My first night in Paris. Paul invited his friends over and his Mother made couscous and a delicious lamb tangine. Many wine bottles were uncorked, and in true Michelle fashion (and very non-French chic), I ducked out at 2AM to get my beauty sleep.
I am making good on writing about my travels to France and Israel late last year.
If you asked me where I would choose to own 5 residences in the world today, the list would go: New York, London, Paris, and two homes by the seaside (i.e.: Malibu, Bar Harbor, Providenciales, Cascais etc). Ask me this question five years from now, and I wonder how little or how much the list will deviate.
When I was 12, I stumbled upon a photograph of the sun setting over L’Abbey de Senanque, and the vast blanket of purple lavender blooms had me convinced that this was a version of paradise on Earth. I used to Google real estate prices for châteaus in the South of France. I researched antiquated castles and hand-wrote a detailed plan to become a pediatrician and to save for my future rustic home somewhere in the countryside. I was 12, and quite impressionable. With certainty, I am not becoming a pediatrician in this lifetime, but the countryside home remains a tempting possibility.
Being Vietnamese, France has always played a role in my life. Indochine (French colonial rule) was formed in 1887 and the federation lasted until 1954. During my grandparents’ generation, you received your education through a French lycée. My Mother attended Marie Curie High School, a school established in 1918 by the French colonial government. My Aunts can still sing French songs when the family gathers around for karaoke. My family celebrated this past Christmas in New York with a delicious Bûche de Noël. We eat baguettes that have evolved to the mouth-watering flavorbomb of julienned carrots, stemmy cilantro, homemade pâte and cold cuts known as banh mi.
As such, it was no surprise when my Mother enrolled me in French classes at Alliance Français. During my parents’ and grandparents’ youth, speaking French was cultural capital. France was the epicenter of the avant-garde happenings in literature, arts, fashion, and film. My hunch is that my Mother intentionally introduced French into my life under the pretense that educated, elegant, and accomplished women during her time knew how to speak French. Being my Mother, she also probably knew that I would someday love many French exports (i.e.: food, books, music, skincare, fashion). The first time I can recall being especially grateful to know French was when my American girlfriends and I were on a trip in Monaco. We needed to change our car rental and I had to dial into a local French customer support line. At first, I delivered an effusive apology for what I thought was my incomprehensible French, but I then realized that the representative actually understood what I was saying and we got down to business. I called my Mother that night to thank her for all the evenings that she spent shuttling me to and from those classes. Today, my French has dramatically regressed, but I can still read and I know enough to cover the necessities. I’d love to become fluent again!
My hope is that as long as I’m on the East Coast, I’ll have a chance to take an annual sojourn to Paris. I still have yet to see a city that does beauty in the way that France does. I’ve been enough times now to be able to navigate my way through to certain streets and shops by memory. I leave you with two songs that I love: La Maison Où J’ai Grandi (English lyrics: The House That I Grew Up In) by the bombshell singer Francoise Hardy and La Vie En Rose by legendary songstress Edith Piaf.