Archive for September, 2010

Serendipitous City Stuff

Happy little car on Rue Vieille du Temple

Every spring near the end of the semester, my college would throw a huge party for several days running. (Moderately) big bands played, fun games were set up on the lawn, and (let’s get real), huge beer kegs were tapped.

I especially loved the “inflatable Olympics” apparatus that took over the fields. You have by now probably placed me in my early 30s (you are correct), but have surmised that I am really just a big kid. Why running through plastic obstacle courses or donning sumo wrestling costumes was my year’s highlight, I’m not sure, but let’s just say people who are easily amused usually have a better time in life.

Besides enjoying the all-out let-loose feeling of the festivities, I found my favorite word: Serendipity. Yes, this was the name of the annual party. It means unlooked for good fortune, or “making desirable discoveries by accident.”

Sure, lots of these events were planned, but put a whole bunch of 18-22 year olds in a beautiful campus setting surrounded by a big forest and give them free-flowing alcohol, some unforeseen things are going to happen. (Actually, I wonder now if the college wasn’t looking for trouble more than luck. Wow.)

P1020037 (I have almost the exact same photo of me somewhere around here…)

Some people can’t stand city life. This September I especially sympathize as this is the most stressful rentree I have ever experienced. The crowds, the frenzy, the traffic, two strikes in two weeks. It is sometimes enough to make one go batty.

But then there is serendipity. Lucky accidents can happen anywhere, of course, but the higher density of people in cities just puts the odds at these lucky accidents just a tad higher, in my opinion.

Without even trying, I run into delightful little treats. (Or, do I just take the time to appreciate them? Hmm, discuss).

Like this, for instance: you might not be surprised when I say that I heard some lovely classical music at Bastille the other day. The Bastille Opera is there, of course. Only, the concert wasn’t located in the opera house, at all. Nope, I stayed underground and listened to this mini-orchestra for awhile. (Notice the older woman dancing near the end – I will be this older woman someday, I’m sure).

Or last night, I went to Shakespeare & Co to hear Nick Flynn and Adam Haslett read, followed by some jazz piano afterward. This was an event as part of the big Festival America that will be taking place at Vincennes this weekend. As I was walking back, I ran into some sort of spectacle at the Hotel de Ville. (I love how much goes on at the Hotel de Ville. True public programming. This week’s events are in support of “Coeur des Vies.” Stations are set up at the Hotel de Ville so you can give blood until September 25).

When there was a pause in the acrobatics, I went home, but I appreciated the small random pause in the day. There is SO MUCH I want to be doing in Paris right now, but I have too much on my plate right now to take advantage of everything. So it’s quite convenient to just run into fun things without trying. This bit of serendipity really brings a smile to my face.

I have to give a shout-out to fellow blogger Adam of Invisible Paris and Paris Weekends who really knows this city and all her off-beat corners. He puts together a stellar list of (often quirky) things going on for the weekend. This week I want to do absolutely everything he writes about.

I probably won’t get to any of it, but maybe I can hope for a little serendipity on my side and run into something else completely unexpected.

What have been some of your favorite serendipitous moments?

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Paris Birthday

Shakespeare & Co - my first year

Today is my Paris anniversary.

With two suitcases, little French, and no idea of what I was getting myself into, I flew into Charles de Gaulle airport on this day four years ago. I haven’t looked back yet.

It’s amazing how the time flies; it seems to have passed in mere seconds. But how much has happened in these precious years!

I’ve been getting more and more emails lately from people telling me how brave I was for taking the leap. I have to say, brave is not the word I would use. Yes, there were many unknowns. Yes, much could have gone wrong (and, of course, has!). But I did what I had to do.

Why?

It is always the second line of this Anais Nin quote that I remember, not the first:

“It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before, to test your limits, to break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

To me, it would have been more of a risk NOT to come. I did not want to wonder what if? for the rest of my life – and I knew I would if I didn’t get on that plane.

Most of you know that – unlike a lot of people – Paris was not a dream that I harbored for a long time. No. But life called and her name was Paris, as surprising as that seemed to me at the time. It became the dream. And when a dream grabs hold of you, there’s no choice but to follow it.

I call this blog (im)perfect because living is not the same as planning. Unexpected things happen, you roll with the punches, you find and create beauty. Life is imperfect. The imperfect can be beautiful.

Me on Pont des Arts (Photo by Dani Voirin)

In a nice bit of timing, my friend Lisa Lubin just posted an inspiring video to document her 3+ years of world travel. I met her in Paris a few years ago as she was traipsing the globe. A very different journey from mine, but the same impetus in the end: you must simply do it.

Many of the quotes she uses in the video explain how I ended up here:

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing” Helen Keller

“Some experiences simply do not translate. You simply have to GO to know” Kobi Yamada

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of” Ben Franklin

(You can catch me quickly at minute 1:57 caught in the act of laughing and with unbelievably long hair).

How did I celebrate today? I have a wonderful friend visiting right now (who I know from New York, but who now works for the AP in South Africa – another one living the dream!). We went out for lunch, ate cupcakes, walked the 11th, sat and gossiped at a sidewalk cafe, got gelato. (Yes, a bit indulgent, especially all within the space of 5 hours!)

And now I’m writing this blog post. Reflecting on my time so far. Feeling gratitude. Thinking about the future. Daring to dream new dreams.

Thanking you for sharing in my journey so far.

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Soggy Strike

Paris CDG Termial 2E 06

Dear readers,

Right now I should be in Italy, walking along the banks of Lake Como with my friend Simone who grew up in the area.

Instead I’m sitting in my uncomfortable writing chair (must do something about that) in Paris wondering just why I put up with France sometimes.

See, there was a huge national strike on Tuesday. Yes, yes, nothing new. It’s la rentree, everyone’s back, might as well go on strike.

Fine. My flight was scheduled on Wednesday. I checked Easyjet’s flight before leaving to make sure it was still on. Yes, it said. Planifie.

Only, when I get to CDG airport, the flight was not planifie. Not planned at all. A great big annule, in fact. Wait in line to rebook. Unhelpful ticket agent who does not want to tell me why the flight is cancelled. After about my fifth time asking, he finally says, quite haughtily, well, Madame, there was a big national strike yesterday.

Yes, yes, I’m aware, I said. That was yesterday. And today is today.

But let’s not belabor the point. When can I get out of here?

Oh, Friday? As in, not tonight, not tomorrow, but in 2 days from now? Oh, and you do not want to pay me for the expenses of my fruitless trip out here? Right. Ok. Do you think I should go now, before I reach across the desk and strangle you?

Continue reading ‘Soggy Strike’

Indian Summer

Listening to Aretha Franklin and American soul music while we wait for the movie (Respect!)

You might have noticed a theme on my (and other Paris) blogs: summer sucked.

Or, to put it less harshly, summer didn’t really seem to make much of an appearance in the City of Light.

However, we now seem to be experiencing something of an Indian summer. For the past several days I wake up, open my curtain and exclaim: sun! blue skies! wow, really?! (I so don’t want to jinx this lucky run of weather).

Setting up the old black and white film projector

Gone is the ghost town of August when the entire city emptied out for holiday-making elsewhere. I think those people are crazy because imagine this: you get the most beautiful city in the world all to yourself when you stay!

But now everyone is back; it is the rentree. Frankly, the frantic energy and returning crowds are stressing me out after such a relaxed month. Imagine back-to-school fever, but on speed.

So, this wonderful weather couldn’t have come at a better time to help me recapture a bit of the relaxed vibe. Summer in September? I’ll take it.

I was delighted to see that Hitchcock’s “Notorious” was playing in a neighborhood park on Friday. (You might remember I adore Hitchcock).

Aside from a very rowdy group of teenagers – I guess there are unruly skater kids everywhere – it was a perfect evening. Cary Grant. Ingrid Bergman. Stars. Clear skies.

They even piped in Aretha Franklin and a bunch of American soul music while we waited. Hearing French people sing along to “Take a load off Fanny” has to be a personal highlight.

Clinging to the last gasp of summer, I’m thankful for every minute.

Notorious on the Big Screen. (I want to live in a black and white movie).

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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