When we moved in, Lucia’s first child was 2-years-old.
Lucia is the guardienne (property manager) for the building housing the apartment in Paris where we began living when our children, like Lucia’s, were young.
Every evening, as I prepared dinner, I’d hear Lucia’s little girl in the courtyard outside our kitchen window.
She’d sit on the cobblestones playing with her dolls, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, including, sometimes, our son Jackson, who was 4 then. They all would chatter and giggle and run around, little shoes tapping on centuries-old stone…
Lucia’s oldest is now 19, too old to play with dolls, but the past couple of evenings, as I’ve prepared dinner for Lief and me, I’ve listened to her little sister. Lucia’s second child is 12, just young enough to still be interested in singing and dancing around our courtyard with her friends.
This extended stay in Paris, I’m being reacquainted with these and other delights of day-to-day life in this city.
I suggest often that you frame a vision for your new life in a new country based on what you’d like to see from your bedroom window each morning.
Think also about what you’d like to hear outside it.
One of the things I most appreciate about Paris is how cyclical this city can be. Parisians move through life in reliable ways. Depending on the time of year and the time of day, you can predict both the scene outside your window and the sounds that go along with it.
From the bedroom of our apartment in Paris’ 7th arrondissement the view is of the white-stone facades of classic 18th-century Parisian townhouses. Up and down both sides of the street we see oversized shuttered windows, ornate black iron railings, and iron lanterns hung at regular intervals. At street level in some of these buildings are shops—a cobbler, a book binder, a cheese man, a dress designer, a bakery…
It’s a nice view, but more memorable for me are the sounds of our little corner of the City of Light…
Every morning the wine bottles from the previous night’s trade at the restaurant down the street are dumped, in one fell swoop, into the collection bin, which passes by at 10 a.m. precisely. The resulting crash of glass on glass reverberates through the neighborhood. For some reason, this sound sticks with me and makes me smile when I think of it, as I do often, when I’m elsewhere in the world.
Once a month the knife sharpener passes down our street. You know he’s coming when you hear the ding of the bell attached to the wooden handle of the trolley carrying his grind stone. Not many tradesman knife sharpeners left in Paris, so we take our kitchen knives for his attention every time he passes by.
And all day long we hear our French neighbors greeting each other in passing, in the courtyard and on the street out front… bonjour… comment ça va?… ça va bien, merci!… et vous?… they call out cheerfully.
We’re enjoying this time in Paris after a few months at Los Islotes, the beachfront community Lief and I have undertaken on Panama’s Pacific coast.
At Los Islotes, we have memorable views from every room of our house, but the one from our bedroom window stands out. Lying in bed we can see, in one direction, the deep blue Pacific and then, turning our heads, the lush green hillsides of this Veraguas coast.
Very different from the views here in Paris.
And, instead of children dancing on cobblestones, wine bottles crashing on collection, and neighbors calling out in greeting, at home at Los Islotes we hear the capuchin monkeys who like to hang out in the black walnut trees that grow alongside the swimming pool, the occasional toucan, and the crash of the surf.
We appreciate both scenes and, most of all, the contrast between the two.
If you could hear any sound from outside your bedroom window each morning, what would you most like it to be…