Wednesday, September 9, 2009

paris in portland?

several years ago, i was going through a phase, you know--that phase. the one where you question everything in your life and wonder why you are who you are, why you work this job or that one and not the really fabulous one that you think you should be working. or why can't you be more intelligent, beautiful, successful and all of those other self-doubts that we are so good at focusing on rather than the fact that maybe your life is really just where you might want it to be.

i had been preparing for my upcoming trip to france and italy. i had been studying both languages religiously because i didn't possibly want to be seen as an ignorant american traveler. i had researched exactly where i wanted to go and whom and what i wanted to see. i quit my job, the one i had found after i graduated from interior design school and was a perfect fit for me. i just wasn't ready to accept that this may be it, that at 34 years old, i had reached my biggest goal so far and it just simply wasn't enough. so i had set other, bigger goals like becoming fluent in five languages. no, one other language wouldn't be enough i needed to know FIVE. now i look back and think how silly (not to mention exhausting with all of that conjugating).

i fell in love with florence and venice and in retrospect, should have stayed longer in florence rather than heading on to lucca. lucca was a small town and while it was a great place to learn italian because not many people spoke english, i never felt connected with it. perhaps that is because my first night there, i got lost and it started to rain and get dark and no one would help me until after several hours, i met a nice man who spoke english that helped me find my host family. so i completed my program there and took the first train out to nice early the next morning.

when i arrived in france, i felt like a weight had been lifted. i don't know why but i felt an immediate connection with france and was happy the minute i walked off the train. i stayed in nice a few days and went on some really great day trips from there before heading north to paris. on the train to paris, i met a girl named sophie who was a little younger than i and lived in avignon and commuted to paris every monday morning where she would stay the week and then head back to avignon for the weekend to be with her boyfriend and family. sophie was very sweet to me even though my being in the wrong train seat caused her laptop to get coffee spilled on it in all of the commotion (i swear i was in the right seat, the crazy car number was wrong). sophie and i hit it off and she really helped me out when i arrived to paris with no clue where to go (thank you sophie, wherever you are). i got off the train in montparnasse in the rain and instantly knew that i was in love with paris.

one of my first views was this one from the top of montmartre (photo by landscape photo)

my time in paris was amazing, i loved everything about it (except that i was alone and couldn't share it with anyone) but after a few days, i headed to brittany to visit a friend. i remember like it was yesterday, sitting on that train and asking god to help me find a way to stay in france because the one place i thought i would rather be than portland was paris. and you know what, be careful what you ask for! i found myself being invited to stay in france indefinitely (granted it was not paris) and when faced with the choice to leave portland, i couldn't do it. it's not easy to leave a place you know and love, not to mention the language barrier which in spite of my studies, i was far from being fluent. i felt like an idiot and cursed myself for not taking french more seriously all of those years i studied it in school. so when i was scheduled to leave france, i happily boarded that plane to come home, to mount hood and portland and my old job that had hired me back freelance for a temporary job.

and this is when i knew i truly did love portland. but i still think of paris, a lot. and some day i will go back but for now, i find my own little piece of paris all over portland. and sometimes my life is just like one of those french films i love to watch. and you know what? now i have some one to take to paris with me, and i found him right here in portland. xoxo lorenzo. and i still can't speak five languages but i'm ok with that!

these are some of my frenchie portland favorites.

you already know how much time i spend here.

cinema 21 (photo by zazzle)
i watch a lot of french films at this theatre and guess what, now they serve beer and wine. yippee! i loved this photo of the marquee featuring "ballet russes". i thought it was appropriate since picasso and jean cockteau both worked with the ballet russes.

you can't get more quintessentially portland and paris than down the street from cinema 21 at le happy. i mean this is a creperie that has a special that includes a pabst blue ribbon. how portland is that!

then i can cruise back over to the eastside for some chicken liver mousse at bar avignon...

...followed by some fab macarons at pix on division.
photo by cake and commerce

photo by m portland real estate

there is also a true french crepe cart right down the street from my house. this is a much shorter trip than going all the way to montmartre.

and this blog and book series transport me back to paris wherever i happen to be.

after i returned to portland, i found the website, french-word-a-day that not only helps me with my studies but features amazing photos of france.

i also found the aimee leduc series by cara black which features a different paris quarter in each installment. it literally walks you through the different paris neighborhoods while solving a murder.

is there any place you love to visit? what are the places you have found in portland that remind you of this place? i would love to hear about some of your escapes.


  1. Thanks for interesting story about travels w/Hawthorne Girl. Sorry, your experience in Lucca, wasn't a good one. It's a favorite of mine, not only for the great wall, that surrounds a large portion of the city, but, for a much more important's the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini. I've also been to his summer retreat, in the coastal town of Viareggio, west of Lucca. Delightful beaches, and grand seafood. For me..comparing France, and Italy.....apples & oranges. Buona fortuna!

  2. yes, Lucca is a very beautiful city and if i were there under different circumstances, i probably would have had a much different experience. and yes, the lucchese people are very proud of their link to puccini! i did love viareggio and it's old boardwalk.

    next time i go to italy, i'm going with your family!

    buon giornata e grazie tutto!