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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Why Do I Keep Staying in France?

Working as a tour guide in Paris, I get asked a lot of the same questions on each tour. When I get asked "Where are you from?", "How long have you lived in Paris?", or "Is John-Paul your real name? (yes it is)", my answer is automatic, to the point where I can almost think about other things while I am giving my response. However, when I am asked "Why do you still live in France?" or "What keeps you here?» I am never really sure how to respond, no matter how many times I am asked this question. Perhaps the following story can give you an idea why.

In the summer of 2010, while beginning to prepare dinner one evening, I decided to pick up a bottle of wine for dinner at a shop around the corner from my apartment. For New Year's, I had made the resolution to start spending more than four euros on a bottle of wine, and so far, I was doing a pretty good job (even though I still rarely go above seven euros a bottle). It's not that I felt that I was becoming too good for 3 euro-a-bottle wine, as every now and then one can procure a good bottle of wine for that price. It's just that the difference is pretty noticeable when you spend those two to three euros more in France.

As I walked into the shop, I was greeted by a guy who was in his early twenties, and was eager to help me find something. I was wearing a shirt from work, which has English written on it, so he asked if he could practice his English on me. We chose a bottle of Régnié and made our way over to the cash register. After I paid for the bottle, he suddenly switches back into French and asks me, "Do you want to meet an Alsatian?" I have no idea what he means by that, but I say, "OK, why not."

The vendor directed me behind the register to a small passageway, which led to some stairs to the basement. I get down to the bottom of the stairs and take a good look around. He's led me down to their wine cellar! In the middle of the cellar, sitting on a pink couch that looked like it had been abandoned on the curb, were two of his friends, drinking rosé wine, which they had placed upon a folding table. Sure enough, one of those guys was Alsatian (he didn't seem as keen to introduce me to his other friend, though he was as good of a guy as any of them). They offered me a glass of wine, and I sat down and talked with them for a good thirty minutes about Alsace and about getting robbed here in Paris, as the vendor and I both had stories about being victimized the week before. They offered me another glass, but then I realized that my girlfriend was probably wondering where the hell I was, especially since I said I would be gone for five minutes. I thanked the guys profusely for their hospitality and made my way back home to continue chopping vegetables for dinner.

If a story like this happened once in my time living in Paris, I would already be impressed with the serendipity of this city. However, incidents and occasions like these seem to happen all the time here. I've lived in Paris since February 2008. Though I originally planned on living here for three months, I have now lived here for three and a half years. Chances are that I will be here a while longer.

If you are traveling to Paris and looking to see (and eat) what French people really eat, in addition to walking around some of Paris' best neighborhoods, take a look into my tours at

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