- is the City Of Opportunity. For an aspiring musician, it's heaven. Underpaid heaven, but heaven still. Where else can you find yourself jamming with internationally renowned musicians at the end of a bar tour? Where else can you find the world's top musicians to play on your album (if you can afford them)? There are so many music pubs and clubs, you always get a gig. Sometimes you may even get paid for it.
- is beautiful. I used to work at Montmartre but lived next to Musée d'Orsay, and always walked across the city just because it was so damn gorgeous. Crossing the Pont Royal at sunrise, walking up rue Sainte Anne and all those japanese restaurants crammed in medieval townhouses. Up across the Grands Boulevards passing tens and tens of Haussmann-styled bourgeois buildings, gleaming cream-colored jewels with dark-green doors. Uphill past the 9th arrondissement, past the little dimly-lit bars where expensive drinks and women were available from dusk 'till dawn. Past Pigalle and Moulin Rouge, up the cobblestone alleys, catching fabulous smells from the cheese or chocolate stores, carefully avoiding the various dog turds that spread out through Paris like a stinky minefield.
- is ever-changing. If you're bored, that never lasts long. You just change your 'arrondissement'. From artistic to bourgeois to chic, to ethnic to glamorous to chaotic. Never a dull moment.
- is filled with movie theaters. I'm a sucker for old films, most of which were constantly playing in Paris' hundreds of theaters - theaters that look like old-fashioned movie theaters should, along with red velvet seats, shaggy carpeting, gilded angels on the domed ceiling, dusty smell and heavy curtains in front of the screen.
- has fabulous food. Max Poîlane bakers' shop on rue Brancion (15ème) is as if you stepped into the 1920's. Le Petit St. Benoît restaurant on rue Saint-Benoît (6ème) that looks and tasted exactly the same as it did in the 1950's. La Grande Epicerie on rue de Bac (6ème) is the Mecca of food fanatics. Mariage Frères tea rooms (7ème, 17ème, 4ème) in which the Sakura green tea with cherry blossoms is beyond comparison. I feel silly even writing this list, for books and volumes have been written about culinary wanderings in Paris. (It also has some of the worse restaurants on the planet, but they do not belong on my 'why I love Paris' list).
- has history written all over it. For a history buff, it's miraculous to walk the streets of Paris. Every turn in history is so clearly visible in its meticulously preserved architecture.
- is where public transportation is great, and it means you don't really need a car.
- is where one's will power and imagination is measured. Since I had imagined the professional opportunity doesn't exactly knock on your door in the countryside, I had to become creative and use my long-lost talents in finding work. Instead of giving concerts, I have concentrated on studio work, song writing, album-making, wedding song wielding, pedagogy and teaching. And since there are so few artists and musicians around, I'm suddenly employed to the max. What's amazing, I've actually had people knock on my door, offering work.
- is beautiful. Stepping outside my door, nothing but ancient red-stone houses, small alleyways, ancient gateways... and then, rivers, mountains, oak and chestnut trees, castles and chapels. An added plus is that I seem to be the only one around that takes walks, so I can enjoy this magnificent nature alone, with my family, or with a few given wild boar or deer. And all of this this in my village alone. The surrounding villages are some of the most unbelievably breath-taking places I've ever seen - Conques, Estaing, Rodelle, Bozouls, St Jean-le Froid, and on and on the list goes.
- is unflinching. I think the last village renovation dates in the 13th century. This village has even had the same families living in it for hundreds of years. A stroll in the cemetery confirms this.
- is quiet. Apart from miaowing cats, owls and birds of all sorts and the occasional cough from the old man next door, there is a blissful silence that makes it wonderful to fall asleep and to wake up.
- has wonderful food. The working man's lunch at Café des Voyageurs, made by the Ukrainian chef and bar owner Hanna, is savorous and interesting, along with a cheese platter enough to make you dizzy. The 'Auberge de la Cascade' in nearby Polissal is country cooking at its best - wholesome, greasy and tasty. The 'Auberge du Château' in Muret-le Château is fine gourmet food, beautifully arranged of exceptional quality ingredients. Another Auberge, that of Rodelle, has a worker's menu that one can easily imagine having been the same for 200 years. And I love Roquefort.
- has history written all over it. This goes without saying, but this is one of the oldest parts of France, and it shows.
- has friendly people. At first, friendly as towards a tourist; then, friendly as towards a neighbor.
- makes it possible to live inexpensively. Rent is cheap, buying a house is cheap, food is cheap. Only gasoline isn't, and you do need a car should you want to go anywhere. Unless you're an athletic bicycling machine, which I am not.
Hmmm. Both locations have immense, sometimes matching qualities. (Except for the friendliness, that I cannot honestly say I've ever found in Paris. Nor any movie theaters in the countryside.) Can an expat truly feel at home anywhere? I do. I feel right at home in this village. I guess it all boils down to whether deep in my heart I'm a city gal or a country gal. And I happen to be a country gal. And that's how I answered the school inspector. I'm a country gal, and that's why I love it here.