Ami de trente ans

It’s been 30 years this month since I first came to Paris, where we lived for awhile before getting married. Since then we have been back only briefly, so we decided to take advantage of a trip to Normandy to spend some time again in la capitale.

Plus ça change, as the saying goes. The more things change…both the city and myself.

Paris in springThen, as now, the weather was not so much chestnuts in blossom as changeable skies with a lot of cold and damp. April in Paris has been romanticized in so many American movies that my expectations, and my clothes, were completely unrealistic – I remember shivering in my thin cotton jacket. This time, I came prepared for cold and was pleasantly surprised. We had quite a bit of sun in between the cloudy periods. I even saw blossoms on some of the trees!

In 1986, we lived in the 7th arrondissement, close to the lively Rue Cler market and the Champs de Mars park by the Eiffel Tower. This time we stayed in the upper Marais. It is an artsy area with a very old-world feel. Bustling with quirky boutiques, markets and restaurants, it retains that very Parisian feel of narrow streets and slightly crooked buildings.

IMG_4829Our rental accommodation, my first experience with Airbnb, was a fashionably decorated flat on three levels. We picked it for the location and the fact that, for what we would have paid to stay in a nice hotel, we could live like locals with all the comforts of home. It was beautiful, although the stairs were a bit tricky.

The streets of Paris are somewhat cleaner than they were the last time I was here. It is now obligatoire to pick up after your pet (although sidewalk art is still in evidence) and, according to ads we saw on the side of garbage trucks, you can even be fined for tossing your cigarette butt on the street (although what you’re supposed to do with it is not clear).

Paris trash binsThere are now recycling bins on all the street corners for glass (why not plastic?) and these new transparent trash bins in all the city parks.

The last time I was here they had removed all the garbage bins after terrorists hid bombs in them. This time the recent attacks were still on everyone’s minds. We remembered the victims of Charlie Hebdo, and stopped by the Bataclan, which is undergoing renovations. The makeshift shrine across the street was a moving reminder of the January attacks.

We found the food to be much more varied this time round. The international influence of les cuisines du monde has finally reached Paris, although my favorite French bistro food is still ubiquitous. I am not a huge fan of shellfish, but Z-Frenchman enjoyed a sumptuous platter of seafood along with his cousin.


I got lost. Back then with a map, now with a GPS. Everywhere I went the star-shaped street patterns confused me. The difference was that this time I knew I would my find my way. That it is, in fact, better to get a bit lost in Paris. That way you can enjoy some of its surprising sights and sounds.

Much about Paris felt new and different this time, yet so much was just the same. I guess that’s the thing about old friends, especially the ones you’ve known for thirty years. No matter how long it’s been, when you get together again it feels like yesterday.

Old friends: where were you 30 years ago?


  1. zipfslaw1 · April 21, 2016

    Nice evocation of our city today!

  2. acflory · April 21, 2016

    My last time in Paris was…42 years ago. 😦 Australia really is at the end of the world in some ways.

    • MELewis · April 21, 2016

      Far enough that it’s taken me this long to actually think about a trip downunder. It’s in the semi-active, mid-future planning stage! Glad you made it to Paris all those years ago…maybe a return trip some day?

      • acflory · April 21, 2016

        lol – coffee and cake if you ever make it down here! And no, I’ve promised myself Japan before I get too old to say ‘arigato gozaimasu!’
        Of course if I were to win the lottery…. 😉

  3. anneharrison · April 21, 2016

    I love those stairs! They remind me of an attic we stayed in our honeymoon (20+ years ago). Paris always calls

    • MELewis · April 21, 2016

      They were more romantic looking than practical – husband actually fell down them in his socks and put out my back lugging a suitcase up the stairs. 😦

  4. poshbirdy · April 21, 2016

    I was still living in London in 1986, working shifts in Mayfair. I was working out what I thought I wanted from life. As you say, plus ca change …!

    • MELewis · April 21, 2016

      Presumably you figured it out! 🙂 Working shifts in Mayfair sounds like good memoir material!

  5. frenchimmersion · April 21, 2016

    Lovely blog and I like the idea of staying in an appartment rather than a hotel. But if I may. Paris isn’t in Normandy but L’ile de France. Normandy was created in 911 when Charles the Simple gave territory to Rollon the Viking which became Normandy from the name ‘Norse Man’, or ‘man from the north’. Normandy was retaken by France in 1204 by Phillipe Auguste and assimilated into the French Kingdom at that point, but Paris was never part of Normandy.

    • MELewis · April 21, 2016

      Sorry if that read wrong: we went to Normandy for a weekend and decided to add on a week in Paris! 😉 Thanks for sharing your insight into the history!

  6. coteetcampagne · April 21, 2016

    Best if I don’t tell you where or what was going on with me 30 years ago….

    • MELewis · April 21, 2016

      Lol. I won’t tell if you won’t …. 😉

  7. Colin Bisset · April 21, 2016

    What a question (and oh, you do good blog!). I was about to start my life as an interior designer in Chelsea, with obligatory trips to Paris to look at fabrics. And yet it’s taken me almost 30 years to truly fall in love with the city…an apartment in the Marais would do very nicely now, thanks, when 30 years ago it was rather a dank area.

    • MELewis · April 21, 2016

      Interesting career path…from interior design to broadcast journalism? You must have some good tales to tell! Funny about how it took you time to fall in love with the city – we also felt that our appreciation of Paris grew with time. Merci for your kind words!

  8. Elyse · April 21, 2016

    Ah, Paris. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Thirty years ago, I was a singing vagabond with stars in my eyes. Now…a bespectacled church warbler. While change is inevitable, true friends, like you MEL, are forever. Hugs! E

    • MELewis · April 21, 2016

      And I do have fond memories of your vagabond days, Ms. E! You have always been a showgirl at heart, whether at church or on the road. So glad to have you among my 30-year-friends (actually a few more, I think, but who’s counting?) 😀

  9. Suzanne et Pierre · April 21, 2016

    Another nice article about life in Paris where you captured the ambiance very well. It is true that nothing changes and everything changes in Paris…Wow, 30 years ago, that is a long time but we were moving to Toronto from Montreal which meant quite a change in our life at that point but it turned out very well. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · April 21, 2016

      To think we may have crossed paths…we moved back to Toronto just after we married, from 1987-92. And considered Montreal for awhile before tossing a coin and deciding to move back to France! Glad it worked out for you, then and now…and hope you are happily settled back in your hometown.

      • Suzanne et Pierre · April 21, 2016

        Indeed, interesting to consider and we may have crossed path during that time without knowing. Pierre arrived in Toronto in December 1986 and I followed in May 1987. We thought we would stay for a few years; time for us to become fully bilingual but it turned that we stayed for 25 years. Montreal is OK but it is currently lacking in dynamism and its infrastructure is getting really run down but we are making the best of it for now.

  10. Carina · April 21, 2016

    Back then I was an au-apir girl, living in one of those chambre de bonne au 6ième étage. I loved reading your memories. Thank you. Carina.

    • MELewis · April 22, 2016

      So glad it brought back fond memories! Part of the flat where we stayed was a sleeping room under the eaves that was a former chambre de bonne – romantic if challenging to access!

      • Carina · April 22, 2016

        challenging to access – indeed. But I was young back then and calling 6 sq.m. my own was heaven :o)

  11. davidprosser · April 22, 2016

    You really went to Paris 30 years ago as a babe in arms? Well managed.
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

    • MELewis · April 22, 2016

      Said like a true friend! Hugs to you mon ami! xo

  12. Lisa @ cheergerm · April 23, 2016

    Great look at a re-visit to Paris. And a possible trip here? How exciting. 30 years ago, I was at an age where high school was just completed and my whole life was ahead of me. Unknown and unchartered. As much of my life has been. Somewhat accidental!

    • MELewis · April 24, 2016

      Thanks, Mrs. Cheer! Isn’t it wonderful to look back and marvel at the turns your life has taken or how far you’ve come, accidentally or otherwise? I remember feeling very unsettled after high school – how would it all turn out? Now it is perhaps all somewhat déjà vu, but having the uncharted waters of Australia somewhere in the not-too-distant future keeps a glint in our eye.

  13. Catherine Berry · April 25, 2016

    30 years ago – wow, pre-children (my oldest is 19) and pre-first visit to France. Both have been the guiding forces in my life.

    • MELewis · April 25, 2016

      Both life-changing events for me too! 🙂

  14. Kat · April 26, 2016

    I remember my mention about cigarette butts in Paris hahaha…Glad that you had a great time connecting with an old friend again 🙂

    • MELewis · April 26, 2016

      Cheers, Kat! And I do hope you get a chance to go back one day and find Paris butt-free.

      • Kat · April 28, 2016


  15. I Say Oui · April 29, 2016

    Sidewalk art– nice euphemism!

    Was interesting to read about Paris then and now– I often wonder how areas have changed over the years, other than the addition of international chain restaurants. The 7th near rue Cler is quite an upscale neighborhood. Now there are the Berges de Seine near there in the summer, with activities and lots of life– I love walking down the berges that way.

  16. Mél@nie · May 9, 2016

    @”where were you 30 years ago?” – in Paris, France… 🙂
    * * *
    glad to read you again, Mel after my Japanese trip… ❤

    • MELewis · May 9, 2016

      Glad to have you back in France – we missed you, Melanie! 🙂

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