Every day I discover more and more beautiful things. It’s enough to drive one mad. I have such a desire to do everything, my head is bursting with it.”
― Claude Monet
The french word for winter is hiver and it is truly the romantic way to frame this season in a word. Winter is departing from us now, and I wanted to commemorate winter in Paris before the blooms and sunshine of spring are all there is to say.
Winter has its glow in this city- at Christmastime the shops and holiday markets come out and greet the streets with roasting chestnuts and warm street melodies- everywhere. Large and small. On the Champs Elysées and in the quiet alleys, everyone is celebrating. Garland hangs from the storefronts and long lines of twinkle lights line the streets. Coats, scarves, and boots make their debuts. But the leaves on the ground are fading and this makes Paris seem entirely different. Spring, summer, and fall on any city is its best garment, but there are the things of winter that are only for those that stay.
January came and chocolate chauds and vin rouges still flowed endlessly, but with no Christmas tune or much activity at all. My favorite pit-stop was (and still might be) a cup of hot soup (preferably champignon) paired with a fresh baguette tradition. Soft and crunchy at the same time. Everything is significantly quieter after the holiday stir has passed, for the first time since September, and especially so for me since Couper was in the US for the whole month working out his visa. Couper is essential to my every day, and I missed him so much. But more than I missed him I found myself just so grateful to even have him as my life companion. I remembered how important it is to hold the gifts we’re given freely. To have a friend and an adventure is far better than titles and expectations. You can go as far as the other side of the world but we’ll always be thinking of these heart-things.
So I spent the winter days eating those hot baguettes, walking, and narrating in my head the gratitude and beauty found around me- and always remembering those in the States. There I was in the stillness of a Parisian winter, me and this completely stunning city, taking in what can only be seen by those who choose to stay in a place in its not-as-glorious state. But the romantic in me loved it. It was like my own Jane Austen novel unfolding when my hair and scarf would be entirely taken over by the bone-chilling wind when I crossed the Seine or came up out of the metro. I already miss the warmth from café heaters contrasted with my blustery passing by, and seeing more regulars than tourists at the boulangerie. And now, after having braved these colder seasons, I welcome the spring that makes the gardens and streets come alive at a whole new level. The blooms and people and festivals mean so, so much more to me now. It is just the same as with life’s seasons.
In it bareness I also literally saw more. Paris is an eclectic mix- it is so perfectly imperfect. Since this thought came to my mind a few months ago on a winter walk, it’s all I can see now. Winter gave me a closer look behind the bustle, a window to see. There are almost no franchise chains in the food world (compared to the States). Of the thousands of cafés and restaurants, all are unique. In real life I am turning my head back and forth at just the difference in external appearance, but oh- when you actually step in! These age old spaces have stories to tell. Layers of tiles, knick-knacks, patterns, and vintage objects fill the rooms in this city- which has convinced me that Paris is the land of ephemeral aesthetic discovery.
Some special highlights included my dear friend Jill visiting me here, a private trip to Versailles with one of my classes on a day that the only other people in Versailles were the restoration crew, the Phillipe Halsman exhibition at Jeu de Paume, my trip to see Monet's 'waterliles', every walk to the Eiffel Tour that was right around the corner from my apartment the whole winter, the time spent investing in relationships and community here in the day-to-day, and a few fun photo/design/interior projects that make me come alive.
I wish I could describe it in all its fullness; my words are not a fair review. Couper said this statement the other day and I wrote it down: “It speaks on that totally romantic yet frustrating fact that we can’t capture our life as it is, all the beautiful things we experience- good and hard. I’ve had to let go, though, because my life here will have to be lived out as a dream. There is no way to properly record it.”
We are in our new apartment, it offers a sense of steadiness and room to invest in. The blooms are celebrating with us! Now, on to the colors, picnics, and roses of springtime living. Our first springtime in Paris, welcomed with arms outstretched.