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May 6, 2011

This morning, I’m dreaming of an escape to a place I’ve been before.


There never seems to be a time when Paris doesn’t hold with it all dreams of romance, all images of beauty, all the whispers of inspiration and imagination. If I lived there, would I be in a constant daze? Would I be able to hold down a job and stick to commitments, or would I use my last Euros to drink a cafe au lait and smoke cigarettes at an outdoor cafe, my dress catching on the wicker chair while I watch passersby, my last possession a tattered journal?

See? Even near poverty and dirty lungs sound alluring when Paris is the backdrop.

What’s so special about traveling is that a place stays with you much longer than the few days you spend there. It lives in pictures and in your memory, in the way the sun shines in your bedroom window on a May morning, and sometimes, in dreams. When I arrived in Paris for a second time, I was astounded that it was not just an imaginary place that existed in my memory. It was real. Parisians were everywhere, walking to work, eating breakfast, setting up chairs outside a cafe. They had done it since I left, and they would continue every day while I went about my own business in a separate corner of the world.

I was five months pregnant with my daughter. The opportunity was a total fluke. In June, I sat at my desk in an asbestos-ridden high school outside of Philadelphia, grading final exams. Minutes later, my husband called and told me it was possible for him to take me to Paris that summer while he worked on a project at one of the nicest hotels in the city. One month later, my nerves were more jittery than usual as the plane took off, knowing my son would miss us for the seven-day sojourn. And I, him.

But it was seven days! In Paris! The most beautiful city in the world!

As much as I had vowed to take it easy, I couldn’t remain static in a city with so much to see. Each day, I explored a new arrondissement. After walking many blocks, I often succumbed to Braxton-Hicks contractions. What’s a pregnant girl to do? Have a glass of champagne and an omelette at Cafe de Flore. Then buy a new pair of sandals.

I took a bath in the large tub the hotel had before getting an authentic French pedicure. After, like a child, I was delighted by orange juice and a pink macaroon.

Poor pregnant swollen feet

I drank hot chocolate. In summer. In July.

I gazed at the Parisian clouds, practicing “Bonjour,” “S’il vous plait,” “Merci.”


View at Musee Rodin

I napped. I photographed. I wandered around Belleville.


View from Musee d'Orsay

Pere-Lachaise Cemetery

(Four months later, the image of those clouds helped get me through one of the hardest parts of labor.)

What’s so significant about Paris to my family is that it’s where we began. My son was with my husband and I our first time in Paris, though I didn’t know it yet. My daughter moved and kicked and swayed in my womb while I traversed the same city streets. Now, I dream about us all being together in front of the same columns and statues. I want to photograph my kids in one of the beautiful parks or outside an ornate building, a vivid blue sky the picture’s frame. I can’t wait to show Mr. B the Eiffel Tower while we picnic on the lawn with chocolate crepes filling our hands. I imagine my little family moving through a small apartment in a quiet part of the city, laughing, eating warm croissants, planning our day as the city wakes up.

I just hope I don’t have to wait too long.

Where do you want to escape to, or what place holds warm memories for you?

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Elisa May 6, 2011 at 9:26 am

paris – nice. just went to barcelona last weekend – that was so nice too!
Since we became parents 6 years ago, we have been very good at taking almost a yearly weekend trip to the big cities of Europe, (we live in Denmark, so it’s not that far!) and letting the grandparents watch the kids(and everyone is happy!). We’ve been to Paris, Madrid and a couple of times to Berlin – just to hang out, do whatever we wanted to do together, sleep and EAT great food. These weekends stand out to me as oasis’ (how to spell that in plural?) in the last 6 years of babies, sleepless nights and chaos – it’s been a fantastic way for us to keep the romantic spirit alive.

And I’ll be finishing my grad degree this summer, and I’m hoping my husband will give me a trip to Rome! He’s generous like that!


Jana May 7, 2011 at 9:50 am

That sounds like exactly what we would do. I’d love to go to some of the places you mention–Barcelona, Madrid, Belgium, and even Copenhagen! Please keep commenting so I can live vicariously through your European travels! Italy is top on my list of places I want to go next. (But, um, not with kids.)


Sean May 6, 2011 at 10:30 am

Funny – I was going to write a similar post this weekend, but I went to Paris so long ago that all my pictures are on film. The thought of scanning them is painful. But what is interesting is that you have several of the same images here that I took. Kindred spirits. It is my dream to own a flat near the D’Orsay. I can’t wait to take Ava there someday, too. She’s fascinated with Paris and has been able to identify the Eiffel Tower since she was two. People who have never been may not understand the appeal of this beautiful city. I really hope to go back someday soon.


Jana May 7, 2011 at 9:48 am

Yes, my boy is really fascinated by the Eiffel Tower, too. Usually, I want to get away for a little while without the kids, but because I’ve been to Paris twice, I think I would enjoy it with the kids this time. When you scan your photos, let me know!


Justine May 6, 2011 at 12:36 pm

I love Paris – one of my favorite places in the world. However, I was there in another life then and like you, I wish to go back with my family this time. Or maybe just my guy. We shall see. But yes, I’ve dreamed of going back ever since I left it. And I can’t wait.


Ellie @ The Mommyist May 6, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Paris sounds nice but what I really want right now is a tropical isle. It might as well be winter here in Portland and I have a serious case of the winter blues!


Jana May 7, 2011 at 9:46 am

I, too, understand the tropical isle. My husband and I are getting away to a warmer climate in a few weeks. I’d like to visit Portland, though, just not when it’s cold. :)


Leanne May 6, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Paris is good. But honestly? Right now I’m just dreaming about my bed. Sad but true.


Jana May 7, 2011 at 9:45 am

I get it. I totally get it. I’m now getting a decent amount of sleep, but last year, when my daughter still woke up, I became very jealous of any visual where a person was comfortable in his or her bed. The envy practically seethed out of me.


coeliquore May 7, 2011 at 3:31 am

I have been twice to Paris and I agree with you: it is the most beautiful and romantic place in the world. I also think I lived there in a past life, as I recognized many streets when I was there for the first time, I have a French name and I can communicated easily in their language without never having studied it before ( well, it is similar to Sapnish too).
Another place I ´d love to visit is Amsterdam. I think Dutch people are open and friendly and a country so full of flowers and artists is a wonder.
Outside Europe, I´d like to scape to Istambul and spend a whole day in its zoco.
Anyway, any part of the world I haven´t been to would do…


Jana May 7, 2011 at 9:44 am

Spain ain’t half bad! That’s top on my list. I was in the south of Spain, but that’s not the same as the bigger cities. I want to go there and eat tapas and drink Spanish wine! (Bullfights, not so much.)


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri May 8, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I love Paris. Your pictures brought me back to my honeymoon days. We loved a place called Montmarte. The views there were spectacular, something that is permanently etched in my mind.

I’d like to visit Japan. I am fascinated by the culture there.


Jana May 9, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Have you seen Lost in Translation? I think Coppola does a great job of capturing Tokyo. (Well, I’ve never been there, but she seems to do a great job.)


Kameron May 9, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I can’t wait until the kids are old enough to enjoy traveling with them! My last time on a plane with the boy was so stressful that I needed a Xanax when we landed. Unfortunately I don’t take them so I had none. :o) I wantt o escape to somewhere warm. I want to sleep in a hammock attached to 2 plam trees and feel the breeze wisping across my bare limbs. Ahhhh. Thanks…I needed that thought.


Kameron May 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm

That is the last time I dreamily write a comment and fail to check it for punctuation and grammar. Oh the horror.


Nina May 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Such gorgeous pictures! Love the swollen foot. ;) I don’t know if you seen me mention anywhere that I’m pregnant with #4. Ahhh, to be pregnant in Paris. I’d be eating chocolate crepes like it was my job.


Jana May 9, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Congrats on being pregnant! I would be so frazzled with four, I give moms like you so much credit. (I’m frazzled with two). Hope you still get a chance to write!


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