Marie Banville: December 2014 Barefoot Writing Challenge Winner


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!



  1. Beautifully written with the various elements so smoothly integrated. I felt like I was reading two travel articles at once – one for Paris, the other for Canada. And congratulations on your 20th anniversary, completing your novel, submitting articles, and fabulous travel plans. Sounds like you’ve had quite a year!

  2. Marie Banville,

    Congratulations! Your essay conveyed magical Paris to me, and I’m sure to all who read it!

    So happy you will get to your magical city.

    Happy Anniversary!

    For years, I too, felt that I belonged in Paris or had even lived there before. When I first visited, it was even more magical to me than I had dreamed. It was so real and was everything I had dreamed. It is still one of my favorite destination places!!

    Connie Hand

  3. Lesley Renwick on

    A Paris! The City of Lights. You paint a wonderful story beautifully arced and well written. Here’s a toast to having dreams come true 🙂

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