New Year, New Theme?

Chez Janou.jpg

I look for Paris in the bistros. In this case, Chez Janou

Resolutions? Fine.

Goals? I believe in them. 

But, I’d never considered creating a theme for the new year, until our neighbors told us that they chose a theme every year.

Who are these people? . . . And why didn’t I think of that?

These people are Mark and Mary. Potential recurring characters, so let me introduce them. They are Americans who sold everything. Retired. Moved to Paris.

Several months ago, while they were still considering their Paris move, they reached out to me. We met for coffee. And subsequently lunch. Pat and I enjoyed their company. They visited our apartment and returned home to finalize their plans.

At some point, Mary emailed me. I had written about leaving Paris, and they were interested in renting our apartment. I loved the idea that I could leave and still return to a place which feels like a friend.

It was a perfect plan. Until we decided to stay in Paris.

Fatefully, our landlord owns two apartments. The woman renting the second one gave notice. Mary and Mark signed a lease, sight unseen, and moved in next door.

We went to their apartment for lunch on New Year’s Day, and they mentioned that they were finalizing their “theme” for 2018.

“We do this every year,” Mary told me. “We look back. We look forward. And we decide where to place our focus. That sets our theme.”


Their theme is: A Year of Exploration.

I needed a theme; Pat needed a drink.

Perhaps my search for focus of late has been a search for a theme. Over the holidays, I had toyed with the idea of pilgrimages.

“Pat, do you realize there’s a pilgrimage route from Canterbury Cathedral to Rome? We could walk it.”

“I’m not into that.”

“Did you just say no?”



Let’s pause here. For 40 years, Pat has said “yes” to everything. We looked at each other in shock. I’m not sure who was more surprised to hear this word make its debut on Pat’s lips.

By afternoon, my pilgrimage idea was waning; perhaps I should respect the first “no” Pat had uttered in 40 years. By afternoon, Pat agreed to walk across Europe. Yet as interesting as the historical concept of pilgrimage is to me, and as much as I love to walk, walking across Europe was a bit in conflict with “I don’t want to travel this year.”

Pilgrimage was off the table.

Or was it?

I looked up the word.

  • A journey to a holy place
  • A journey to a special place
  • The course of life on earth

Holy place? Holy cow! It hit me.

I don’t need to travel to make a pilgrimage. My pilgrimage is right here. My pilgrimage is Paris. Yet pilgrimages are fleeting things. What better way to maximize our time here than to create a theme? A Pilgrimage to Paris.

In my writing class, the teacher gave us prompts–stream of consciousness stuff. I created a prompt for myself. Every word I associated with Paris. Five minutes. Go. (I could hear the teacher yelling, “Pencils moving people. No thinking! Just write!!”)

Wine, cheese, Michelin stars, Bread, Flowers, Chocolate, Photography, Parks, Museums, Fashion, Churches, World War 2, Authors, Books, Writing, Bookstores, Pilgrimage, Bicycling, Tour de France, Saint Jacques, Foie Gras, Oysters, Champagne, Impressionists, Kings, Romans, Revolution, Palaces, Squares, Boulevards, Pastries, Steak Frites, Bistros, Moules Frites, Julia Child, Edith Piaf, Philosophy, French, Senegal, Markets, Roasted Chickens, Jazz, Terrorism, Ben Franklin, Eiffel Tower, Films, Cinemas, Petanque, Moulin Rouge, Prostitution, Arrondissements, Opera, Butter, Street artists. Jugglers.

Time’s up.

I read it. Bravo. This list would do nicely to focus the next year (and this blog).

So far this month, I have signed us up for a wine tasting class and returned to French lessons. I created a reading list replete with books by French authors and novels set in Paris. Then I created a similar list for movies. I signed up for a sketching course. And bought tickets to return in May to the Michelin-star festival: A Taste of Paris. We went with Mary and Mark to Lou Pascalou Sunday night to hear some jazz.

I walked around the Tour Saint Jacques and read its history. Perhaps you knew it’s the Paris start point for one of the several routes that terminate in Santiago de Compostela, but I didn’t. What better place to start my pilgrimage than at this meeting point of pilgrims which dates back to the Middle Ages.

Then Pat suggested that when we leave Paris, we do so on foot. “Maybe that would be a good time to walk to Santiago de Compostela.”

I love this guy.

Now I want to hear your goals for the new year. Would a theme help? Or do you already have one? And if you associate one word with Paris, I want to hear that too.

Bonne année!




Categories: Life in Paris

Tags: , , , ,

18 replies

  1. Julie & Pat – the theme of the year concept is great ! Thinking back to our past 12 years of retirement traveling, I would say we have gone from : ” let’s find a guided tour to see a part of the world, and make minimal decisions” to : ” let’s get out of our comfort zone, and explore the world self-directed “. The past two years have been Greece, Portugal, and Spain under that new theme. This year, Northern Italy and Croatia under the same self-directed theme. It has been more rewarding, more relaxed, more educational, more defining in our true interest, and an approach we intend to continue with as long as our health will allow.

    Keep the blog going ! We really do enjoy your thoughts and guidance ! Hugs from the fool olde U S of A ! Bruce & Lee

  2. I have to comment here on your post rather than just knocking on your door. We’re delighted to be part of your cast of characters here in Paris!
    Mary & Mark

  3. My theme this year was to do a pilgrimage with you guys!!!!! I can pilgrim to the Michelin festival thingie!!!!!

  4. Sitting in an apartment overlooking the Douro as I write this. I arrived knowing only 2 words of Portuguese. My theme “Get out there, even if you are out of your comfort zone”

  5. Love it!

    On Wed, Jan 10, 2018 at 10:12 AM The World In Between wrote:

    > worldinbetween posted: ” Resolutions? Fine. Goals? I believe in them. > But, I’d never considered creating a theme for the new year, until our > neighbors told us that they chose a theme every year. Who are these people? > . . . And why didn’t I think of that? These people are M” >

  6. Julie, no Paris, but my theme comes from a book I am reading,’Being Genuine, Stop being Nice, Start being Real’ by Thomas d’Ansembourg it may be a theme for longer than this year. All the best with your theme!

  7. Love the idea of a “Theme” enjoyed reading your writings thanks.


  1. French Encore – The World In Between
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