Venturing Past the Quartier

Vicki Lesage essays

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Seven years of living in Paris had been filled with wine, cheese, and late nights that turned into early mornings. Hopping into a cab after the night’s partying had come to an end and the sun began to rise, I often didn’t know whether to greet the driver with “Bonsoir” or “Bonjour.” I lived city life to the fullest and never slowed down.

I could jet off to places like Marrakech or Ljubljana on a moment’s notice, leaving behind freshly watered plants in my tiny one-bedroom apartment in favor of sheep’s head stew and medieval castles. Adventure was just a heartbeat away.

The last two years have been a bit different. With two kids under two, the only thing in my life that hasn’t changed is the fact I still live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment. My family dines on vegetable puree and builds castles out of Legos. Adventure has taken a different form.

My childhood vacations included trips to Yellowstone and Disney World, typical American destinations. My French husband’s family ventured to Santa’s Village in Finland and the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany (from which the Disney castle took its inspiration). My husband and I want our children to experience the same diversity in their vacations. That is, if we can ever get out the front door.

Shortly after our son was born, we managed quick jaunts to London and Brussels. With only one kid in tow, it was doable. We even took several longer trips to the US. Now I’m happy to make it to the boulangerie and back, struggling to strap my squirmy 22-month-old in the stroller while my 7-week-old baby is snuggled in the baby carrier against my chest. Forget leaving the country—I’m lucky to leave my neighborhood.

Not that I’m complaining. My French-American children see amazing sights on their daily stroll to the park, sights I didn’t lay eyes on until my first international trip at age 19. What is magical to me—buildings older than my home country, iconic monuments, decadent cuisine—will be commonplace to them as they grow up alongside wonders like Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. And eat croissants every day.

When I moved to Paris, my mom wished me good luck in my new life, an entire world away. France was foreign to me, exotic. It’s the norm for my children. Will they decide one day to move to the US, viewing it as an adventure, like I did when I moved to France? Or will they seek out a country even more exotic? Will I wish them luck in their new life, or will I secretly wish they would stay close to home? Will I be able to let them go as easily as my mom let me? Or was my mom only pretending to be okay with it because she knew it was what I wanted?

I have years to ponder/worry/agonize over this before the kids leave the nest. Until then, my husband and I plan to travel the world with our children, giving them a taste of what’s out there. Even if it means losing them to another country later on. It’s what I did, and what I would do again. I have to be prepared that will happen and I should be supportive when it does.

In the meantime, we’ll stick to the park down the street and the occasional jaunt across town for some world-renowned ice cream or a children’s exhibit at a museum. There’s enough adventure in our own quartier, with its winding streets and ancient structures. We feel right at home.


About the Author

Vicki Lesage

is an IT Director by day, writer by night. And a full-time nerd. She loves fondue, wine, math, and zombies. She lives in Paris with her French husband, rambunctious son, and charmante daughter. Her first book, Confessions of a Paris Party Girl, was released in January 2014.

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