A New Yorker In Paris: Week One

This is what we call the "Amanda is clearly uncomfortable having her picture taken by a stranger" pose.

Bonjour de Paris!

Well here I am in Paris for the second time in my life thanks to a good old fashioned heartbreak. As I wrote for our sister site, Blisstree a few months ago, the only thing I’m truly good at is running away. We all have areas in which we flourish and mine is in leaving whatever is troubling me behind. I’m not saying this is anyway to deal with an issue, but for me it’s far better therapy than my therapist who insists on me “sitting with my emotions.” Fuck that. I don’t want to sit with my emotions and have a cry-fest in my bed, on my couch, while riding the F train, under a blanket or in my shower. This is the fourth time in as many years that I have picked up and left my beloved New York City due to a messy situation (with the same asshole each time, mind you), but it’s also the last time I’ll be in Paris for that reason. Next time it will not be because I’m escaping. It will be because life is about traveling and exploring, and if the mood strikes, meeting new people. I feel as though I have everything figured out at the moment as I sit here on this lovely rooftop terrace in the 16th arrondissement. But that feeling probably won’t last.

Just as I did the last time I ventured this way, I placed an ad for an apartment swap on Craigslist. One of those “my NYC for your Paris, s’il vous plait!” type of posts. As per usual, I got a couple of shady characters who didn’t just want to just swap apartments, but sexual favors, too. While I’ve always heard that when you lose a nail (read: a fella), it’s best to replace him with another nail asap, I’m not into accepting sexual advancements at the moment. Especially when I really just wanted someone to take my apartment for a month so I can get the hell out of dodge.

I finally narrowed my search down to a very sweet young woman who needed to be in the city for all of March to take an English class. I, needing to escape from NYC as fast as humanly possible, jumped at what was clearly a fated opportunity. My only requirement was that it was about a month or more. Ideally, I would have liked to have abandoned my NYC abode for a good 90 to 365 days or something impossible, but thanks to the U.S. dollar not being so great and the fact that I actually do have a life in New York City, more than a month away seemed like pushing it. Also my therapist said that anything more than 30 days might wreck havoc on my psyche (not that I’m listening to her anyway.) She’s yet to learn that this psyche of mine is pretty messed up as it is and change is not something I’ve mastered — because that would mean dealing with things, obviously.

So after everything was set, I swiped some miles from family members who weren’t going to use them, and booked a flight to Paris. I did not have to pay for a plane ticket or a hotel, and although I know I’ll find myself  in too many cafes while I’m here, the things of which I’ll be devouring most are the items that we pay a pretty penny for back home in the States, but yet aren’t so pricey here. With areas like Bordeaux and Côtes du Rhône right here in France, I’m saving mad cash on my wine consumption. There’s also the availability of cheese and baguettes which, besides the occasional salad, are the extent of my eating — no one does bread like the French! Yes, I may have softly wept when I bit into my first croissant the afternoon I arrived.

Last time I was here, in January/February of 2010, I stayed in a flat in le Marais. I awoke to the bells of Notre Dame and fell asleep to the the piano playing of the composer who lived next door. The flat had been purchased by a woman with whom I did the swap, but since she had not officially moved in, it was very meager in its ammenities — actually it was a mattress on the floor and a desk. But hell, how happy I was! I was sans drama, complications and the expectations of others. I was free.

This time around the flat is definitely far different. It has all the comforts of home and even Law & Order marathons in French that I watched the first couple nights into the wee hours while I tried to get over my jet-lag. The terrace overlooks a narrow street and from there the sunsets are amazing. It’s not as romantic as a mattress on the floor, but the view makes up for it.

View from the terrace on rue Erlanger at dusk. March 09 2012.

When I was here the first time I did all sort of touristy things (although this morning I did pose for that first photo just because I had never seen the Eiffel Tower up close), and while I’ve yet to see every inch of the Louvre, Versailles and those types of venues, this time I plan to be more low-key. I do intend on heading to the Crazy Horse to see the Christian Louboutin show and I’ll definitely be hitting up le cimetiere du Père Lachaise to pay my respects, once again, to Oscar Wilde (and Balzac, Piaf and so many others.) But mostly I plan to wander these streets, eat too much food and be grateful that I’m here. Not many people can up and leave their life when the pain becomes too unbearable. I’m lucky that I have my apartment in the East Village as collateral for swapping. It makes leaving town easier than if I were in, say, New Hampshire, where I grew up.

Tomorrow I will wake up early and go to Notre Dame for mass, not because this atheist just found god, but because I can. I might even run there, in my own way. Running, I’ve heard, is actually quite healthy — even if you’re not technically using your legs.

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    • Elizabeth

      Cheers to running away! I darted out of Brooklyn after similar severe heartbreak and treachery in 2010, and riding the train around the U.S. to visit friends in D.C., New Orleans, Dallas, LA and Chicago for a few months was the best decision I made.

      • Amanda Chatel

        Absolutely! I knew my therapist was wrong…

    • Erin

      I am definitely a person who is adept at running. Usually they are brief journeys, into the city for a day or two, the theatre, or a cabin in middle-of-nowhere-Maine that I happen to have access to. My one big run was to Italy a few years ago, I had just achieved one degree and was moving onto the next and that involved moving a bit further away from home, which I was comfortable with but my loved ones seemed to feel betrayed by. I was being constantly harangued about the move and one day I had enough and I called up my boyfriend, who was already in Europe and told him I was escaping to Italy for a week or two. I gave him the option of joining me but I think he sensed I wanted a real escape and let me be. So I ran away from my hair-pulling situation and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The trip was restorative and allowed me to come back and tackle everything with a new energy I wouldn’t have found if I hadn’t ran.

    • Lisa

      Maybe running can be empowering? I have run like that a few times (even to Paris, once) – I think it makes a person feel free and brave and in control of their happiness, without being TOO controlled. And when you’re away from the people who know you in a certain way, it can help you get down to who you are intrinsically. Bad relationships can have a way of skewing us toward a version of ourselves that might be more lenient or “adventurous” or open to bullshit, or maybe just too vulnerable. But when you’re alone with yourself, I think we naturally return to who we were born as – like, you get down to the core of the person you were when you arrived into the world, before some of the formative events that may have mucked up the works.

      I love thinking about Amanda-who-wrote-about-her-jerkoff-fake-boyfriend going off to be alone in a city to heal. You’re not being self-destructive and spending a small fortune or quitting your job. I hope you get some good work done on your psyche.

      Although, for when you come back: I notice for myself that when someone like a therapist suggests something, and I absolutely don’t want to listen, it’s sometimes because she’s onto something. Otherwise I would just sorta vaguely agree it couldn’t hurt and then not get around to it. Maybe you can compromise and try to do from afar whatever it was she thinks you’re avoiding, or work on a solid plan for action when you get back just to be safe?

      • Amanda Chatel

        Well per her suggestion, I did “sit with my emotions” the whole plane ride here. Yes, I was *that* girl sobbing on the plane. Public crying is no way to make friends…

        But as for a solid plan, I don’t have one just yet.

    • Avodah

      I thought Amanda’s parents still paid her rent? How does she afford this?

      • Amanda Chatel

        ACTUALLY… I make my living as a (sometimes) full time freelance writer… so, no. My parents do not pay my rent. My parents are retired, “Advodah.”

        I can’t help but wonder if your inquiry is based on something someone told you. Are you an infiltrator… from Brooklyn, perhaps?

      • Meagan

        And your reply to this rude (and weird) comment, Amanda, is why I love reading your stuff! Have fun in Paris–have a chocolate croissant for me! :)

      • Amanda Chatel

        Sorry, but I don’t like being questioned about my financial status! I think it’s rude and yeah, kinda weird.

        And I will indeed have a chocolate croissant for you, Meagan!

    • Arnie

      I, too, am in the midst of running away. What do therapists know?

      Mine’s a slightly longer escape of a year, maybe two, but hey, I love the travel, and by the time I get back home, things will have moved on and fixed somewhat.

      Having said that, the ex still visited me a month in and fucked me up again, and I’ll still need to make important life decisions when I get back. That’s a problem for future me. Screw her.

    • Avodah

      I don’t live anywhere near Brooklyn. My question was from the article you wrote about feeling that you haven’t “made it” as a writer. I specifically remember you saying that your parents often have to help with your rent.

      It wasn’t a judgement about profession. It was really curiosity.

      Don’t worry. I’m not jealous. I’m really happy where I am! Enjoy.

      It is spelled A-v-o-d-a-h

      • Amanda Chatel

        I’m sorry for misspelling your name and being nasty, but I felt like I was being attacked.

        Yes, when things are tight my parents do chip in a $100 here or there. However, considering the precarious situation under which I left NYC and the devastation that I was feeling, a couple hundred is not a lot for my parents to pay if it meant keeping me from doing something that can’t be undone – another topic I’ve addressed in my posts.

        Honestly, after the backlash from my abortion piece and the unbelievable hate emails that came to personal email address last night, I admit your comment came at the wrong time.

        Also the plane ticket was bought with miles and it’s not as though I’m on a spending frenzy while I’m here.

        Again, I’m sorry for losing my shit and misspelling your name. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I can be a real bitch.

        Have a good day, Avodah. See? I did it right this time.

    • Maris

      I have always wanted to go to Paris but never had the money. For some reason, swapping never occurred to me…perhaps because I thought that type of thing only happened in The Holiday.

      Please give me details on how your trip compares to The Holiday, i.e. if you meet Jude Law and become a new woman.

      Regardless, your trip has given me hope that I, too, can get to France. Enjoy your trip! Make sure to obnoxiously mupload pictures of baguettes so as to make said asshole jealous.

    • Maria

      This is obviously going to sound weird but here it goes:
      I’ve been reading the blog for a few months and find you girls terribly funny. And now I hear you’re in my home town, so I have to ask, how about meeting a fan near st michel? :)
      Either way I hope you enjoy your trip despite the terrible weather!

      • Amanda Chatel

        Is it weird if I say: “Yes, I’d love that!”

        The last time I was here I actually met a girl who read my blog of rantings… she suggested we meet up while I was in town, and we’ve been great friends ever since.

        I’m not quite sure where St. Michel is — I don’t have my map near me at the moment — but email me and we’ll figure something out!


      • Avodah

        Actually, it is a great way to meet friends. One blogger whose blog I read every day met one of her “followers” on a “blind date”, and they have been friends ever since.

        I think if more women did this it would help careers, social life, everything.

      • Amanda Chatel


        However, there’s always the slight chance that you end up with some Craigslist type killer situation on your hands… but if your life and death is made into a Lifetime movie starring Meredith Baxter Birney, then all’s good. Maybe?

    • MR

      Yeah, it’s always good to escape and clear your head. On ‘my girlfriend and I dodging an unwanted pregnancy, thanks to a miscarriage’ comments on your other posting – right after, I called my Aunt and told her what had happened, and asked if I could come stay with her in London, for the summer. She responded the ticket is waiting for at JFK, get on the plane. Yeah, she’s always been a very cool lady. Hmm, and as far as nails, yeah she made me one, setting me up with two of her girlfriends’ daughters. I guess what I’m trying to tell you is it’s a ‘new beginning’. So try to roll with it. :)

    • MR

      Amanda, I was looking around for some Dolores last night – cause in the photo above I thought you looked a little like her in the early ’90s. I’m not sure it’s the best choice, but in a lot of her songs she’s had places where she’s moved on. My second choice was ‘Zombie’ so I think I did good. :)


      • MR

        Hi Amanda – I saw the exchage rate this morning and it’s even better than last time, between $1.30 and $1.31 dollars per euro now. I know you said you hated numbers and I just threw them out at you last time. So here it goes again: You exchanged $300 dollars for 210 euros. That is 300 dollars / 210 euros = $1.43 dollars for 1 euro. Or flip it, 210 euros / 300 dollars = 0.7 euro for 1 dollar. That’s what you exchanged at on the $300 you told me about. Now this vs what I see quoted this morning (above) which I’ll round up to $1.31 dollar per euro. Same calculation flow for a $300 exchange for euros: 300 dollars / 229 euros = $1.31 for 1 euro. Or flip it, 229 euros / 300 dollars = 0.763 euro for 1 dollar. So it’s 229 euros (the current exchange rate ) vs 210 euros (the you be getting ripped off rate :)) for $300. So again please price around. The exchange rate quote where you sell your dollars should be around my quote – not exactly but around it. Hope this is helpful. All I care about is advancing your ability to buy more wine. :)