alwayshaveparis1Paris… A window opened for just the right moment for a long weekend (five days) and a return visit to Paris after an eight year absence.

That’s long for a gal who lived there for 16 years and who enjoyed an abundant experience of friends, love, art, and wonderful creative projects, as well as the chance to live in the most beautiful city in the world (my opinion).

I was ready to reconnect with my earliest years spent in Paris as a “bachelor” 30 years ago. I was ready to remember why I so loved Paris, the people and places I had known early in this relationship.


Simply said this return trip was as if I had never left - not that I or my friends hadn’t changed, or that Paris had stood still, but rather it was the delightful awareness that the friendships were the same.


For five days I met my past in the company of four major relationships: a granddaughter, a sister-woman friend, a never-forgotten lover, an artist friend. The miracle was the reconnects were as if we had never disconnected. I’ve never felt the blending of the past and the present so vividly. Speaking French took me out of my comfort zone and left me wide-open, vulnerable, almost child-like.

Has Paris changed? is the question most asked since my return. I have almost no idea. I wasn’t looking for how things had changed but enjoyed it all as we walked arm in arm. We sat in a café for a citron pressé, or enjoyed an outdoor lunch at a trend-setting organic restaurant called, eatme, located at 38 rue Léopold Bellan in the 2nd arrondissement. We didn’t make shopping our destination but found ourselves browsing and ultimately making a few select purchases (everything is hugely expensive, even for the French) in a cool new store called, merci, located at 111 Blvd. Beaumarchais.

On Saturday with my artist friend, we started the day at Ladurée for a croissant aux amandes. Years back thanks to these croissants, I gained 10 pounds while living next door to this classic patisserie, 16 rue Royale. We visited one fabulous exhibit at the refurbished Grand Palais; the monumental installation and work of art by Anish Kapool. At the Louvre Musée des Arts Décoratifs, we browsed the hand-crafted gift items in the boutique; the museum was showing a Ralph Lauren car exhibit which we passed on in favor of lunch in the new garden restaurant.

Next we metro’ed to the La Bastille area to visit the Viaduc des Arts, an ancient railway viaduct redesigned for design studios, workshops and worthy boutiques. As it appears in my illustrated guide book, “Wandering Paris,” page 26-27, I wanted to see how it was faring. It is alive and well. My editor will be happy.

When asked about my most memorable meal, I was surprised to realize it was the steak/frites at the classic Bistrot, Le Brandevin, 29, rue du Docteur Blanche, in the 16th. I’m not much of a steak eater, but I was beside myself with how delicious was this meal.

Sunday morning we awoke to the absurd news of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, DSKgate, and his stupidity and further example of one who thinks they are above the law. With that at hand, we went to the country for a classic Sunday lunch en famille which included all ages from 8 to 80. We sat for hours, a habit I’ve lost, at the long country-style pine table that I know so well. The menu was a un gigot d’agneau with pommes de terre sautées, les haricot verts, a huge homegrown salad of multiple lettuce types, and local fromage, after all we were in Normandie, the region of cows and cheese. After lunch we walked the property, talked and snoozed by the pool while the grandkids tested the water.

alwayshaveparis2As one of the “JillsBirds’n’Words” suggests, “look back but don’t stare.” I have gone back. I have experienced what I went to experience and it was so far beyond my wildest dreams and wishes that I am still a bit dizzy and not fully back in my body.

It is so good to see from whence we have come; to acknowledge what we have lived, after all, this past is the foundation of who we are today. The looking back is not about regret or disappointment, even nostalgia. It’s more about seeing how these experiences have shaped and created who we are today. It is a reminder of who, how, and what we have lived. It’s an opportunity to pause and to rest in gratitude for all that we have matter what.

And yes, I will go back and soon.

Editor’s Note: Autographed copies of Jill’s French guide books are available in her Chester Studio Boutique as well as The JB French-inspired Table top Collection. For information and opening hours call 860-526-5155. Locally her products are also available at The Cheese Shop in Centerbrook, at Weekend Kitchen in Essex and at Vegetable Ivory at the Olde Mystic Village.