“We’ll always have Paris,” Marjie and I have occasionally sighed to each other during this pandemic. When we were friendly, but not yet fast friends, we took a trip to Paris to participate in a weeklong seminar hosted by Patty Tennison, writer and founder of the Paris Café Writing seminars. We found a two-bedroom apartment in the Marais, booked our tickets, left lists for our families, and off we went. The writing seminar was intellectually stimulating, but so were the excursions we took with the class and on our own. It was a much-needed break that cemented our friendship while expanding our horizons. I have (fingers crossed) a trip to Paris planned for October 2021, but in the meantime, we decided that for week’s challenge, we’d harness our memories of that magical city and live this week with a little Parisian flair. Check out Marjie’s very French week.
Ooh, la la the Croissants
Patisseries are everywhere in Paris, and honestly if you’re not indulging in some fabulous pastries, did you really go? The last time I was in Paris, my daughter and I did a deep dive on blogs like David Lebovitz and French Vogue to plot our must-stop places. Back home, I treat myself to (usually) an almond croissant, but only one each month. It keeps the pastry a special treat and keeps my pants fitting. My favorite Chicago stops are Hewn and Aya Pastry. I didn’t sit at a cafe table on a busy sidewalk, but I still made it an occasion with a delicious cafe au lait, my good china and enough time to savor every bite.
Reading a book is my quickest route to transport myself to another world, so for our Paris challenge, I chose All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny The plot is meh—so many improbable plot twists—that I hesitate to recommend it (although it has a 4.51 Goodreads rating, so not everyone agrees with me). I actually got more excited reading Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten (she LOVES Paris) and flipping through Julia Child’s classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Note, I didn’t cook anything more ambitious than an omelet this week, but reading about food specific to a place triggers happy memories without any pots and pans to clean.
Black is Back
Thankfully, dressing like a Parisian doesn’t mean breaking out the bright, short fashions that Lily Collins wears in Emily in Paris. (She’s adorable, but she dresses like a fashion-forward 25-year-old Chicagoan, not a Parisian). Instead, I dressed in a striped shirt, dark wash jeans, floral scarf and dark jacket. It’s that less-is-more, try but not too hard vibe that the French are famous for. I never get the scarf quite right, but so what. Does a Parisian sweat it? Non, she walks with confidence that even if her scarf is a little wonky, it’s wonky because that was her intent. You may only be heading to the grocery store, but walk like you’re strolling down the Avenue Montaigne, and you’ve captured some of the magic.
Pop the Cork
Through a slight mistake in ordering over the holidays we ended up with many splits of Tattinger instead of a few bottles. But if you’re drinking with some restraint—probably not terribly Parisian—then a split is perfect for two people on a weeknight. It made our take-out Chinese a special occasion (and we did eat it on real plates with no plastic in sight), but if we’d had it with a beautiful charcuterie platter it would have been even more French.
Enjoy the Sights
Marjie and I visited the Pompidou Center during our trip, but their virtual visit is a little confusing. Far better, and maybe more nostalgic for most of us, is the virtual visit that the Musée d’Orsay partnered with Google to create. You “walk” through the old train station visiting amazing works of art. If you put on the music of the jazz great Joséphine Baker and you’ll feel transported for at least a few minutes to the timeless city of lights.