Diane, A Broad
May 29, 2012

Finding Home

The lady at my bakery handed me a warm baguette this morning and said, “Merci, à bientôt.” It felt like an achievement. When I first arrived, and began to stumblingly ask for “un, er, une baguette, sil vous plait?” it was always met with a stony look, a stone cold baguette, and a “Merci madame, au revoir.” But now, having patronized this place for two months, sometimes with visits both in the morning (for our daily baguette) and afternoon (for un petite plaisir — canelé or mille-feuille), perhaps I’ve made it clear that I’m not a tourist, and I’ll be here for a while. And so, à bientôt: see you later.

parisian baguette

I’ve never been one of those people with a strong sense of home. When I moved out of the house I’d grown up in to go to college, I didn’t look at my old room with a sigh. When I moved out of the dorms to the apartment with the boys in Westwood, it was with a sense of relief for no longer having to live with girls. When I moved to Santa Monica, it felt like I was growing up and out of my school days.

half-eaten peach

So it surprised me when I arrived here and began to feel a creeping sense of homesickness. I wasn’t just missing my friends — which I did, of course, and still do — and I wasn’t just missing my little apartment in Santa Monica. I was missing the air, the rhythm, the attitude of Los Angeles, where I grew up, and where everything felt familiar.

gentleman washing dishes

Of course I missed the normal things — the sun (which, after one week of glorious warmth and springiness, hid out in the clouds and rain for many many weeks), being able to drive places, the food (like every Southern Californian, I passively miss In-n-Out in the depths of my soul every waking minute I am more than half-an-hour from one). But I think more than anything, it was the familiarity that was missing. I missed going to Rae’s and having the waitress plunk down an ice water and mug of coffee in front of me without even having to ask. Saying hi to the neighbors while picking up my mail. You know.

café latte from cafeotheque

It’s starting to get better. The guy at the Chinese place on Rivoli knows that we want our food tres chaud when we get take-out. The baristas at Cafeotheque say hi and come refill my cappuccino or double latte every hour or so. The guy at the greenmarket over by Bastille (which is pretty far down, but has much better produce than the ones by Saint Paul) knows I’m interested in the teeny wild strawberries they sometimes get and always points them out to me. In my stumbling French, and his stumbling English, we try to figure out if I want oranges pour le jus or por manger.

Music to live by: Hallelujah [Jeff Buckley // Grace]

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3 responses to “Finding Home”

  1. Hi Diane:

    I have come across your blog recently and finds it quite interesting. You are a good writer and your love of food is contagious. It is also doubly interesting for me to read as my husband & I have also moved recently to Paris from Toronto, Canada (though we are French-Canadian so language isn’t a challenge for us) on a work transfer and will be here for 2-3 years. We also keep a blog mostly to stay in touch with our friends & family so it is interesting to compare the different approaches to the experience of living in France.

    One thing that is very important in France is politeness and courtesy so a sure way to get good services in any stores is to say “Bonjour” as soon as you get into the store even if you don’t intend to buy anything and “Au revoir” when you leave even if you didn’t buy anything.

    Looking forward to continuing to read your stories.

  2. I just finished reading David Leibovitz’ Sweet Life in Paris and I love the “Parisian-ness” to your bakery experience. It definitely sounds like you are more welcome now!

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