The World In Between

The Paris Project

The Paris Project World HQ

I have no COVID stories to tell. Sure, I’ve eaten out less, if at all. I wear a mask. For months, I had my groceries delivered and cut my own hair. Yet several times a week, I’ve hugged my grandson, Jack. I’ve seen all my kids. Fortunately, we’ve escaped with our health, and our lives, intact.

Throughout the duration, Pat and I have holed up in our cozy (read that, tiny) apartment in Charlottesville. For a few years now, I’ve worked on this thing I call The Paris Project. This past year, I’ve heightened my focus.

Three years ago, to define the project, I repurposed a writing prompt: Write down every word associated with Paris. Five minutes. GO!

I heard the instructor’s voice. “Keep writing. Don’t pause! Don’t think!”

Time’s up.

I considered the list of 55 items ranging from baguettes to Napoleon, the Place des Vosges to Michelin stars to terrorism. Then, I broke everything into groupings: food, history, art, everyday life, and place. I constructed work streams involving a hundred or more books, a handful of classes and, when in Paris, miles upon miles of walking.

Page one

Currently, I’m interleaving The Three Musketeers, the letters of Madame de Sévigné, and the food musings of AJ Leibling. Four books lay between me and the end of the monarchy. After nearly three years, I yearn for the day when the guillotine finally falls.

September 9th, we will arrive in Paris for six weeks. My focus will be the monarchy sites in and around the city: the Louvre, Saint Denis, Sainte Chapelle, Versailles, Saint Germaine-en-Laye, a dozen churches, Marly-le-Roi, Fontainebleau, Château de Maintenon, and on and on—the vast remains of a thousand years.

Exploring the wine regions of France is a focus onto its own, and one that I love. I hope to carve out a week in late September to walk the vineyards of Burgundy from Gevrey-Chambertin to Santenay. In a nod to to the monarchy, I plan to pause in Corton-Charlemagne and sip the white wine the eponymous emperor drank in order not to stain his beard.

It’s not far, but I’ll be crawling

To some, I’m sure this sounds miserable. I’ve turned Paris—and the broader France—into a master’s thesis.

And yes, I suppose that’s precisely what I’ve done.

But as I look at it, I’ve melded my great passions: food, walking, reading and simply knowing things and wrapped them in a place that has tantalized me for twenty five years.

I can think of no better way to spend my spare time.

As for the COVID days, I’ve neither loved them nor cursed them. For me, it’s been a pause, a time to regroup and reflect, and a time to spend with family. I’ve enjoyed the pace of no pace at all.

Now, I’m ready—for hugs, indoor dining, masklessness …

and Paris.