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This is the story of how a French teacher from the United States of America and a New Caledonian, who was working and living primarily in Tunisia at the time, met and fell in love in Paris over the course of two weeks. It wasn’t love at first sight or a fairy tale romance. But it’s our story.
Une Américaine à Paris
It was the summer of 2016. I was a graduate level student working on my master’s degree in French with the Middlebury College Language Schools during my summer “break” from teaching. I was excited to spend my third summer of the program in Paris, especially since I had arranged to live with a couple of my close friends from the school. We (I’m loosely including myself here, but should be giving all credit to my roomies) had secured an amazing apartment in the 9th arrondissement through AirBnb.
The three of us were serious students, committed to the Language Pledge® and intent on improving our fluency. I will admit though, that one of these roommates was a bit of a bad influence. There’s always one in every circle of friends, right? We’ll call her Johanna.
Jo suggested that she and I, being the single ladies in the group, try out Tinder. I’m not going to explain to you what Tinder is typically used for, but if you already know—it’s not what you’re thinking, ok? I was initially reluctant when she first suggested this dating app, but she pointed out that it would be a great way to practice our French and discover some cool spots in the city with guys who live in Paris. We’d meet in public areas, always let each other know where we were going, and in general, be smart about it.
It seemed like a solid plan, so being the exemplary student that I am, I got started on my immersion project right away. Apparently, there’s a lot of interest in “Une Américaine à Paris,” and it wasn’t long before I made plans to meet Tinder Guy #3.
A Nomad New Caledonian
Tinder Guy #1 was a total bore, and Tinder Guy #2 wanted something a little “more,” which I quickly shut down, because I was here to learn French, remember? Original Tinder Guy #3 cancelled on me, so Jonathan slid into the number 3 spot. This is the point in the story where I’d like to mention that I was the first girl he met on Tinder.
He was an IT guy (which maybe explains the lack of matches 😅), living and working in Tunisia with a startup company. Consequently, he was in Paris for only a few weeks. The family apartment where he was staying (read: squatting) in the 8th arrondissement, was a convenient 15-minute walk from my place. He said he was born in New Caledonia, and yes, of course, I had heard of New Caledonia. (I most definitely had to Google it and won’t judge you for doing the same. He lovingly refers to his home island as a little pebble in the ocean.)
Our First Date—July 10, 2016
Jonathan suggested we meet at Marché des Enfants Rouges, the oldest food market in Paris, and a spot I hadn’t visited yet. My initial thought, “Cool! This Tinder thing is going exactly according to plan.”
Naturally, I was running late to our first date, and in my hurry, I headed in the wrong direction after exiting the metro. Upon realizing my error, I turned around and promptly began run-walking. My future husband laid eyes on me for the first time looking my very best. Some might call it my signature style—bright red from embarrassment and sweaty from hurrying on a hot day to avoid being super late (which was not avoided, btw). He was wearing what I would come to know as his standard outfit—jeans and a tee-shirt—and might I mention that he was not at all sweaty or frazzled (also typical)?
Well, no worries. It’s not like I was planning on falling in love or anything. I was here to practice my French!
The Stuff of Fairy Tales
As I had never been to this market, we walked around for a bit, and I let him take the lead in choosing a spot. There are fresh produce stands as well as restaurant stands. He chose a Japanese restaurant, and of course, I nodded yes to the chopsticks. We sat off in a corner, and I proceeded to fling rice about, getting only a small percentage of the food in my mouth at each attempt. I recently disclosed to Jonathan that I only finished half of my meal that day because of my difficulty with the chopsticks and not due to lack of hunger, which was the excuse I gave at the time.
I’m not sure what we talked about, but apparently the conversation was worthy of continuing, so we decided to walk towards the Seine river afterwards and stopped for ice cream on the way. Yes, I strolled along the Seine eating ice cream with a Frenchman. I suppose that is the romantic part of the story?
At any rate, the conversation came easily (read: the French practice was going well), so after walking for a bit, we headed back into the right bank and found a café. It would be the first of many cafés allongés together.
Immersion Project Going Well
At the conclusion of our date, ever the pragmatic person, I determined that it would be advantageous to continue practicing French with someone I had already met once. When you’re meeting someone for the first time, it’s always the same series of questions, and I had already mastered that vocabulary! Plus, he didn’t seem too sketchy, which was, admittedly, my main draw at that point in time.
It wasn’t long before we made plans for later in the week. Then, date number two led to date number three which led to seeing each other nearly every day until he left for Tunisia. At some point he became more than a conversation partner and saying good-bye was incredibly difficult.
Our Happy Ending
As you already know, this story has a happy ending. For the three years following our first encounter, despite our definitive good-bye in the streets, we talked every single day. The next time we saw each other was in February 2017 when I headed to Paris for my week-long break. This set off a chain of several trips back and forth, even spending some holidays together. Long-distance is not easy, especially when there is a whole ocean in the way, but we did it for over three years before I decided to move to France for love.
Our meeting was unlikely, and I was certainly not expecting what it would turn into.
17 thoughts on “Our Paris Love Story”
Aw what a sweet story! The long distance must have been difficult, but I’m glad you both are finally together in France! I just finished my year with Middlebury in Paris last year where I met my Frenchie.
Long-distance was hard. It felt like we were always saying goodbye in an airport. But we found a way to be together, and it sounds like you found a way to stay in France as well! Would love to know how you met your Frenchie in Paris 🙂
Nice article full of humor on your love story 🙂
I don’t want to show off, but I could tell right of the bat that you were staying at Rue Laferrière back in 2016 😀
Thanks for reading, Michael!
I am very impressed (and mildly creeped out) that you can recognize Rue Laferrière from that photo. It’s such a tiny street, and certainly not well-known. I can only imagine that you know the area very well!
So sorry about that, I thought you could feel that way after I submitted my comment!
I wasn’t living far from that place, and was working just four buildings from yours – the modern one we can see on the picture – for a while.
Nice area by the way, which got better with time, not to say hype. Place Gustave Toudouze just next to the street is quaint and peaceful too!
haha, no worries!
I really enjoyed living in that area. Glad to know someone else is a fan as well 🙂
Middlebury may have a way of doing that. I did the year program in Middlebury, summer in Vermont, university year in Paris, taking a break from teaching at a boarding school in Wallingford, Connecticut. I reconnected with Simone, a teacher at the same school, when we were both hired as French teachers in Paris by a colleague who had a summer program for American high school students. After the “academic session”, we had the responsibility of travelling around by bus in France, northern Italy and Switzerland before the students returned to the US. When I returned to the US, Simone picked me up at JFK. I did not have a car. Although it is frowned on among colleagues, a “tender sentiment was born”, and we were married in the back yard of her father’s house in Staatsburg, New York, on August 14, 1974. To use the words of « Le tourbillon de la vie » in « Jules et Jim », « Ça fait un fameux bail ». It was during a subsequent year in Paris that our daughter Natalie was born, and through that we discovered that Simone was French, even though she was born at West Point. “We’ll always have Paris”
What a scandalous story, Clay! I didn’t know Simone was your colleague. 😂
Hope you’re both well!
This is so sweet! I love that you got your IT dig in, haha.
I couldn’t miss out on that opportunity! 😂
Such a wonderful story! I met mon petit ami on Bumble — and almost canceled out drink at the last minute. Luckily I convinced myself I could the extra French practice. 😉
It’s crazy to think that one little choice can completely alter the course of your life! ❤️
Thanks for taking the time to read my story 🙂
What a lovely, lovely story… How could he resist you with your flushed face and sweaty brow? I would have loved to see the eating with the chopsticks. I think you must have found him rather fascinating to endure the hunger. The love story of your lives is a beautiful one, that has a lifetime of chapters yet to unfold.
Between my red hot looks and my flying rice performance, I was undoubtedly very charming. I will say that my chopstick skills have greatly improved. (Did I mention that our second date was also a Japanese restaurant? 😅)
Well…I didn’t raise no quitters!!!😏
Adorable story- every Francophile’s dream! I have a similar long distance story with my husband, only I traveled back and forth to Hawaii in college to see him. This was just after my study abroad in France and so I was torn between two loves 😉 I enjoy following your blog and hope I can inspire others who can’t quite live the dream with mine 🤗 🇫🇷
Well, your husband is very lucky to have someone bring a French touch to the home and to have, I imagine, a wonderful tour guide when you do get to visit France together. Oh, and let’s not forget about the macrons that you make. That deserves recognition and applause all on its own!
Thanks for checking out my blog, Geneviève! It’s always nice connecting with you.