It had only been a few months since I moved to the French countryside, but my city life already seemed like a distant memory.
In exchange for a Parisian apartment, I now have a house in the Loire Valley. I also have a dwarf goat and a giant goose in my yard, a basketful of freshly harvested walnuts and farm-fresh vegetables in the kitchen, and 150 bottles of Gamay juice fermenting in an ancient stone shed in the front yard, slowly becoming my first batch of wine.
I spent the better part of my 20s in Paris and the city saw me grow from an awkward 23-year-old who thought any wine with bubbles in it was Champagne to a slightly less awkward adult who could sometimes describe wine in a way that sounded like I knew what I was talking about. Paris had been a companion and inspiration, cajoling me into that lovely French flirtation with excess that is excused because it is how you learn how to taste. In Paris I learned how to truly appreciate the taste of food, wine, beer, and coffee, as well as what makes each unique and special. These impressions and lessons culminated in a book I wrote in honor of the city and its inspiring food culture, My Paris Market Cookbook.
Even though I was born in California, it was Paris that taught me how to be a young, and then older, adult. Paris is where I learned how to host a dinner party, Paris gave me the confidence to make writing my job and not just a favorite thing to do, and Paris taught me patience, something I knew would serve me well no matter where I was living in the world.
Despite my love for the city and its place in my heart, I began to feel like my time there was coming to a close. Expensive rents, stressful days spent trying to make enough money to pay said rent, and the endless city sounds took their toll this past summer; my cat even had a nervous breakdown due to the incessant and invasive noise. When my veterinarian handed me a prescription for cat Xanax, I decided it was time to put in notice on my apartment and start looking for a country home.
Making this move certainly had an element of risk. What if I didn’t like country life? What if I would regret giving up Paris, where I’d worked so hard to carve out a space for myself? The me of 10 years ago – the one who boarded a plane and moved to a foreign city where she knew no one, and had no real plans for what to do when she got there – had grown up and become more wary and less spontaneous. I worried about whether leaving the city was the right thing to do and surprised myself with how tentative I had become in making life changes. In times of doubt, I reminded myself of how my move to Paris had changed my life and how I couldn’t imagine life story without a Paris chapter. Even if at times it felt scary or sad to think of leaving my home, it also seemed silly to turn down the opportunity to add a new adventure, and the promise of fresh life experiences, to my story.
I mentally prepared for the tough times I anticipated might lay ahead, missing lady-lunches with fellow expat/food writer/independent women friends, the craft beer bars that had started filling up Paris just a handful of years before I was leaving, the convenience of city life, and the fact that even though I wasn’t born in this city or even this country, after nearly 10 years Paris had become my home.
Before leaving Paris, I took time to soak up as much of the city as possible. I enjoyed morning coffees at Café Lomi and those precious lady-lunches with friends at Holybelly. I took the long way home, all the time leading to extra long walks by the canal St. Martin or along the Seine. In the evenings I would enjoy craft beer at Le Supercoin followed by moonlit strolls along rue Caulaincourt, which gives the best-ever views of Montmartre’s charming staircases, decorated with glowing lamplights, metro signs, and bistrot awnings. Even when it came to packing boxes, Paris still had my heart, as I put away bits and pieces of my life that I forgot I even had. I listened to the sounds of Barbès from my window, stopping to sip on beer from Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or and eat takeaway pizza from Il Brigante, a favorite neighborhood spot. I was pretty sure you couldn’t get pizza like this in the countryside, which sparked a flare of worry that I quickly quenched by forcing myself enjoy the pizza, the beer, the green wall I had painted in the dinning room of my favorite apartment all the more.
While embracing these last days in Paris, I also braced myself for the shock of this impending life change. I wanted to prepare myself for lonely times, times when a stroll along rue Caulaincourt or a beer at Le Supercoin would no longer be options. But every time I worried, I found relief in knowing that I was moving to the Loire Valley with a kind, sensitive, and loving man I’d met during the grape harvest for winemaker Noëlle Morantin the previous year. Her vineyard was only a ten-minute walk from our new home, making the story seem to come full circle. I was beyond excited about all of our country life plans, and felt confident that once we settled in, I would be so distracted by my new life I would hardly have time to dwell on, or mourn, my past one.
Written by Emily Dilling for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.