My dear – and now many-miles-distant – friend Melissa has tagged me with the Liebster Award, a fun, navel-gazing meme that’s been going around.
To start, I’m supposed to share 11 things about myself. I thought it would be interesting to think of eleven ways my life has changed since moving to Paris, so here we go:
1. I was never particularly passionate about driving (though I did love my car, which you’ll read more about later), but now I’ve become a devotee of public transportation. I’ve got the Métro map memorized – well, most of it – and would usually rather take a Noctilien or a Vélib than a taxi after hours.
2. I can’t really imagine life without a CSA. I love Paris’ markets, but even there it can be challenging to find locally and sustainably grown produce. Now, I get fresh, organic vegetables and eggs delivered to a nearby shop almost every week, year-round. I know where the food comes from, and I get a little direction in my weekly menu planning. Win-win!
3. My instinct now is to “bise” (the two air-kisses used as greeting in France) people instead of hugging them. At first, bises feel more intimate, because that is the way you greet just about anyone, including people you’re meeting for the first time. When an American friend comes to town, and instinctively reaches for a hug, it feels weird at first, and then it feels wonderful. It makes me realize just how separate the bises keep you from people after a while.
4. Going out to dinner almost always means at least three courses. Where before, in the States, a three-course meal in a nice restaurant was reserved for special occasions, here in Paris it is the norm. (A special occasion merits five courses or more.)
5. In the first 30 years of my life, I took five transatlantic flights – two moving to and from France, two for our honeymoon, and one to move here again. In the last five years, I have taken eight – that’s four trips back to the USA – with another two coming up this summer. Where is all this extra travel money coming from? And what about the extra time?
6. To answer that first question, I have basically stopped buying clothes. My shopping habits changed dramatically when we moved to Paris. I used to be something of a shopaholic, and I pretty much quit cold turkey. This was partly because I had no job and no income for the first six months, but more because there is very little mid-range shopping in Paris. Either you drop 600 euros on a designer coat, or you get a 20 euro one that will fall apart after a season. Neither option really appeals to me, so I mostly abstain.
7. As for that second question, five weeks of paid vacation a year. This just feels so civilized, so right. I fear that it may be making me soft, though, and that when we eventually return to the States, I’m going to have a hard time adjusting to working year-round with so little (if any) vacation. In my last job there, for example, I took two and a half weeks off (unpaid) in three and a half years of working. And that only because I got married.
8. Most of the TV I watch these days is over the internet. I realize this is probably true for a lot of people, and has less to do with the fact that I live in France and more to do with rapidly changing technology. But I will say that I miss having shows that I watched every week – the anticipation of a new episode, the discussion of plotlines and characters at work the next day… it’s just not the same when you can watch anything at will.
9. Having fewer than four types of cheese in the fridge constitutes being out of cheese.
10. The dryer is never used for clothes, only sheets and towels. All clothes hang dry. Having a dryer at all is kind of ridiculously luxurious.
11. In five short years, I have come to fully understand French bureaucracy, international tax laws, and parisian weather. Just kidding.
Next, the answers to the 11 questions I was given:
1. What is your go-to, most comforting meal?
I’d like to say foie gras, except that isn’t really a meal. I really enjoy making and eating homemade pizza, but it’s possible that I make this spicy vegetable dal more than anything else, and it always makes me happy.
2. Top 5 destinations you hope to travel to some day?
Rome is pretty high on the list right now, thanks to Woody Allen (romance!), Anthony Bourdain (food!), and a vibrant craft beer scene. I suppose they have some art there too. I’d also like to visit Japan, Machu Picchu/Peru, and Tunisia – Carthage in particular. It goes without saying that I would eat the hell out of the local specialties in any of these places. And I’m pretty excited about my upcoming trip to Corsica.
3. Top 5 places you have already visited?
This is hard! In no particular order, and without thinking too much, and not counting France because I live here, my gut says: Barcelona, Jamaica, Lisbon, Germany (both Munich and Köln), and Bulgaria.
4. What song takes you back to your senior year in high school like it was yesterday?
I’m kind of drawing a blank here. But I’m pretty sure I listened to a lot of Weezer’s blue album that year. And a lot of The Beatles.
5. What was your first car?
A gray 1987 Volvo 240 DL. In fact, the only car I’ve ever owned. It had 211,179 miles on it when the odometer stopped working. I drove it for 5 more years after that, but I had to give it up when we moved to France.
6. Coffee or tea?
7. What is your favorite thing to cook?
I never know how to answer this question. Yes, I do. Ice cream.
8. Favorite thing about blogging?
Having a place to practice writing on my own terms. And making/keeping in touch with friends all over the world!
9. Three pieces of advice you would give younger you?
12 years ago: Learn more about computers and the internet. Start a blog now. 5 years ago: Buy an apartment in Paris. 2 years ago: Your training and expertise in baking and pastry are worth more than you think. Don’t give professional advice for free, and protect your intellectual property.
10. What would be your perfect date?
Dates, at least in my limited and long-ago experience, seem to be awkward by definition. Dinner and snuggling on the couch with my husband and the cat? Perfection.
11. Could you recommend 2 books that moved you (any genre)?
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut; La Nausée by Jean-Paul Sartre (at the risk of sounding snooty, it’s not nearly as good in English)
Now, I get to tag five blogfriends:
Hails of Coffee Helps
Hopie of Hopie’s Kitchen
Ramya of The Mistress of Spices
Hannah of Wayfaring Chocolate
And the 11 questions I want you to answer:
1. What was the last concert you went to?
2. What was the best concert you’ve ever been to?
3. Name your top three favorite spices and what you like to do with them.
4. Wine or beer?
5. Do you have a pet? What is the most surprising thing he or she has ever done?
6. Where have you traveled that you most want to visit again?
7. What movie can you recite by heart?
8. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
9. What was the last book you read?
10. Where do you like to sing?
11. When do you feel most content?
Thanks, Melissa, for a fun distraction on a rainy day. And if you, reading this, feel compelled to answer any of these questions, I’d love to see your responses in the comments!
On this day in 2009: Why English Food Doesn’t Suck, part 3: Fergus Henderson
Originally published on Croque-Camille.