Saturday, March 5, 2011

To Paris, with Lisa

Just before I moved overseas, my sister gave me this necklace, identical to one she bought for herself, as a symbol of our plan to meet next in Paris, which is conveniently located about half way between San Antonio and Abu Dhabi.

We had anticipated, and were absolutely correct, that being ten time zones apart would be the most difficult aspect of my move. Though we have lived in different cities our entire adult lives, we've never been more than one hour off, and we've always managed several visits a year. So, among the many adjustments as an expat, one was downgrading to about an hour of phone time with Lisa each month rather than our usual several hours each week, and harder still was coming to terms with the fact that we would see each other only once, maybe twice, a year.

We developed a few coping mechanisms, some working better than others. Thinking a mutual culinary experience would be a fun way to connect, we thought we'd choose one Julia Child recipe each month to cook simultaneously. But this turned out to be a bust after it dawned on us that my dinner time is her breakfast, and by the way, who besides Julie Powell, has the time to complete even one recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking? Julia forgot to mention her cookbook was not only for the "Servantless Cook" but the "Jobless Cook".

Another strategy was to create a Twitter feed reserved for each other's eyes only. I must say, this was a stroke of genius that came after a year of frustration over not being able to share mundane daily details with Lisa. There is a sense that our precious phone calls should be reserved for more substantive topics, but through Twitter, she can tell me that she just sneezed 100 times in a row, and I can tell her that I finally found fresh sage at the store, and we can both read at our convenience and relax that we don't have to save up and remember all of our random thoughts when we finally see each other again.

But for me, the idea of Paris has been the most important. The "City of Light" has been just that - a shining beacon among dark days of missing her. It was a place that neither of us had been but both had always wanted to visit. It was a place that seemed designed for sisters who love food and beauty and exploring urban areas. And it was something that would make much less sense if I still lived in the States. I guess we could have gone to Paris together, but meeting there sounds so much more glamorous!

Unfortunately, bad timing with work and finances, and just life in general got in the way, and the trip kept getting pushed off until we had both begun to accept it might have been just a pipe dream.

Then, a few months ago, Lisa called and said How does February sound?

Cold, I thought, but perfect!

It turns out she had been invited to style hair at Paris Fashion Week. It wasn't a guaranteed gig, but if she could find her way there and present herself when the time was right, she would probably get to participate. For a hair stylist and salon owner, this is one of the ultimate opportunities of a career, so Lisa decided to go for it, cleared her schedule for two weeks and rented an apartment in Paris. We made a plan that I would meet her there a few days early so we could get her settled in and have some time to play before Fashion Week frenzy began. We booked our flights in December, and this helped me get through yet another Christmas without her. It was really happening.

Dream. Come. True.

And just like a dream, it was over in a flash. Here are some favorite moments--

Seeing our apartment for the first time (it's the second balcony up on the right), which was even nicer than expected, in a cute and not at all touristy neighborhood near the Sorbonne.--

Going out on the balcony in the quiet of Saturday morning, and finding the quaint little square below nearly deserted--

Navigating Paris on the Metro - and the startling but funny memory of watching the doors to the train close with Lisa inside and me outside (we were reunited at the next stop)--

Enjoying the brilliant colors of the flower shops dotting the city streets - such a contrast to the gray, overcast skies--

Catching my first full glimpse of the Notre Dame--

Turning the corner off an empty side street and having my line of sight completely and unexpectedly filled by the Eiffel Tower. No longer just a trinket around my neck, but the real thing, up close and personal--

Visiting the Louvre - so beautiful--

And seeing Lisa's smile after getting her turn to photograph the Mona Lisa--

Finally, eating the most amazing meals, mostly consisting of bread, butter, cheese, wine, and chocolate! (More on this to come in the next post). This last picture below represents one of my most contented moments of the trip, as I realized everything had fallen precisely into place, but even better than I had plotted. After a long day of sightseeing, we had dolled up for dinner and then traipsed all over town in our dresses and uncomfortable shoes looking for a renowned restaurant that turned out to be closed, and then looking for a backup restaurant, which also turned out to be closed (being closed on the weekends is very big for Parisians).

Cold, slightly cranky, with stomachs beginning to growl, we found ourselves in an unfamiliar neighborhood, with no iPhone service and no idea where to eat. But then, we spotted a warm light coming from the end of an alleyway, which turned out to be an open restaurant with an open table, where the waiters were uncommonly friendly and the food was exquisite. (We found out later that we had stumbled upon the highly rated bistro of celebrity chef, Cyril Lignac, without even knowing it. I love when that happens!)

It was my last night in Paris, and a perfect one.

And it turns out, more than one dream came true in Paris - a couple of days after I left, Lisa was called up for Fashion Week duty and has since been busy styling for Nina Ricci, John Paul Gaultier, Lanvin, and Sonia Rykiel (shameless name-dropping, I know, but I'm so proud!).


  1. Wow, what a fantastic trip. Love how your excitement comes across so well in your writing. And congratulations for your sister, what a great opportunity!

  2. Bonjour, Shannon - I feel like I have made a quick trip to Paris after reading your blog. What a memory for the two of you to treasure, and that picture of the Eiffel Tower was amazing. It certainly does whet one's appetite for more of "the city of lights." Good for you and Lisa for making your dream come true. Looking forward to seeing you soon, mon ami. Au revoir et je t'aime, Jean

  3. What a great post, Shannon! I love to read about all your adventures. So glad dreams came true, you both deserved this wonderful trip! I love logging onto FB to find pics of L during fashion week!

  4. I seriously don't think I could possibly love a blog as much as I love yours! Such fun posts. So glad for your time with your sister in Paris and that it was truly a dream come true for you guys! Miss you!

  5. This is so sounds like a movie. Such a fantastic (that's not even a good word, but I can't come up with a better one unless I search for a synonym and I'm too tired) time you will never, never forget. I totally loved reading about this...I was smiling so big! (bigly?)

  6. This makes your mom's heart glad! I love living vicariously through your posts and pics. I'm thrilled that it's only a month before I can hear all about it in person!