2022: Reflections of an Unusual Year
Bonjour mes amis,
This will be my final blog from Paris for 2022, a year we will always remember for many reasons— some very good, some not so good! What started out as a disaster evolved into resignation, then acceptance, and eventually pleasure because we were just glad to be in the city we love. We’ve made the best of it with the help of enjoyable visitors, local friendships we cherish, and your support and encouraging comments on the blog.
These are basically my thoughts and perhaps don’t align in every regard with Bernie’s. Paris is his hometown, and he’s very protective of it as he should be. But I think a dose of honesty amid the fairy tale is not a bad exercise. So here goes.
What’s different about Paris?
There seemed initially to be a pall over the city, a dull gloominess if you will, which I thought was linked to COVID. It evidenced itself in things like more litter, dirtier streets, less enthusiasm, closed shops, fewer smiles from the locals. Somewhat of a sadness seemed to envelope the city. This is not a criticism but just an observation. I don’t feel it as much now as I did in July. Perhaps it was the heat or the summer vacance which led to those impressions. It surely is a representation shared by the whole world agonizing through the pandemic for the past two years.
Given that we have the most informed young people ever in regard to the dangers of cigarette smoking, I am completely dismayed to see the throngs of young people vaping and puffing away. It seems much worse to me this year, again perhaps due to the anxiety produced by COVID. And it’s not just the young people. Life was truly locked down here in France for months creating some pretty devastating isolation and confinement, much more so than in the States.
There are many more dollar stores which is a reflection of the economy, more tennis shoes (that’s really all you see now for both men and women) and OMG, the tattoos! They are the norm, not the exception. I know it’s a global phenomenon but I’m old-school, and it’s hard for me not to stare at arms and legs (and other body parts) that are totally inked up.
And the precious bees are everywhere! They love to drink your wine, attack your dessert and go straight for your mouth. It’s so aggravating but everyone tolerates their presence because it’s the right thing to do.
It seems there are more Americanized menu items in the cafés such as tacos, chips and hummus and avocado toast. There are more ethnic restaurants especially Japanese, and larger portions. Cafés offer the same, same, same everywhere you go. The green salad of choice now is overwhelmingly arugula. Certainly food in nicer restaurants is still exquisite but quite expensive. And it seems there is more emphasis on beer and fancy cocktails as opposed to wine which has always been the French staple; Coke products are intensely popular with the young people.
Then there are the wretched odors that creep up on you as you’re walking. That has always been the case; but this year, they are worse. I always say that Paris has a very distinctive smell—a combination of freshly baked bread, cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, and sewer. Oh, and let’s not forget that brief whiff of urine! I know it sounds pretty gross but it’s actually not; it’s just Paris. And you get used to it as part of the cultural experience.
The very best positive difference this year has been the euro and dollar relationship. Of late, it’s been 1 to 1 and that has been a balm to our wallets!
What have I (we) learned this year, especially about myself?
We learned how to ride the bus with great ease. It’s a complicated system which takes practice. There are definite rules of engagement and occasionally we’ve been yelled at by the bus driver! We don’t like the long wait times which can be up to 30 minutes, the stuffiness, the crowds, but the buses do offer alternate routes and have saved us this year since our location was off the usual beaten path. And you get to take in the above-ground scenery!
We learned that Metro Line 4 is just as convenient as Line 1 in traversing the city, getting us from Right Bank to Left Bank.
I learned not to order “le plat de jour” at a very nice restaurant!
Bernie learned from his friend Jerome how to save the bubbles in an opened champagne bottle. Just stick a teaspoon in the bottle, handle first, and the champagne will keep for another 24 hours! Of course, some of you are saying, “Whoever has any champagne left over?!!”
I’ve learned that St. Germain des Prés is an area of the Left Bank, not a street. St. Germain is the street.
I’ve learned that the subways always run left to right. Who knew? I’ve never paid attention to such but Bernie does!
I learned the hard way not to ever use the restroom at a street cafe unless you are a patron. I slipped into one on rue de Rivoli out of necessity but was accosted by the manager the second I came down the stairs. She insisted brusquely that we had to order something; Bernie sternly refused. She insisted again and he gave her a 2-euro coin. It was embarrassing and a hard lesson, one that I already knew but sometimes circumstances dictate. The place was jam-packed, and how she spotted me is incredible.
We’ve learned to co-exist with any number of vehicles: cars, buses, bikes, scooters, roller blades, regular skates, skateboards, unicycles, taxis and the loud aggressive motorcycles. Paris streets are more and more dangerous. I was almost hit by a car at Pont d’Alma. No one (including us) pays much attention to the traffic lights. The bicyclists see themselves with the same rights as pedestrians. It’s a free-for-all and if you’re watching from the sidelines, sometimes, it’s hilarious. Sometimes, it’s quite scary.
I’ve learned a greater respect for the BBC as I watched days of their coverage on the death of the Queen. They did an amazing job filling so many hours with class and elegance. Their sidebars on the Queen were touching and brilliant. With my career in television, I was glued to the coverage, real time. Three cheers for them!
We’ve learned that the big heaters will not be fired up to keep patrons warm in street cafes this winter. It’s a new city ordinance issued by the Mayor of Paris. Parisians like to eat outside even in the bitter cold, especially so they can smoke. Now there will be nowhere to smoke, inside or outside. Will it hurt business? Time will tell. One proprietor said to us tonight that “the most important thing is to protect the environment.” So good for him.
We’ve learned that St. Antoine/St. Paul in the fourth arrondissement is just about as good as it gets as a place to stay in Paris. We have missed it every single day. It has everything at your fingertips—-four grocery stores, dozens of cafes, dry cleaners, three cheese shops, three chocolate shops, four boulongeries/patisseries, a deli, a butcher shop, a honey shop, hair salons, three wonderful fruit stands, a foie gras shop, wine stores, two beautiful flower shops, delightful gift shops, great clothing shops, ATM’s on every corner, and the very wonderful St. Paul/St. Louis church which is the heartbeat of everything. Oh, how I have missed the church bells!
We’ve learned that Paris is not Paris without easy access to the River Seine. Walking the river in the evenings is what I have missed the most, that and the church bells.
Maybe the most significant lesson for this year is that even the greatest apartment in the world cannot replace the best location. Despite the frustrations, our friendships have risen to the top of what has sustained us and brought us happiness. Reconnecting every year with the same people is like fine wine that has aged. We treasure our French friends!!
I’ve learned a lot about myself this year, much of which is not easy to admit. I don’t like change so I don’t adjust well to it. Flexibility is not one of my better assets. Unexpected change especially puts me in a bad mood. That leads to anxiety and stress and on and on it goes. Bernie on the other hand, goes with the flow. Nothing much gets to him except possibly having to deal with my distress and unhappiness. For sure, this year has emphasized that he is the best man I know because he has held my hand through it all! I have seen signs of our age… we have slept longer hours, napped more, almost fallen more and given in to eating out more because it’s simply the lazy way out.
Just as in life, some years here are far from ideal and some are sublime. It’s a commentary on life in general. Paris is not perfect but it is our slice of heaven, and we are so delighted to have shared it with all of you. We are indeed blessed.
So, the question of the hour for me and from many of you is —-will we return next year? The answer lies in the hands of fate, of good health, of continued financial stability. Bernie gives a resounding “Yes!” I am not so sure. Certainly my heart will lean in that direction if I can get my body to cooperate. It’s been difficult being sick here away from home and away from personal doctors, easy access to the appropriate medicine, etc. So let’s just say that we dearly hope to return and to share our intriguing escapades with all of you for yet another year.
Au revoir for 2022,
Linda & Bernie
September 23, 2022 @ 3:44 am
Linda, you are such an inspired writer!
Your posts have enriched my life so much!
Blessings to you and Bernie, especially for safe travel back to the states!
September 23, 2022 @ 3:58 am
Thanks for the memories. I have eagerly anticipated each blog as I sank in to my spot in the sunroom each morning. You are gifted at bringing all the sights, food, art and education to our corners. My gratitude to you and Bernie for all the enjoyment.
September 23, 2022 @ 10:57 am
I will miss our early mornings “together” with coffee. I have so enjoyed your blogs over the last couple of years. I know it takes a lot to put together the wonderful pictures and narrative but please know that it is greatly appreciated by me and many others. Wishing you and Bernie safe travels, good health, and more adventures in Paris. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Monica & Marlyn
September 23, 2022 @ 11:22 am
Linda, this was a beautiful summary. We will carry some of these thoughts with us for a long time. So much of what you say about the changes in Paris applies to the changes in our country, too, Best chuckle of the day was learning not to order le plat de jour. We are so glad that fate brought you and Bernie together, took you both to Paris, and brought you into our lives, as well.
Safe travels! Great adventures! Go hand in hand to whatever comes next!
September 23, 2022 @ 12:13 pm
Thank you for taking us along your interesting, sometimes frustrating, lovely, funny and always changing travels to Paris.
September 23, 2022 @ 12:32 pm
Terrific summary! Thanks for entertaining and educating us again this summer. Have a nice trip home, rest a little, then start planning next year’s trip. Thank you. Pat
September 23, 2022 @ 1:11 pm
Any time in Paris is a good time. Glad you were able to make lemonade from those lemons. I am counting on your health issues being under control so you can enjoy another summer in Paris.
September 23, 2022 @ 1:33 pm
A perfect concluding remark to a thoroughly enlightening blog. Safe travels, dear friends. Hope we can get together, however briefly, before we leave on the 3rd for our “adventure.”
September 23, 2022 @ 1:56 pm
Linda, I agree with the tattoos. We toured a little of California in August. Tattoos and vaping were everywhere. Since we have been pretty much isolated for over 2 years I had not seen so many tattoos. At times it was disturbing.
September 23, 2022 @ 2:00 pm
I am so sad to see your blog come to the end, Linda. What an adventure this has been. And what a lovely time you’ve made of it, in spite of adversities.
I hope you are feeling much better. I cannot thank you enough for sharing this summer of adventure with all of us. It has truly been a delight and an inspiration. You and Bernie are so amazing! I love today’s selfie especially.
Safe travels, and welcome home!
All my best regards,
September 23, 2022 @ 2:22 pm
Linda, What a wonderful wrap-up to your time in Pairs. Having been there many times myself and always eager to return, your comments of life there were perfect. It is a wonderful city and also has all the drawbacks of big city life – Romantic and frustrating. I wonder how the French will survive without the heaters on the patios. We’ll stay tuned I guess. It takes time to build relationships with shopkeepers – your own boulangerie etc. I think that was a big factor in your feeling that you never quite settled into the new place. As you said location means a lot as well as feeling comfortable when being on the street.
Thanks for taking us along with you these past months. It’s been such fun to read your musings each morning. I will truly miss them. Safe travels home. One’s own bed is always welcomed at the end of our travels. Best to you ad Bernie in the coming year. I’m hoping you have another year or two of visiting this wonderful city. n I’ll be looking for you in July, 2023
September 23, 2022 @ 3:32 pm
I always look forward to starting my mornings with your blog. Safe travels!
Donna L Rush
September 23, 2022 @ 4:44 pm
What a wonderful, honest reflection of your special time in Paris. Thank you for taking us along with your words and photos. I was caregiving during this period and your wonderful blog was a welcome distraction from some dark days. I certainly hope you both return to the city you love.
September 23, 2022 @ 5:55 pm
Very good post. The 4th is the best way to do Paris!! Coke, for Americans, is yuck- no bubbles as they say. Mom I truly thought the metro went all directions as seen seen on the map and it turns 90 degree angles sometimes. I hope your health will cooperate for next year!!
FYI: Mom & Bernie made it to the states around noon today 🙂
September 23, 2022 @ 6:10 pm
If you want to share:
My 3rd trip to Paris- so blessed. Times I will forever treasure. I took my friend, Lisa Sellers, this year. It was her first plane ride, first… EVERYTHING! ￼I thought we would share her perspective as well as our overall observations, FYI. Enjoy! 🇫🇷
•Initially she felt like she was in a movie; mainly b/c so much of it she had seen in movies and it was hard to grasp she was actually there.
•The driving/traffic freaked her out, lol. They drive like maniacs, she said. Sometimes there weren’t lanes so they just “go!” Bikes, motorcycles, vehicles, etc.
•Lack of A/C sucked… I’ve been lucky the other two trips but this one had some super hot days over 100° – it’s a dry heat which is very stifling. ￼
•Everything was BEAUTIFUL!
•She loved how during the day everything came to life b/c late at night shops closed up to an abandoned appearance. Conversely, she couldn’t believe how many people were out at night, esp by the river.
•Her impression of Parisions: chill/eating/enjoying life. More laid back; do what they want when they want. Carefree. (I started noticing many of the people eating were young, no big families as they must be at home)
•She liked how you go through a small, random door to get to the apartments and once through, voila, a huge courtyard and apartments that you wouldn’t have realized from the road.
•She was surprised by the scheming of the pickpocketers- which we were involved with on the way to Disneyland Paris!!
•She thought Linda Spalla (mom) & Bernie were sweet; especially enjoyed Bernie’s humor.
Overall random observations of Paris vs Home:
•Staying daylight until after 10pm was awesome!
•Hottest part of the day is 5-7pm
• Paris is most enjoyable and it’s more typical summer temperatures of 70s and 80s!￼
•Many many more stairs!
•Lots of smoking – yuck.
•Doggies walking the streets, in cafe’s and even indoors at the mall (some not on leashes) just tranquil with their owners.
•Not many children; they were present but calm and in the moment. No toys/devices.
•Love everything fresh right on the street below the apartments (flowers, chocolates, meats, fruits, etc.) but they do have Carefours and Monoprix for larger stores here and there.
•So many cafe’s!
•B/c in the city, everything is so compact with ppl living in large buildings rather than separated into houses and dining tables tiny/close together so people seem more bonded into an overall sense of comradery and community.
•The yard for so many people is the Seine river edge and parks around town (much like NYC)
•Small spaces (elevators, rooms, even eating tables)
•Tip is already factored in the price, thus the price is different if you dine in vs to go.
•Beggers (with their pets)
•Entertainers on the streets too!
•Some (mostly older) people could withstand the heat in long shirts and blazers – OMG
•The constant change of smells…nice and then garbage…nice and then smoke, etc.
•Generally friendly and helpful are the Parisians; almost everyone speaks English and are taught early in school
•Stores open later (likely b/c they’re open until later at night)
•Coke was gross – flat and too much sugar
•Desserts were YUM
•Love their coffee! Richer & didn’t need the “extras” we doctor ours up with.
•Bread always good!
•Have to ask for ice w drinks
•Churches were magnificent & mostly if not all Catholic with Nuns, etc.
•Everything is so old and architecturally gorgeous
•Former kings palaces (huge and usually in U shape) are now museums (Louvre), government buildings or apartments perhaps…preserved.
•Military just walking around randomly with finger on the trigger of their assault rifles
•Vehicles much small
•Metro is kind of dirty but such an efficient way to get around if you’re willing to brave it. You’re like a mole traveling in underground tunnels to pop out right where you need to be!
•Toilets mostly don’t have seats like ours do…just the “rim” and there are public toilets out in the streets in these little containers. Once you leave the whole thing self washes.
•Sometimes you realize you are walking in a bike lane or a road – oops!
•Many statues/monuments…they have a great appreciation for their history.
•They preserve history and don’t tear it down.
•Hardly any grass except in the parks (like NYC)
•Neat how they clean the streets… they will release water and it follows gravity along the edges of the roads and back down into a drain, washing away any leaves, debris and especially cigarettes. ￼￼
•They eat a lot of raw meat…and drink a lot of alcohol!!
•Less preservatives – food is much better for you and tastes pure
•Hard to get the waiters to bring the bill…nothing is rushed in Paris!
•Being late isn’t a surprise…my kind of people, ha!
•Many young Europeans we spoke with know multiple languages (English, French, Spanish & Italian esp)
•Presentation is ever-present…display windows, food, etc.
September 23, 2022 @ 9:55 pm
Natalie, so good to get your perspective!
September 24, 2022 @ 3:05 pm
Natalie: You didn’t miss a thing. You had all your senses working. Very good. Thank you.
September 26, 2022 @ 1:24 am
Linda, may I make a suggestion regarding accommodation in Paris? I have used Apartment Hotels where one can have a studio apartment or one bedroom apartment, both of which include a functional kitchen for cooking. Apartments are serviced once a week so you don’t need to be washing bed linen. Each apartment hotel has a laundromat in its basement for personal laundry by using a token or coins. Each also has breakfast available for a fee or make your own in your kitchen. I have stayed at Citadine Apartments in London and Paris. Best one was right on river Seine near Pont Neuf. Citadines Appartement Hôtel, Saint Germain des Près.
I have enjoyed your Vlog this Summer and send greetings from Australia.
September 26, 2022 @ 9:47 am