The French Re-Connection
How a trip to the City of Lights lit the spark for more adventure, deeper romance, and saying yes to the things our hearts long to do
I just got back from nine days in Paris - a trip that I’d been dreaming of taking for 25 years.
For as long as I can remember, Jon and I had talked about spending our 25th wedding anniversary in Paris. While Jon had never been to France, I had spent a brief weekend in Paris in 1994 while I was studying abroad in London. But that whirlwind trip was nothing more than seeing a few Parisian highlights through the eyes of a 20-year-old college student. I wanted an opportunity to experience Paris the way I’d always dreamed of, immersing myself in the city, sitting at cafes, strolling through the parks hand-in-hand with the man I loved.
In January, when the calendar rolled over to 2022, it meant our 25th wedding anniversary was only six, short months away. As I took a few days at the beginning of the year to plan my annual goals, I really wanted to put a Paris anniversary trip on the list, right alongside finishing my book and a few other big dreams I have for 2022. To be honest, I’ve always been apprehensive about writing down personal goals out of fear of not achieving them. But this year, I decided to buy a goal setting journal to hold myself accountable and see what might happen if I actually wrote down what I wanted to do.
Penning my dream trip to Paris in ink in that journal was a big step. But, I gave myself an out when I put it down by adding the word, “perhaps,” next to the dream of the trip. In my mind, should the reality of a trip of this magnitude prove too difficult to achieve, I didn’t want my journal to be a source of disappointment in the future. Even though I felt like the trip was a huge stretch goal, I wrote it down anyway. A dream of Paris right there in pink ink. (Perhaps.)
A few days after writing down my goals, I decided to share them with Jon. I fully expected him to agree that, while the idea of a Paris anniversary trip seemed dreamy, reality would prove it was out of the question for 2022. As we sat at the kitchen table that day talking through my goals for the year, we couldn’t help but reflect on what a difficult year 2021 had been for us. Without question, it was the hardest year of our life. We’d lost a lot last year - friendships, finances, even family members. When you go through a difficult season, one of the first things that gets stolen from you is the ability to dream about the future. In a hard season, reality quickly establishes itself like a thick, tangled vine, climbing up and covering over the brightest of hopes and dreams. After a year like we’d had in 2021, deliberately choosing to dream again felt risky, shaky, uncertain. It felt like we might be setting ourselves up just to be disappointed all over again.
As we talked about all the reasons not to take the trip - travel restrictions, stretched finances, a busy schedule - we agreed the practical answer was no. But that day at the kitchen table, we couldn’t shake the urge we felt in our hearts. We needed to say yes to Paris. We needed this trip to remind ourselves that dreams still come true, no matter how harsh the realities of life might be.
April (and May) in Paris
We set our sights on a trip for late April/early May. Even though our actual anniversary was in June, traveling while our boys were in school was easier on them and on my parents who would be staying with them while we were gone. We also wanted to take advantage of spring in Paris, which we’d heard was one of the best times to visit. Fewer crowds, cooler temps, and spring flowers in bloom? Sign me up!
We were fortunate enough to snag airline tickets in early February before prices soared through the roof. Our next hurdle was figuring out which arrondissement to anchor ourselves in for the stay. In Paris, each area of the city is divided into a numbered arrondissement, like a neighborhood. We decided on the 5th arrondissement - also called the Latin Quarter. One of the oldest areas in Paris, it was established in the Middle Ages when Latin was the language of learning at the Sorbonne, which is located in the 5th. Full of great cafes, parks, and centrally located Metro stations, we felt this area would be a perfect perch from which to explore all that Paris had to offer. We settled on Hotel Monge, which came highly rated and had excellent reviews on Trip Advisor.
In planning our trip, we also had some help from my friend, Joy Eggerichs Reed, a literary agent who has lived in Paris for five years. I met Joy in early 2021 through one of her agency’s book proposal cohorts. She regularly posts about her family’s Parisian adventures and is frequently hit up by followers about the best places to eat and what to see in Paris. Joy and her husband, Matt, have put together this amazing guide of all their favorite Paris must-dos, which was immensely helpful in planning our trip.
In fact while we were in Paris, we had dinner with Joy, Matt and their two adorable kids, Millie and Emerson. We arrived at their apartment with a few, good old American staples like Frank’s hot sauce and Dallas Cowboys gear. She surprised me by opening up a bottle of champagne to celebrate that I’d finished writing my book just before coming on the trip, my dream that became a reality under her guidance a year ago. It was a lovely spending the evening with them and seeing a glimpse of the life they’re cultivating in Paris. I am forever grateful to Joy for her friendship, encouragement to keep writing, and for their amazing trip suggestions.
Getting off the beaten path
Because we planned to stay in Paris more than just a few days, that meant we could make plans to see the major attractions like the Louvre, Versailles, Eiffel Tower and others, but also schedule a few unplanned days to just wander the streets and soak up the city.
It was these unplanned days that were most magical. The weather was unbelievably perfect making walking the cobblestone streets a delight. Each neighborhood, cafe, and park gave us something unique to experience.
We also decided before ever boarding the plane that we would eat one pain au chocolate every day, trying out different boulangeries to see which one we liked best. Our vote? You really can’t go wrong. They’re all incredible.
Speaking of food, whether it was a delicious paninis from a street vendor, or rabbit on the chef’s tasting menu at a Michelin star restaurant, we ate and drank and filled our bellies with the best the city has to offer. The next day, we simply walked it all off on that day’s adventure. In fact, we walked over 60 miles while we were in Paris. Yes, we took the Metro and taxis, but we’d still end each day with more steps walked than we ever anticipated. By the way, almost everyone in Paris wears tennis shoes, so forgo the fashion and get yourself some good walking shoes.
Two of my favorite unplanned adventures were when we happened upon a pop-up flea market near the Sorbonne where I scored a pair of porcelain salt and pepper shakers with a real pepper grinder built in. Ten euros later, I had a small memento of Paris to add to our own table back home.
Our other amazing, unplanned adventure was hitting up a Paris jazz club, Caveau de la Huchette. This club is like a throwback to a bygone era. You enter on the ground floor, walk past the bar and go down two flights of stairs into the basement where there’s a small stage and a few bench seats surrounding a concrete dance floor. “Caveau” means “vault” and that’s exactly what it felt like in the basement of this building, constructed in 1551! We tapped our toes for awhile watching the dancers swing and sway on the floor before finally working up the courage to get out there ourselves. We might not have had the smoothest moves, but we dusted off enough muscle memory from our West Coast dance lessons 20-plus years ago to keep up with the beat. It was a highlight of the trip!
Take time to stop and smell the roses…and irises, and tulips, and…
Did I mention the parks yet? Paris is full of incredible parks. Big parks and small parks. Neighborhood parks and parks attached to churches. Parks with trees more than 200 years old and parks with playgrounds for kids to enjoy. From the manicured hedges at Versailles, to the wildflowers in bloom at the Tuileries Gardens, to the roadside flower stands, every day we made a point to stop and enjoy the best of Paris’ abundant botanical life.
Just the two of us
I can’t begin to explain how important this trip was in helping the two of us dream again. After a season of loss and heartache, this trip was a healing balm. In crossing the ocean, we felt like we were crossing over into a new season: a season of hope, a season of goodness, a season of harvest.
During our time away, we reflected back on all we’ve experienced together over 25 years of marriage, but most of our conversations looked forward in anticipation of what’s to come. We also stopped and took a picture every time we found a building or apartment with the number 25 on it, a little way to remember why we came to Paris in the first place.
And, as luck would have it, on our last day in town we found a hardware store where we were able to buy our own iconic, Parisian blue and white enamel house number - number 25 - a memento of our trip, of our marriage milestone, and of our commitment to keep dreaming for the next 25 years and beyond.
If the reality of the last few years have caused you to forget what it feels like to dream, take a tip from the two of us: write down what you dream of doing and then say yes to doing it. You never know where your dreams will take you.