Congratulations to Marie Banville for Winning the December 2014 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)
The Challenge was to write an essay that answered this question:
Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before, and why do you want to go there?
Marie gave a vivid description of a long-time desire to visit a certain magical city…
Ooh la la, Paris!
By Marie Banville
As a teenager, growing up in rough-and-ready western Canada in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, I dreamed of the Champs Élysées and the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps it was because I was called Marie in a classroom filled with Brenda’s and Debbie’s, but I was certain I had a French heart, even if the closest I came to “la belle langue” was translating “Gratis à l’intérieur” to “Free Inside” on the back of the cereal box. Canadian breakfasts were boring; I wanted to be une fille française sitting down to a petit déjuner of pain au chocolat and café au lait.
While my father fished for rainbow trout in cold, clear mountain lakes, I hung my legs over the side of the boat and read The Three Musketeers and A Tale of Two Cities. I studied the paintings of Chagall and yearned to live in a garret full of flowers with a severe French hairstyle and an artistic lover. Undoubtedly I would climb Montmartre and look out over the rooftops of Paris and the spires of Notre Dame instead of worrying about grizzly bears as I stumbled after my family in a boring Canadian forest. Quite certain I was destined for a life in the bistros of the Left Bank rubbing shoulders with the avant-garde, I listened to Edith Piaf while my friends were rocking out to AC/DC.
I did my best to get there — I really did. I moved to Montreal and studied art and French. I met a handsome Quebecois who shared a name with Théodore de Banville, the quintessential 19th century French poet. I couldn’t resist his Gallic charms so I married him and became Marie Banville. With a basic grasp of the language and a French-speaking husband, I knew my time had come. I could picture myself sipping un apéritif on the terrace of some charming little café overlooking the Seine.
It is hard to fathom, but almost 20 years later, I still have not made it to that fantasy café. Real life, raising children, and teaching art overtook my youthful dreams. Paris became a “someday” aspiration that kept being put off in favor of practical demands on my time and money. I was taught that growing up meant letting go of unrealistic desires, but this November proved to me that hope is resolutely and eternally fresh! I finished an 80,000-word novel and had an article accepted for publication on the same day that my husband (same guy but with more grey in his beard) surprised me by booking a room in the charming Hôtel de Banville in the 17th Arrondissement of Paris.
We will celebrate our 20th anniversary in la ville d’amour. I’ll bring my watercolors, a notebook, and a fountain pen (a laptop just doesn’t fit into my reverie). That sidewalk café will become a reality and the Eiffel Tower will float in the Parisian sky outside my garret window. Vive le rêve!