Tant de chemin parcouru

I like to look back. Whenever I take a train or a boat I sit backwards, facing the departing view rather than what is rushing towards us.

It occurs to me that at this time 25 years ago we were getting ready to cross the pond. The contents of our lives were on a container ship, our two Frenchies were checked in with our luggage, and we were squeezed into two economy class seats on an Air France flight to Paris with a squirming two-and-half-year-old. I think it was the last time we got away without paying for an extra seat for our son, who is now 27. Our daughter, who turns 24 this year, was in the active planning phase. Enough said.


So much water under the bridge, tant de chemin parcouru as we say in French. We moved from my in-laws’ house in Paris to Lyon in the summer of 1992 and never looked back.

Actually, that is untrue. We look back a lot, or at least I do. The years have this way of flying by, and it’s only by looking back and seeing where you’ve been that you get a sense of how far you’ve come.

Where were you 25 years ago?


  1. sunnydaysinseattle · April 6, 2017

    Sweet memories!

    • MELewis · April 6, 2017

      Merci! Enjoyed sharing them. 🙂

  2. Carolyn · April 6, 2017

    25 yrs ago I’d been in France 11 yrs, had met hubby, Valentine was 6, had house built and was working at ACRI about to meet a wonderful Canadian lady!
    Time flies.

    • MELewis · April 6, 2017

      The stars must have been shining on me the day I sent that new business proposal! Can’t believe it has been that long, yet I also associate the two lovely friends that came out of that time with my ‘forever’ time in France. It must’ve been a couple of years later that we met as I only began freelancing in late 1993, but what’s a couple of years between ‘amis de 20 ans’? xx

  3. Transit Address · April 6, 2017

    Not even 25 yet…..Hehee

    • MELewis · April 6, 2017

      Okay, I was waiting for a comment like this! Instead of making me feel even more ancient than I already do, I will look upon having such young’uns on this blog as the highest of compliments!

      • Transit Address · April 6, 2017

        Nah..it’s the body that gets older,Mind remains young forever..and tell you what you are much more younger than me in that case

  4. acflory · April 6, 2017

    Where was I, 25 years ago? Younger, much younger. I take your point about seeing where you’ve been to know where you’re going, but sometimes you just have to close your eyes and jump, or atleast I do. 😀

    • MELewis · April 6, 2017

      You are right! Looking back should not mean stopping the leaping forward. Sometimes eyes closed is the only way, and I need to do a bit more of this. Thanks for the timely reminder.

      • acflory · April 6, 2017

        Always welcome. I needed to remind myself too. 🙂

  5. emilycommander · April 6, 2017

    This is really interesting. I think that looking back is the condition of anyone who has changed country. Although they are happy where they are, they miss where they once were and so they look both ways. Well, I do anyway.

    • MELewis · April 6, 2017

      I think that’s what I enjoy most about this blogging adventure: comparing notes with those who share similar experiences, and also seeing things from a completely different perspective.

  6. Yoshimiparis Photographie · April 6, 2017

    Hello (grom Paris-France)
    25 years ago I’m living in another contry

  7. phildange · April 6, 2017

    “De l’eau a coulé sous les ponts”, as we also say in French . 25 years ago I could not have been born of course but this expression always reminds me a poem that for obscure reasons my soul from the first time found utterly poignant . It is about your topic and a Parisian bridge, in a way expressed by a Poet ( duly capitalized ) . Here is the beginning :

    Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
    Et nos amours
    Faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne
    La joie venait toujours après la peine

    Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
    Les jours s’en vont je demeure

    The two last verses come back after each strophe like the chorus of a song . He found them and the spark for the poem in 1911 during one night in jail ( hey hey, poets …) . He was Guillaume Apollinaire, dead young, like true poets, at 38 . I don’t know, my eyes always feel like watering each time I read this oeuvre . So I avoid it , Don’t know if you can appreciate foreign poetry but here it is “http://www.toutelapoesie.com/poemes/apollinaire/le_pont_mirabeau.htm”.

    • MELewis · April 6, 2017

      Thanks for sharing that, Phil. A lot of poetry eludes me even in my own language. But those are indeed poignant words, especially that last line which for me really strikes a chord.

      • phildange · April 6, 2017

        I understand, or I just guess . But how much is it true ? “Je demeure”, really ? Looking back sometimes it seems it was somebody else bearing my name (I’m so old, time for several lives, especially for someone who drives fast 😉). And actually it often looks like a real question for me . But it is another question . Or is it another’s ? 😓

      • MELewis · April 6, 2017

        I also feel like I’ve led multiple lives at times. But never have the least doubt that the person inside them is still the same, even if the surface (skin) has changed. As for the driving, I wish you many open (and radar-free) roads on which to discover which person is behind the wheel today. 😉

      • phildange · April 6, 2017

        Thanks for your kind wish . Yet for some it can look like a succession of personalities . You understand, so many countries, so many women, so many drugs, so many gunfightings .(In this list there is an intruder . Will you find it ? Send your answer to the magazine) .
        25 years ago I was getting ready for my long journey in the very old country I’d waited to be 33 y/o to touch: Egypt . Then, as it’s expected, death and resurrection . See how things go …

  8. Osyth · April 6, 2017

    Such a delicately touching piece of writing. You’ve actually brought tears to my eyes without my noticing them build. 25 years ago I lived in discretely Streatley on Thames and purveyed fine cheese. I had a 5 year old who hated her teacher, a not quite two year old who could charm butterflies into her hands and a third daughter also in the planning stage … she would be born exactly 7 months later so she was actively nauseating me I can safely say. Life was surreal as I recall. I too always travel backwards. Thank you Mel, this post has really touched me xx

    • MELewis · April 6, 2017

      The funny thing is I almost didn’t post at all this morning. Was feeling stressed and short of time, then this idea came to me all at once and I had it up before I knew it (clearly I need to stop overthinking things and go with the muse now and then!) So I am all the more touched to know that it has touched others – and especially one of those whose writing I so admire. Heartfelt hugs!

      • Osyth · April 7, 2017

        When you find the key to preventing over-thinking, would you let me in on the secret too, please?!! The self same hugs straight back to you (who oddly enough I also admire immensely 😊) xx

  9. memoirsofahusk · April 6, 2017

    Aww, what a charming [think about that word’s derivation – OK, that’s what I meant 😉 ] piece. A little envy creeps in – but the nice kind. France – I so wanted to live there, but the job I was offered in Paris fell through, an exhibition planned that never happened – and I ended up in the Netherlands instead. For a coupleof years plus a bit. But that was longer than 25 years ago… In 1992 I was one year into the toughest job I ever did, but working with the most fantastic people and a great big family of co-workers spread over five counties of England.
    My parents left their lifetime home in their forties and my father’s philosophy was ‘never look back’ – he was wrong, it made them unhappy. I look back lots and am beginning, at last, to learn from it.
    You have a lovely way with your posts, so gentle yet also deep, like a small stream cutting through a narrow channel.

    • MELewis · April 6, 2017

      Wow. Thanks so much for sharing your own story, and especially for those last kind words which leave me speechless. I’m pretty useless with emojis, but please accept my biggest French bises! xx

  10. coteetcampagne · April 6, 2017

    Thank you Mel. You have put a timely window of perspective on our current problems. I need it right now with all this soul searching about our next step plumbing new depths!

    25 years ago? Trev and I had yet to meet and both of us were wrestling with our nasty second divorces.
    I was living in a very small house which I was hanging onto by the skin of my teeth so my fourteen year old daughter( about to start the critical two year lead up to Gsce’s ) and my eight year old son ( who was profoundly disturbed by my separation from his father) would have the familiarity of a familiar house. The house was in a similar state of disrepair to me.

    Yes I had the benefit of youth, wrinkle free skin and a defined jawline; I was also living on coffee, vodka and cigarettes and weighed about eight stone on a five feet eight inch frame.

    That was a black spot and our current dilemmas are as nothing compared with it. Thanks for encouraging me to look back and see how far I have come. I will stop moaning now and just get on with it.

    • MELewis · April 6, 2017

      So glad it provided a bit of perspective, Gill! It can be hard when you’re up to your eyeballs in the nitty gritty gook of the everyday. I let it drag me down far too often. You always seem so passionate on your blog about your renovation, no detail too small, that it is easy to forget just what a massive undertaking it is. I feel sure that you and Trev will muddle through and one day soon be sitting back and reminiscing about the ‘chemin parcouru’. xx

      • coteetcampagne · April 6, 2017

        Thanks Mel, your kind words help . I like that “pont ” quote that phildange unearthed also .
        I have a huge need for a healthy perspective on this project now as time, budget and reality chips away at this mad plan

      • MELewis · April 6, 2017

        Know how you feel. I had a low point with some professional and personal projects this week, when I felt like it was all for naught. It really is true that after our darkest days, the light comes.

  11. poshbirdy · April 6, 2017

    Was staying with my mum after leaving Brussels, a physical and emotional wreck. I certainly could not have seen that I would meet Baz and have a life ahead of me, let alone a daughter! Thank you for making me think on how lucky I am x

    • MELewis · April 6, 2017

      So glad I did! Can’t believe all the wonderful stories I am hearing from you all. Glad you survived the wreck and that it has led you to a happy life!

  12. Anne Donnelly · April 6, 2017

    25 years ago today I was but a mere 3 months old 🙂 living in Virginia, probably crying and sleeping a lot!! I like this post and the new french phrase you taught me! I also love to face towards the back and I always remember to turn and take in the view when on a hike or walk. You never know what you’ll notice by changing perspective a bit!!

    • MELewis · April 6, 2017

      Ha, ha…another babe in my woods! 😉 It is heartening to know that life observations can transcend generations, as well as continents!

  13. bjaybrooks · April 6, 2017

    Twenty-five years ago visiting France was nineteen years in my future. First to Nice in 2011 and then Paris in 2010. Then back to Nice for a week in 2014. I love France an throughly enjoy your Blog!

    • MELewis · April 6, 2017

      It took you awhile to get here but from the sounds of it, France worked her magic. Keep coming back!

  14. Mary P · April 7, 2017

    But it is another question . Thanks for your kind wish .

  15. roughwighting · April 8, 2017

    What a fun question! I’m laughing at those who say they were babies. Ah, c’est la vie. :-0 I was living in SF Bay area with my guy, raising our little ones, racing them to ballet and soccer practice and church choir. Now, I watch THEM racing their little ones to ballet and soccer practice and spelling bees. Ah, how the earth turns. ❤

    • MELewis · April 10, 2017

      Funny how we spend those precious years racing around, feeling like it will never end and then — here we are. It’s reassuring to watch the wheel keep turning, yet oddly bittersweet. Thanks for chiming in!

  16. emma · April 8, 2017

    I turned six in 1992, and it was the first year that I really had a notion of what year it was! 😉

    I feel like time has just skipped 25 years! We’re (My Frenchman and I) in the process of relocating from Sydney to Switzerland this year. We’ll be going with our toddler son. I wonder if we’re moving for the same reasons that you made the move 25 years ago? We just speak English to our son, and I feel like we need to make the move to Europe now to make sure he’s bilingual! Also, Sydney is so expensive to buy a house. Switzerland isn’t much better, but at least we’ll have an adventure whilst saving for a house?!

    • MELewis · April 10, 2017

      Wow, that’s quite the move! Good timing for your little guy, though. Quality of life is really what pushed us, and although people here thought we were crazy, it has proved to be everything we hoped for. As for the real estate, Switzerland is certainly not cheap (although I’ve heard Sydney is very expensive too!). We live on the French side of the border near Geneva, where property values are more affordable.

  17. Mél@nie · April 13, 2017

    impressive and emotional… ❤ ah, nostalgie quand tu nous tiens… 🙂 I look back now and then, BUT to recall pleasant memories… and 25 years ago we'd already moved out from Paris down to Toulouse… which we've never regretted, of course! 🙂

    • MELewis · April 13, 2017

      Merci, Mélanie! I think the trick is to only look back now and then – too much is unhealthy and prevents us from living in the present moment. Which is the best of all, as you know well. 😀

  18. Pingback: Il y a un an | FranceSays

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