Posts Tagged 'home'

Mon Pays et Paris

The Friday before Christmas Eve – woo-hoo!

Just thought I’d share my version of holiday music. I’m no caroler, but this puts me in a certain kind of spirit.

J’ai deux amours: mon pays et Paris, the song says. “I have two loves: my country and Paris.” Ain’t that the truth.

I do sometimes feel stretched across the great Atlantic. Family and friends gathered together back in the States; I miss them from here. But I also feel like I am home. Home in Paris. Why limit love? Love is meant to be big and generous and open-hearted and deep. How great to have two loves.

Mon pays et Paris.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Paris Local Expert

From a Stranger in Paris last night to a Local Expert today, I sure do get to take on many identities by living in the City of Light.

I realized something recently: in just a few months I’ll be reaching my five-year anniversary of the move to Paris. Half a decade! That will match – and then quickly surpass – the amount of time I lived in New York.

Wow. Paris becomes the place I’ve lived the longest since leaving my mama’s house at 18. Definitely nothing I ever planned. Isn’t life grand?

Actually not the view from *my* Paris home. Friend/Blogger Jennyphoria lives here!

Continue reading ‘Paris Local Expert’

Borderlands/Home

Taxis and books, 5th Avenue, New York

Happy Bastille Day!

It’s been nearly three weeks that I’ve been back in the States and it’s been a great time. A beautiful wedding weekend in Brooklyn; the bubbling creativity of my writing residency in Vermont; a quick trip to DC to see family.

I’m now back in New York in a large apartment in Washington Heights, overlooking the Hudson River and hanging out with wonderful friends.

Am I home?

Well, home’s a funny word, you know. Walking the streets of New York I almost feel homesick for the city – which is strange, because I’m here!

When I was surrounded by so many amazing writers in Vermont, I also felt at home. Having so many people who understand and love the same things I do was such a gift. I am still riding that wave, but also mourning. It was hard to go.

My adorable niece!

Then family! My adorable niece who grows by leaps and bounds each time I see her. My mom who gives the best hugs, my sister and brother-in-law who are such fun.

Really, I look for community wherever I go. I guess the people in each place – they are my home.

As for where I actually live, though – yes! That is also home and how happy I am to say that it’s Paris.

I have a post over on the wonderful blog Pret a Voyager about my tiny pocket on the border of the 11th and 20th arrondissements. Here’s a taste, then head on over to read the rest if you like what you see. Anne has been featuring a tour of Paris by each arrondissement, so you might want to check out the whole series!
* * *

 “Borderlands (A Tiny Pocket of the Twentieth)”

It seems fitting where I ended up in Paris. People become passionate about their postcode, as each arrondissement has its own personality. Without falling into the trap of postal prejudice, certain quartiers do draw different demographics.

I’m most definitely a girl of the Rive Droite, and of the East. I started in the nineteenth – which will always hold a special place in my heart – but for the past three years I’ve lived right on a border. My mail bears an address of the 11th. I literally walk across the street, though, and I’m in the 20th.

Street art, 20eme

Straddling these two neighborhoods seems almost symbolic, as I’m so accustomed to having my feet on both sides: I’m torn between France and the US. I’m a New Yorker who grew up in the South. Living in between, claiming both – these feelings are my familiar.

Of course, the 11th and the 20th are hardly opposites – nothing that dramatic. Both are far from the tourist crowds, local haunts are many. These two neighborhoods slip one into the next.

The 20th is the scruffier cousin to the 11th, more populaire, more mixed. Cheaper rents mean it’s home to many immigrant populations, as well as anyone on tighter budgets. No wonder that many artists find their ateliers here, too.

This starts the spiral of gentrification, though. Because where the artists go becomes cool, non? The twentieth holds an inherent tension, then – between a tougher edge and hip trends. I’d say it’s still a mostly positive tension, an energy that animates, but it’s always something to keep an eye on.

Still, I can’t speak for large swaths of the 20th. Most days I stay faithful to my tiny borderland – I don’t have to venture far to find interesting things.

Keep reading over on Pret a Voyager….

Aux Deux Amis

Last night I met up with two of my favorite Paris bloggers – the awesome Amy Thomas of God, I Love Paris and the wonderful Erica of HiP Paris Blog.

Amy and I share the same feeling of being both blessed and cursed to have such strong affinities for New York and Paris. On the one hand, spoiled for riches to have intimate true love and knowledge of two incredible cities. On the other, heartache, because we’re forever torn between the two.

Amy moved back to New York in January and believes the decision the right one. She also said the adjustment has been difficult. From what I’ve heard, repatriation can be even more of a shock than first moving to a foreign country.

What did Thomas Wolfe say? You can’t go home again.

Well, you can, but you are different. Home feels different. Once an expat, the very notion of home becomes complicated. It’s no longer just a fixed location, but an evolving, fluid concept, one that changes how you interact with the world. It reaches right down to your very identity.

Continue reading ‘Aux Deux Amis’

One Year

My friend Sarah's cat. His name is Little. He's big. I did a fair bit of lounging myself since we last spoke!

Hello, friends!

I know; it’s been awhile. I stumbled back into Paris yesterday just as I left it a month ago: racing against a snowstorm. The East Coast of the US got slammed and I escaped by just a hair. I’ve come back to rain and gray skies – the normal Paris winter, if you will. A fresh, warm baguette upon arrival made me forgive the city for such a soggy welcome.

Vermont College of Fine Arts on New Year's Eve

Funny, how the markers of “home” have changed for me. Between Christmas gifts, books, and a new pair of boots (I’m a sucker for boots), I had zero room for the little treats I usually bring back from the States: mac & cheese, peanut butter, black beans, Trader Joe’s chocolate-covered pretzels. (We can talk later about my random selection, if you want).

But coming back to Paris, changing trains at Gare du Nord and being taken in by the smell of pastries (gosh, even in a dingy train station the pastries smell good!), getting off at my metro stop, Alexandre Dumas, and rolling my suitcase through the outdoor market, I marveled: wow, actually, *this* is home. I think I might just make it this stretch without my home comfort food. Seems as soon as I popped into my bakery I was reminded I’ve found comfort right here in the City of Light.

I love being Tata Sion

A month away is a lot to recap, so I won’t really do that here. Only to say it was a bit of a blur between friends, family, school. I rode Amtrak for nearly 14 hours (DC to Vermont), played in the snow, met some amazing writers, watched my niece walk and run everywhere when last I saw her she was only crawling. I stocked up on hugs (as the French kisses don’t always do it for me, you might remember), brushed up on my English (true! The longer I live in France, the worse my English gets – not so hot for a writer, eh?), and pondered, as I always do, this life between here and there.

I wish you all a Bonne Annee. I know it’s late, but I’ve stumbled into 2011 a bit like I’ve stumbled back to Paris: a little disoriented, but full of hope, happy to see what lies ahead.

On this day, one year ago, I started this blog on something of a whim. I had just come home from a reading, it was snowing outside then, too. I had no idea how many awesome folks like you I’d meet along the way, that Paris, however (im)perfect, would become ever more rich and interesting to me, the more I explored. It’s a blog birthday, but more than that – I’m raising a toast to another great year for all of us.

The wall at Mama's Restaurant in NYC

Cheers and thanks!

This American Life

Palm trees in the city: a view from Governor's Island

The April I first vacationed in Paris – the one where I lived in a Sorbonne professor’s top-floor apartment near the Gare du Nord; the one where I met a Frenchman and experienced a coup de foudre; the month, that really, changed everything – I told a friend that I felt I had just lived an entirely different life.

You have, she said.

I feel kind of like that now.

It would be impossible to encapsulate over three weeks back on home soil, but I can tell you I feel different. There are reminders of who I used to be here, pieces of myself I’ve lost, aspects of my personality I want to regain.

As beautiful as Paris is, and as much as the (mostly invented) image of the bohemian writer may appeal, it is really here that I feel free.

Washington Square Park in bloom

I’ve appreciated having my loud laugh celebrated, rather than scorned, random smiles from strangers on the street. I saw a 70-year old man tattooed from head to toe, made friends in line at Trader Joe’s.

Paris has become home, but it wasn’t until I stepped back here that I realized I’ve actually been holding my breath, that the discreet city has quieted me. Sometimes you have to leave the country of “c’est pas possible” for the land of “yes we can.”

99 cents: the American dream?

Perhaps I’ll provide little snippets of my adventures over the coming weeks, because really, it’s hard to sum up. New York embraced me. Vermont invigorated me. From the buzzing city to a little hotbox of creativity, I am nearly full to bursting with inspiration.

Today New York celebrates its version of Bastille Day on 60th Street.

I think I’ll wait for the real deal on July 14 when I will just have arrived back to Paris.

Despite what I’ve been saying here, I’m looking forward to going back. I’m packing my smile and renewed strength with me, though. I prefer who I am in America. Can I be that American in Paris?

Belleville in Brooklyn

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The Joys of Travel

Often, adventure lies in the journey itself.

Like a roadtrip in Mexico where we set off without destination and ended up diving from high cliffs into a turquoise sea, sleeping on a white-sand beach, and stumbling upon a haunted house (we ran away as there were haunted people inside, too).

Or in Ghana, where my guidebook’s only accommodation recommendation for a certain region was to find the “Jesus Reigns Supply Shop” and ask the owner, Michael, if we could stay at his place. (He wasn’t there, but the two workers we met kept us stuffed on sweet mangoes until Michael arrived to whisk us away on his motorbike. He and his wife’s little B&B turned out to be a nice respite).

Sometimes, though, you just want to get to where you’re going.

For my trip back to the States, this was the aim. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans.

On a good day, the drive to Charles de Gaulle Airport takes 30 minutes, though we always leave over an hour for the inevitable traffic jams. The airline had already called early in the morning to inform me that the flight had changed – I love (read hate) how they’re allowed to change any thing at will up to the last moment.

Even with the delay, it became a race to the finish. After over an hour and half stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, a mad dash off the highway to find the nearest RER train station because it was obvious I would miss the flight if I stayed stymied amongst the cars, a worried wait in the Aulnay sous Bois station as it began to rain, I made it to the airport and through all check-in and security procedures with 20 minutes to spare.

I was seated next to 15 young Russian children for the next 7 hours.

But I made it, and I remember why I come back home:

My niece, the cutest little girl in the world.

The hardest thing about being an expat is being far from family and friends. So you soak up every last second with them, say grace for the time spent.

I stayed with my sister and her husband in their new house in DC (congrats, homeowners!) and my above-noted gorgeous niece. My mom came up from North Carolina.

At the end of the weekend, I couldn’t imagine how I ever thought these few days would be enough. (No matter how long, it’s never enough).

But then another travel mishap to distract me. A tardy cab, an asshole driver, a missed bus, a long wait in the hot sun.

But now I’m in New York and it’s all okay again. My last trip here was something of a heartbreaker. I felt like an outsider to a place I had once known so intimately.

This time I’m more prepared. I accept that I am a visitor, that Paris is now home. But I’m visiting as I lived here – with an open wonder. This great city helped shape me, taught me to be who I am to the fullest.

I’m on 95th street on the West side and found it a good omen to pass this building on my block:

Sans Souci. Without Worry.

I’m adopting that motto.

Until I fly up to Vermont on Monday, that is. (Third trip’s a charm?)

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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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