I’m going to what feels like the Mean Girl of cities in a couple of weeks.
You know the one.
She’s all Chanel and couture and linen and lipstick. They speak fancy French there, not the regular, old, Canadian kind (and even my Canadian French is pretty patchy and rusty).
I lived in Europe with my family as a teen and then in my early and later 20s, on my own. But, somehow, I never got to Paris.
London and York and Cornwall, I love. Hamburg and Heidelberg, too.
But Paris, is a big old question mark for me.
Or, is it actually a REAL PLACE with garbage trucks, and people wearing pajamas in public, and bad cooks?
My parents went to Paris for a holiday when we lived in England, but for some reason, they didn’t take their teenagers with them. Who knows why?
I was too broke when I lived close by to get there, and my friends lived in Germany. So, I just kept flying over Paris, as if she didn’t matter one hoot.
Take that, mean girl!
But now, my German friends are living in Paris, in the ninth arrondissement. I think that means near ALLLLLL the Pain au Chocolat (one of the main reasons I’m even going to Paris), right?
And, I am slightly intimidated.
According to Canadian/US versions of Paris, I am prepared to feel inferior on a number of levels including my weight, my fashion sense (lack thereof), not to mention my (quelle horreur) love of patterned fabric.
French chic? Mais, non. Just call me “flabby, shabby chic”.
I am not sleek or sophisticated. I am much more inclined to the chubby and cheerful.
But, so is Ina Garten and she supposedly loves Paris, right? So did Julia Child and she was tall and awkward.
Vives les Tall and Awkward!
With a side of Still Too Many Shoes for My Suitcase.
Practical Man disliked Paris when he was there so he’s glad to be sitting this one out. Mind you, he dislikes ALL cities so he’s not really a neutral opinion. Instead, I am travelling with my sweet sister-in-law Roadrunner, who speaks Northern Ontario French as her first language at home. She’s never been to Europe. In fact, this is her first trans-Atlantic flight. Although she is fluent in the language, I’ve heard that Parisians can be quite cutting when it comes to The Canadian Form of French. My also fluent father was once asked in Paris where he learned his French and when he told them Canada, they said, “c’est domage (that’s too bad)”.
I do love me some vintage, flea markets, and sparkly lights. Someplace called The City of Lights seems to be a good city for that sort of tra-la-la.
Anyhoo, if you’ve been there, here are the questions I have about going to Paris:
- I expect there to be accordions playing in the background as we stroll around. But, should I be prepared with some Charles Aznavour on my playlist, just in case?
- Is there a “how not to overpack” Pinterest board for people who are not Marie Kondo or wearing exclusively Lululemon?
- If I can’t get rid of my vertigo before I leave and end up getting arrested because I’m wobbling down the streets like I’m intoxicated, will they bring me the French version of Bread and Water (baguette and Perrier) in jail?
- Is black the only colour people wear? What if I look more like “Widowed Nonna from a Godfather movie” than “Audrey Hepburn” in black?
- Where can I rent a Betsy bicycle or a moped so I can ride along the Seine with a baguette sticking out of the basket, humming La Vie en Rose?
- Is it wrong to have a pain au chocolat EVERY morning while I’m there? Wait, don’t answer that.
- Will my brain actually turn into a pretzel if I try to speak German (with our host family), Paris French (let’s face it, that won’t be possible), Canadian French (only slightly more possible), Bad French (definitely possible), and English (please direct me to the nearest pain au chocolat?) in one holiday?
- How many beautiful buildings can you drool on before they kick you out of the country?
- Ditto for Boulangerie, Patisserie and other “erie” windows?
It’s like a first date with someone way out of your league.
Or, as they say in Paris…
[nonchalant and chic expression full of fabulous cheekbones].
When we moved to our current house, I was very excited because of the magic drawer.
You know, the magic drawer that you put dishes in and then swish, swish, swish, swish, they magically come out clean.
Of course, Practical Man has been known to remove dishes from the magic drawer to wash them in the sink. It bewilders me and I would never do it because I believe it is an insult to the magic drawer whose mere existence is…magical, in my opinion.
Anyway, I have loved the magic drawer from the first moment we met. And, not just because there had been many times in my early 20s, when I hid dirty dishes in the oven when my mother came to visit. The magic drawer sort of mesmerizes me (I am easily entertained) but my fascination has its roots in vintage times, when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s.
There was no magic drawer in our house. Not until I had left home. Behold the evidence. (p.s. my mother would like you to know that she, like Julia Child, no longer has pegboard in her kitchen.) Helping with the dishes and other parentally-inflicted hardships (like the lone, 13′” black-and-white TV we had until I left for university) allows my sister and I to tease our parents and feel smug about our “deprived” childhoods. Some parents cry when their children move out. Mine went on a shopping spree and bought all the modern conveniences we had been begging for over the years.
Anyway, no magic drawer. Deprived childhood. Years and years of doing dishes. Boo, hoo, hoo. You get the gist. All perfect material for a modern-day family dinner party.
However, we did have dishwashing music.
The deal in our house was that my mom cooked the supper and my sister, dad and I did the cleaning up. Far from mere drudgery of dirty pots and table crumbs, the “cleaning up” was my favourite part of any meal (especially if that meal had involved ratatouille or meatloaf–bleech). The dishwashing collection was our dad’s pile of 45 records, some old, some new. The only criteria for making it into the collection was that it had to have what he termed: “a good beat”.
All the better for us to engage in our tra-la-la (I think that’s where it started for me), doo wap and bee bop.
We were like the Ellen Degeneres show except with tea towels.
It was a festive affair, the cleaning up. It often took us hours what with the trading of DJ duties, careful selection of music, enthusiastic dancing (and dripping of water on the floor) and of course the…
A wimoweh, a wimoweh, a wimoweh…
A wah, wah, wah, wah, wonder…
One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock, rock…
Wah ha ha ha ha haaaaah…
It was not a magic drawer, but it was magic. Around 8:00, our mom would appear from the basement (where she had no doubt been squinting at the tiny black and white television) and gasp, “Aren’t you done YET?!”
One more song. Just one more song.
The dishes were done ages ago. The tra-la-la, doo wap and bee bop of dishwashing music lasts forever.
I watched the movie Julie and Julia today, for what must be the 12th time, weeping over the sweet, supportive husbands (and counting myself lucky to be in that club) and the idea of people’s writing/publishing dreams coming true. Julia Child’s ’50-’60s Paris is a feast for the vintage lover with its short gloves and cloche-inspired hats and raw silk dresses cinched at the waist and billowing like very elegant souffles at the skirts.
And, of course, there is the never-ending parade of butter. Very vintage.
But, in between salivating over the butter, I was reminded of my Lucy Dress–even though in the depths of a Canadian January, it’s not something I have a hope of wearing for at least another 5 months. Right now, it’s all about the winter wear:
-fleece (guaranteed to make me so full of static electricity that I can snap, crackle pop my way through the house)
– tights that are inevitably too short for my legs
– clothing items that accidentally have too much wool in them because I forgot to check the label or was overly optimistic about how much wool I can stand in the name of warmth, before I brought their itchiness home with me
– turtleneck (I only have one)
This sexy wardrobe seems to be my (not to mention my husband’s) lot from October until May. Today, for example, I was wearing a very un-vintage-y down coat and rubber boots to help my husband unpack supplies to build a shed. It was a good day because my clunky, it’s-a-temperature-outside-that-guarantees-my-long-ago-frostbitten-toes-will-start-aching-without-them-in-3-minutes Sorel-style boots weren’t required. It was “warm” today at 1 degree C but still a long way from a Lucy Dress Day.
I call it the Lucy Dress because when I tried it on, I immediately felt like Lucille Ball. It has that classic 50s dress shape to it, is a luscious shade of red and it makes me want to voop. Y’know, hold the skirt out from my body with the tips of my fingers and swish and twirl and bat my eyelashes…and there you have it: voop, voop. Oh, and maybe eat a little something slathered with beurre blanc and have the classic song, “Time After Time” playing in the background, just to complete the vintage illusion.
But, it’s not time for the Lucy Dress just yet. So, when the next snow storm arrives, I’ll have to content myself with vooping as the snow falls while I try to catch the snowflakes on my tongue. Luckily, that’s pretty fun too.