I arrived in Paris eight years ago today. And only one hour into my grand adventure, I was already being delightfully surprised by France. I remember it vividly. I had just gotten off the RER B from the airport, and I knew from my extensive googling beforehand that I now had to switch to the Metro in order to get to my new apartment. The only problem was that Google hadn’t quite prepared me for the amount of stairs there are in Parisian public transit. I had just hauled my two suitcases, backpack, and purse down a flight of stairs. Now, after walking about 30 feet, I discovered that I would have to go back up an even longer one.
I was exhausted and jet lagged, having taken three flights to get to France. And I hadn’t quite mastered the art of packing light just yet. Meaning all four of my bags were ridiculously heavy. As I stood there, wondering how on earth I was going to get everything up the stairs, a man walked briskly by me. Without even asking, he simply picked up one of my suitcases and proceeded to haul it up the stairs for me. Not going to lie, at first I thought he was stealing my bag. But when he got to the top, he simply placed it on the ground and continued on with his day. I didn’t even get a chance to thank him. It was the first random act of kindness I experienced in France, but it certainly wouldn’t be my last.
Thirty minutes later, I arrived at my new home. A tiny apartment in the 12th that made up for its lack of natural light and a proper bed with the lovely private garden just off the kitchen. I was only booked to stay for four months. Four months to live in Paris, check that off of my life’s to do list, and then return home to finally settle down. It was only a week later, while sitting on a terrace with a spectacular view of Notre Dame, that the thought hit me. I think this is home.
It’s hard to believe that that day with the anonymous suitcase helper was eight years ago. So much has happened in those eight years. I’ve started a business. I worked the FIFA Women’s World Cup. I’ve started a new career and revived old ones. I ran a marathon. I’ve gained an incredible family of amazing friends. I led tours at Notre Dame Cathedral and will hopefully do so again someday soon. I’ve learned a new language. Ish. I’ve fallen in love with art and museums. I’ve spent countless hours navigating the countless bureaucratic hurdles this country had thrown at me. And you know what? It’s been the best eight years of my life.
Today is my Franciversary. And more and more with each passing year, I’m so grateful that I took a chance and made the move here in the first place. Eight years ago I didn’t know anyone in France. I didn’t have a job. And I didn’t speak more than two words of French. Looking back, it seems like a ludicrous endeavour. Now, I know it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Thank you France for all that you have given me these past eight years. Thank you for the life you’ve given me in a city that I love. Eight years ago a little voice told me that I was home, and that voice was right. I can only hope that in two years, I’ll be celebrating my ten year Franciversary alongside my shiny new French passport. That will be something to truly celebrate.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.