For expat Keith Digby, the tragedy of the French terrorist attacks turned unexpectedly personal during a visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris' best-known resting place.
Writer Dorty Nowak has lived in Paris, on and off, for ten years. When friends planning a trip to the City of Lights for the first time ask her what museums they should visit, her number one choice, the Carnavalet, rarely makes the guidebook "must visit" lists. Get the inside scoop on what makes it so special.
Just below the brickwork of the fence line on one of the busiest streets in this enormous city, a fully-grown woman was squatting over the autumn leaves next to a tree that had no hope in hell of disguising her need to go. This was a manoeuvre I had performed myself many times, under the cover of the Australian bush. Never once did I consider I would see it here in the epicenter of Paris.
by Dorty Nowak After growing up in a family where dinner was eaten off trays in front of the TV, I wanted to create a gracious dining atmosphere in my own home. Lit candles and cloth napkins were the norm, and I combed Good Housekeeping for tips to better the ambience for my family and guests. However, it wasn’t until I moved to Paris that I discovered how little I knew about what truly makes a pleasurable dining experience.
Our time in Paris had ended and saying goodbye proved difficult. I would miss the poetic rain and inspiring architecture, the grooved and powdered cobblestones beneath building walls that spewed graffiti, and the cloaked alleyways with bottles of cheap wine dangling from our fingers. It was everything I hoped it would be, which meant it wasn’t a postcard or hopeful imagination. Beauty mixed with the tangible. Drug dealers peddled underneath the illuminated Eiffel Tower at night, angry drivers swore at each other as they circled the Arc de Triomphe, and the Place de la Concorde was covered in bird shit.
Adventures were on the horizon, Spain awaited with sangrias, tapas, sunlight, and white-walled promenades. The only obstacle was getting to the Eurostar terminal somewhere off Fayette. When traveling, I’m not the type of person that likes to know what the day will bring. Wandering and last minute decisions have always yielded more memorable experiences than schedules or crowded attractions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the ideal personality trait when we needed to catch a specific train and had no directions or general sense of where we were going. It also didn’t help that I drank three grand crèmes at a sidewalk bistro before leaving and had to stop every two blocks and find a washroom.
The three of us stumbled into a train station with the aid of blind luck and selective stupidity. Late and irritated, we hurried downstairs, rushing so we could blankly stare at the French metro lines for thirty minutes. Best bet memorized, we followed the crowd to the ticket kiosks.
Standing near the waiting commuters was a Parisian shouting about a deal in broken English. Naturally, being the thrifty travelers we were (beer money>comfort), we decided to investigate the bargain.
by Nancy King
The voice on the other end of the phone was exultant. “I’ve found a house exchange on Craig’s list. I’m going to Paris for two weeks. I leave in ten days.”
Envy, like a mass of kudzu, took up every bit of space inside me. It was all I could do to congratulate her. I wanted to go to Paris. I wanted to eat croissants and drink wine, see great art, walk along the Seine. Instead, I was waiting to learn the results of the bone marrow biopsy, pretty sure I was facing a third bout of leukemia, having a port put into my chest, chemotherapy . . .
“Want to come with me?” she asked.
I wanted to say yes. Yes. Yes.Yes. Instead, I felt like a five-year old. “I can’t tell you. I have an appointment with Dr. L. tomorrow. He’ll give me the test results. Could I call you after I talk with him?”
“Sure. Good luck tomorrow.” I hung up feeling depressed, deprived, and despondent.
He didn’t waste any time. “There are hairy cells (cancer cells) in your bone marrow and peripheral blood. I think we should start treatment right away. I’ll give you the number to schedule the port implantation, and when the incision is healed, we’ll start chemo. Any questions?”
“Yes. A friend invited me to go to Paris for two weeks. Do you think I’m well enough to go with her?”
“If it were me? I’d go in a heartbeat.”
Feelings of exultation almost overwhelmed me but I managed to say. “Treatment postponed. I’m going to Paris.” We hugged. I skipped out of the Cancer Center, too joyful to take one step at a time. In the car, I called my friend. “Yes. Yes. Yes! I’m coming.”
by Dorty Nowak
I skipped dessert today, which is not easy to do in Paris, where patisseries flaunt their delicacies on almost every street corner. I was on my way to my favorite bistro when I passed a store whose name caught my eye, “Plus Madame.” Since I’ve never seen anything “plus” relating to women’s clothes advertised in Paris, I stopped to look. A sign in the window informed me that the store specialized in sizes 42. 42! That’s a size 8 in the U.S. and a size 10 in the U.K., but in France, it’s a “plus.” Suddenly, so was I.
by Dorty Nowak
Hot and frustrated, I stared at the pieces of the supposedly easy-to-assemble electric fan that came with nine parts instead of the required ten. My apartment, like most buildings in Paris, has no air conditioning and, after several days of unremitting heat, I was desperate. I picked up the instruction sheet, ignoring the number for the help center that was probably located in China, and folded it into a fan. My makeshift fan worked surprisingly well, reminding me of a museum that I had been meaning to visit ever since I read several years ago that it might have to close.
by Dorty Nowak
Several years ago my husband and I moved to Paris. Although I was an avid student of French culture and cuisine, my knowledge of the French language was minimal. Freshman year in college I dropped out of French 101 because partying was much more fun than memorizing vocabulary, a decision I’ve regretted ever since. Over the years I had accumulated several “French for Travelers” texts, some Berlitz tapes, and enough rudimentary vocabulary to get by on my occasional vacations in France.