In a Paris State of Mind

My love affair with France started at 17, after spending a summer in Paris at the Cite Universitaire with L’Alliance Francaise de Saint Domingue. I lived in a French dorm with my sister chaperoned by my mom, and had to wake up at 7 am every day to make it to French lessons. It was the first time I experienced common bathrooms and still remember the thin light blue curtains in the showers, the worn tiles on the floor. Each room was charmingly spare, with two twin beds, floor to ceiling windows that opened up to a tiny balcony, a couple of Vienna chairs.  We would walk to class each day, and then sit in classrooms filled with students from all over the world.

I don’t remember learning anything. What I do remember was the incredible sense of wonder at being in such a romantic place where I could barely speak the language, and yet felt so connected to the culture and the beautiful way the words seemed to escape the mouth of locals, as if hidden with every breath.

Then I returned to Paris during college doing my Junior Year abroad and fell even more deeply in love with the culture. I taught English at a polytechnic school, toured the Languedoc-Roussillon region in a cherry fiat with some of my students who became my best friends. Heck, I even had a declaration of love by a French boy with deep blue eyes who showed up at my studio apartment one day with a single yellow rose. It was the first time that I saw hashish (at a party, though I didn’t try it). I met a mysterious Indian stranger at a bar who introduced me to jasmine tea and independent French cinema. I ate baguette, brie and marmalade for breakfast every morning that I bought at the market downstairs. I would run along the Seine weaving in and out of people passed out along the banks of the river. I lived with an older widowed lady in a flat in front of the Musee d’Orsay who had an apartment filled with art and sculpture. She would send me to buy her cigarettes. She had red velvet curtains in her boudoir. She made coq-au-vin for dinner that we would wash down with glasses of Beaujolais.

The year before I left New York, I made a conscious decision to brush up on my French and signed up for weekly language lessons at L’Alliance Francaise. It was wonderful, dreamy and energizing to be surrounded by francophiles left and right (even though most of them were retired and well into their 60’s). I felt an instant kinship with each and every one of them. I am now on the hunt for my next frenchie fix, this time in my new city by the sea. To tide me over, here is a good list I found to some of MIami’s best French spots. I am proud to say I have been to nearly all.

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