Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pancakes in Paris

Sometimes you just can't beat pancakes with maple syrup. Not with croissants, pains au chocolat or even macarons. When the urge for classic American diner food hits in Paris, we've discovered our go-to spot: Breakfast in America. With two locations (one in the Latin Quarter, one in the Marais), BIA serves up 100% authentic diner fare in a setting that feels like you've been magically transported to the States. From the smell of frying bacon and shiny red seats to the neon signs and 50's style counter, BIA feels so middle America, it's almost eerie.
We headed to the Left Bank BIA outpost on Sunday to celebrate La Fete des Papas (Father's Day). We were greeted with smiles by the all-American waitresses and within minutes of ordering, were wolfing down giant forkfuls of pancakes, mushroom and cheese omelets and in my case, a tortilla-wrapped breakfast burrito. (You can take the girl out of California but not her devotion to Mexican-ish food.)
The kids really loved it. Of the various things they miss about the U.S., pancakes are pretty high on the list (after their Boston pals, beloved grandparents, aunties & uncles and sweet cousin, Laine, of course. And snow. They miss that, too.)

The place gave me a great feeling of "home," something I hadn't fully realized I was missing. Maybe because almost a year has passed since our last visit to the States, maybe Father's Day had me feeling nostalgic. Mostly I just need to see my sisters really really soon. Sniff.

At the diner, everything felt easy and familiar. No need to practice ordering in my head before saying it aloud (I do this less and less, but still). No wondering whether the kids would like their food, no worries about them drawing on their placemats (crayons are provided.) It was great to feel like nothing was a struggle, everything was just easy.

And that's the thing about living abroad: Very little about expat life is easy.

Interesting? Absolutely, but simple, no. Everyday errands and routine tasks -- from signing the kids up for activities to scheduling doctor's appointments -- require extra effort. And the language difference is only part of it. The challenges come in more subtle -- and often unexpected -- guises, like realizing I have to pay the shoe repair guy (and the dry cleaner) when I drop off my items, not when I pick them up. Or that my new checkbook has arrived at the bank but they won't just drop it in the mail; I have to physically go in and sign for it.

They're small things for sure, but can add up to big differences. And while these challenges can be annoying at times, they're also part of what makes living here rewarding. Even the smallest successes (like a happy exchange with the cranky boulangere or a familiar à bientôt from the corner grocer) can feel like big victories. And then there are the bigger moments, like having a great conversation with a French friend without once worrying if I flubbed my verb tenses.

Maybe it's because I've always liked a good challenge. Or because I get bored pretty easily. Probably both. But living here -- even when it's tough -- reminds me everyday that life can be magical. Kinda like a stack of pancakes with extra maple syrup.


At June 20, 2012 at 11:46 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Food is always my comfort when I am away on business travel. I mean, I adore French food and always try and explore the different types of cuisine when cooking in my paris apartment but I do love a nice British tea and crumpet! mmm

At June 22, 2012 at 9:37 AM , Blogger Bonjour! said...

I think food from "home" (or perhaps things we ate as kids) always provides some sort of primal feeling of comfort. I know pancakes (and peanut butter, too) do that for me. And crumpets are always yum.

At June 24, 2012 at 8:07 PM , Blogger Michelle Moller said...

Hi Paige

I am so excited about finding your blog. I am also blogging about our waiting to get to France, I want to learn everything I can before I get there - although I know there is nothing that can prepare you for the actual experience. I am going to glean as much as I can from your experiences - thank you for sharing!
Tchat bientôt

At June 28, 2012 at 11:08 AM , Blogger Bonjour! said...

Hi Michelle,

So glad you found me and congrats on your upcoming move. You are smart to read up before your arrival; it's a BIG transition and anything you can do to prepare will be helpful. Do you know where you'll be living? Good luck and stay in touch!

At June 28, 2012 at 3:41 PM , Blogger [carolineweir] said...

Hi Paige,

I'm an American student studying in Reims for a month this summer and I am IN LOVE with France. I want to live abroad after college and this post inspired me. (Your posts always leave me inspired.) Although I've only been here for a little over three weeks, I understand that simple tasks in the States are very different and often times more complicated in France. This diner sounds precious and relaxed. I always learn so much from your blog, I look forward to reading your posts!


At July 3, 2012 at 9:33 PM , Blogger Michelle Moller said...

Hi Paige

Thanks Paige. We plan to move to Mougins - there is an international school there - its a painstaking wait but at least I am able to glean a little bit of info from blogs like yours - it makes such a difference when they are not just researched articles but real life experiences.
Chat soon

At August 26, 2012 at 4:02 AM , Blogger eberkles said...

Hi Paige,

I've lived in Paris for almost 2 years and couldn't agree with you more about the 'extra effort' paragraph...and the small (and big) successes that feel like such wins. Really fun to see that someone else feels the same way!

Take care


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