champagne, Paris put a sparkle back in me. Like a beautifully aged cheese, she mellowed me.
Paris taught me about traditions and values. She taught me that love is all around, it can be found in little things like a bunch of beautiful roses. Its people kissing on Pont Alexandre. Its people sitting at a café, writing and sketching. Its people going out on spring morning to buy Lilacs. Its about the breaking the rip off a baguette and munching on it on your way home (it’s the only time you will see a local eating as they walk….. Dead giveaway if you are a tourist and used to eating your lunch whilst walking. You will never blend in with the locals). It’s people enjoying their favourite drink… “alcohol” you ask? “White hot chocolate”, I say.
I learnt about moderation. Less is always more. One glass of wine is enough, but oh yes, it has to be a good glass of wine. One needs to be able to enjoy it, savour every drop and not drink for the sake of drinking. Simple, black and white stripes, black pants and a string of pearls is all that is needed to be stylish but always with a good pair of shoes and a great handbag.
Balance. Now that has been a valuable lesson. Like ying and yang, Paris teaches you that balance is all around. Architecture, fashion, food, balance is all around. Like salted caramel ice cream, now who would have thought that salt and sweet would work so well. To me, it is the ultimate flavour balance and all you need is moderation, une boule de glace (one scoop of ice cream) from Berthillon (my favourite ice creamery). Balance, moderation and tradition all in one for this has become a tradition with family, each visit to Paris.
She charmed me with the beautiful doors and architecture. The wonderment of what lies beyond the great big imposing doors.
She swept me off my feet with her beauty. Everything in Paris is about beauty. I love how even the smallest of chocolate, or a hat pin that you buy is wrapped and presented so beautifully that you just want to hold it and not open it. But then you give in and open the Pandora’s Box, slip the chocolate in your mouth and you get hit by the curse… you want more and more, chocolate, hot chocolate, chocolate with wine, chocolate souffle, even pain au chocolat for breakfast, washed down with a white hot chocolat from Angelinas.
Paris entranced me with the magic that art evokes. She connected me to people from generations ago and gave me an insight into their magical world. Henry James, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Ernest Heningway, Piccaso, Dali, Bridgette Bardot, Edith Piaf, Gabrielle Bonheur (Coco Chanel) are but a few to mention. She gave me the courage to pursue my own creativity, in art and writing.
Paris gave me the strength to believe. She taught me to fight for my beliefs. She taught me that I can as soft spoken as the Parisians you see in cafes yet be heard.
Paris taught me to see things; I mean REALLY see things. She taught me to keep my eyes open because you never know what around the corner and believe me when I say, there is always something around the corner! She also taught me to people watch. If you have every visited Paris, you will relate to spending an afternoon at a café, sitting en terrasse (outside) with chairs placed only on one side of the tables, facing the street so one can’t help but admire the stylishness of people walking their dog.
Paris has taught me so many lessons.
I feel that from my very first time in Paris to my continued visits, I have grown and evolved. I continue to learn about the magic of Paris, the magic of France and the magic that this life is.
I feel that Paris has given me the most wonderful gift of all, the comfort of being able to be by myself (in my head, I mean). I used to be someone who was “on the run”, so to speak….. constantly needing to be around people, noise, chatter; anything to keep myself from looking within. Now, I don’t need any of that but rather want that. I cherish time spent with darling heart and my family and friends. The difference, now I can live in the present, in the moment with myself and my loved ones. This I feel I have learnt from endless walks through the winding rues, the cobbled stoned back streets, the beautiful boulevards. These walks for me afford me the ability to free my mind. It allows me to discover a piece of Paris and a new piece of the puzzle that is me. “Therapy”, you say…. I say “definitely”!!
With every layer of Paris that I discover, I peel off a layer. Paris still allows me to discover myself. For what is life, if not continual learning.
Here is a recipe of a dish that I learnt in Paris, Lamb Navarin. It has parallels with what in Fiji is called Lamb Stew.