Upon moving to Paris in October of 2016, there were quite a few things on my agenda. To name a few, I needed to open a bank account, get a local phone number, sign up for local health coverage, take steps to get my visa finalized, decide on what part of town to live in, look for an apartment, and look for work.
Something that was not on my to-do list was conceiving a child!
My husband and I had, what felt like, a really awesome plan. For our first few months in Paris, we planned to test out different neighborhoods via Airbnb as a way to ultimately decide where to live. The idea was to give each neighborhood at least two weeks, if not more, to really feel the ebb and flow of day-to-day life there. Once we finished our neighborhood tour we had a much better idea of what our future would hold – both in terms of which part of town we’d live in and how many bedrooms we would need!
Our first neighborhood, Batignolles (Click here to see where it is on the map), was in the 17th Arrondissement with outdoor highlights like the stunning Square des Batignolles, and the crowded Parc de Martin Luther King. There’s an open-air market street called Rue de Levis where I could buy anything from fresh flowers, fruits and veggies to rotisserie chicken, pretty French bedding and Persian carpets. Streets such as Rue des Dames and Rue Legendre weave through the neighborhood and offer a diversity of restaurants with modern international cuisines and traditional French food. They also contain many interior design stores and fashion boutiques. Batignolles is a locals’ neighborhood where you won’t find tourists but rather lots of couples in their 30’s and 40’s with their young children in tow.
If you came to the area during our month stay you would likely find me tapping away on my computer inside Le Dome, an intoxicatingly Parisian cafe.
Next we tried out Puteaux, a village of sorts just West of Paris and not far from the city’s business center, La Defense. Puteaux doesn’t feel like Paris, but rather a place to escape to. It has quiet, cobblestoned streets where “il n’y avait meme pas un chat.” That means, where there was not even a cat. That’s a French saying for, totally void of people. Exploring Puteaux, I felt often like I had stumbled into a village in the countryside. I especially liked the streets lined with cream colored apartment buildings adorned with windows flanked by blue and green shutters.
In Puteaux, there are a handful of trendy and very high quality restaurants where people working in La Defense go for romantic, long lunches with their mistresses and misters. Just kidding. Sort of. My favorite of these for food, atmosphere, and people watching is the very chic, modern French restaurant Eugene Eugene.
The less high-end restaurants in Puteaux feel a bit older, and in need of inspiration. But that is to come, I suppose, as more people funnel into the area to escape high Parisian rents.
Puteaux also has a lovely covered market open on Thursdays and Sundays with beautiful fruits, veggies, cheeses, meats, fish and more. The Seine weaves it’s way by Puteaux leaving behind an island with a great gym, sports center and fields. Having the Seine right there brings in a fresh breeze and provides for delicious, pensive moments looking out over an expansive vista. Just across the river from Puteaux is the Bois de Boulogne, one of Paris’ most expansive parks. It rather feels like a forest, in fact. And it inspired my husband and me to go on more than one morning run, despite the near freezing weather.
Next we tried a neighborhood called Vincennes on the waaaaay East of the city. Actually, it’s also just outside the city limits and borders a beautiful, foresty park, the Bois de Vincennes. This enclave is much more populated than Puteaux but still maintains a small town feeling. Many of the streets are newly paved and well lit. Vincennes seems to be kid-orientated with lots of families and children’s stores. The square outside the local townhall gets converted into an ice skating rink in winter that becomes flooded with families. The Chateaux de Vincennes is a medieval castle right in town. Paris’ largest botanical gardens are just across the street.
During our stay, elaborate Christmas lights where draped over the small streets and bands broke out in song on any odd corner. In Vincennes, there is a robust selection of restaurants with cuisine from all over the world. Nothing too fancy or trendy, but if we lived there, we would not want for options. Unlike Puteaux however, rent is just as high as in Paris.
Turns out, we conceived in Battignole. That explains my moodiness and fatigue in Puteaux. And then we found out I was pregnant in Vincennes. One Saturday morning, I could just tell something was off. I’d been extra tired, thirsty and achy for days. And this morning, squinting at an app on my phone in bed, I realized I was late!
Before breakfast, my husband announced he’d be going out for a run. So I decided to take some time out for myself to go for a stroll, grab a pain au chocolat and an espresso at the local Paul (a great boulangerie chain) grabbing a pregnancy test along the way.
I sat in the cafe, slowly enjoying my breakfast, journaling. After emptying my brain of my grievances of the recent US elections and all the particulars on my mind about moving to a new country I wrote:
“Am I pregnant? Hmm. I don’t think so. But here I am in a Paul in Vincennes journaling with a double pack of Clear Blue “tests de grossesse” on the table. And to be honest, I want to be pregnant. As I sit here I feel ready in a way I’ve never felt ready before…”
When I got home, my husband was in the shower. I told him that I was going to take a pregnancy test when he got out. He was sure it was a false alarm. We had been careful and this was not in our plans for 2016. We wanted to get fully settled in our lives here in Paris before we started trying – maybe some time the following year.
But soon, as he got dressed in the bedroom and I stared at the stick in the bathroom the word “enceinte” (pregnant) popped up on the screen. A whole new adventure was about to begin.
If you are wondering how to pronounce the neighborhoods we stayed in, here they are spelled out phonetically:
Batignolles = Bat-teen-yole-eh
Puteaux = Piu-tow
Vincennes = Vah-sen