I’m terribly jealous of Julia Child.
Not because of her infectious charm or her formidable skill as a master chef — things that still make her painfully endearing — but for her chance to live in a much different Paris than the one in which I currently find myself.
Her Paris — vividly described in her memoir, “My Life in France” — was a quieter city, a more magical place where unexpected and wonderful things happened all the time, where life was a peculiar French adventure. Advertising was nonexistent, as was the English language, and she was able to dive headfirst into each new day, working diligently to make La Belle France her very own.
You could add Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and the entire literary “Lost Generation” to my envy list. As my time here in Paris nears its end, I would relish the opportunity to live in the City of Lights that welcomed so many generations of American ex-pats with open arms.
Today’s Paris seems like a pale ghost of her former self, looking very much the same on the surface but filled instead with a different, more materialistic and American style of life.
Gone are so many of the elegant and affordable cafés that sheltered Hemingway and his brethren in the 1920s. Gone are the days of lazy, wide boulevards filled with more bikes than cars. Prices in the city have gone up considerably since the early post-war days that greeted Julia and her husband, pushing the cost of living out of the reaches of the artistic types of today.
Before I leave here in two short months, I have to wonder whatever became of the Paris of Julia and Papa Hemingway.
I asked Rick Tulka, himself an American ex-pat working in the city as an artist and illustrator, how he came to terms with the Paris he saw around him when compared to the literary Paris so beloved by legions of artists and writers. He agrees that the bustling, touristy city of today feels cheapened somehow, although he says he has no regrets about leaving his native New York more than 15 years ago.
“You have to go around living in a kind of fantasy world,” Rick said.
His words made sense to me. As I prepare for the final leg of my term abroad and begin planning for my real life to start again come August, I realize how much I really have been living in a fantasy world these past three months.
I live in a world where bread is cheap, delicious and always available just around the corner. I live in a world where colorful bridges arch over a hidden and rarely used canal, shaded by trees and graceful six-story 19th century buildings.
I’m in a country where the latest art installation in a popular museum is every bit as important to the national conversation as the latest presidential scandal, and where good, fresh food is second only to cigarettes in the grocery store line.
My fantasy world has been wonderfully odd and distressingly French, forcing me to venture out on my own and experience the vibrant culture of a place more alive with beauty than I ever thought possible.
And while I’m ready to come back to Chapel Hill and all things Carolina, for the time being, I’m going to keep on exploring Paris.
Move over, Julia. This is my life in France.
Et tout va bien.
Andersen is a sophomore journalism and history major from Milford, Mich., studying abroad in Paris. Contact Nick at email@example.com.