by Melinda Gallo

After being in Paris almost two weeks, I have realized some things are different for me here. When I'm in Paris, I tend to make choices with my head; however when Iím in Florence, I tend to make them with my heart. I try to always choose what feels right to me, which may of course not always be logical, but when Iím in Paris I feel as if I can cut through my emotions more. I wonder if they are just clearer when Iím in Paris or if they are fewer.

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Another change occurred in my life a month ago: I made the decision to discontinue my Expats in Florence column. Today, in fact, the last article I wrote will be published. It was not an easy choice for me to make, but one that feels right to me. I enjoyed meeting so many expats, interviewing them, and writing about them; however, after two years, I didnít feel that same passion I had when I started. I felt I had done exactly what I wanted to accomplish with the column, and was pleased to let it go.

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While I am in Paris, Italian begins and ends my day, I speak French during the day, and write in English. I talk to myself in a mix of languages though. Sometimes, Iím not even sure which language Iím using. Here itís mostly French and some English while when Iím in Florence, itís a mix of Italian and English. When I was learning Italian initially, I would always speak to myself in Italian. I found it an effective way for me to immerse myself in the language. I find it a little more challenging to juggle three languages than when Iím juggling only two. Usually, my brain divides them into "my" language and "foreign" language.

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Living in Florence :: Writing in St. Germain-en-Laye

My returning to Paris for longer periods of time has brought me many gifts. Whatís interesting is that I never did choose Paris, just like I never really chose Florence. I was hired to work in Paris, even though I wanted to return to Lyon where I studied for one year. And with Florence, I was told it was the only place in Italy where I could learn Italian without having to contend with a dialect.

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Since the beginning of the year, many things in my life have changed. I might be an odd duck, but I embrace change. Florence fosters change and doesn't allow me to be stagnant even if I tried. I have learned to welcome change because no matter how painful it might have been to change, so many gifts arrived. Fortunately, my private life (my husband, my family, and friends) is the part that is calmer right now.

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To start off my first full day in Paris, I went to the cafť on the corner right above the mťtro to have colazione (breakfast). Because none of the local supermarkets were open, I didnít have anything to eat at home. Once inside the cafť, I sat down at a table near the tall windows. While I was waiting for my cafť and croissant to arrive, I realized that there were many differences between Vivoli, where I went yesterday, and the Parisian cafť I was in this morning.

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Living in Florence :: Back to Paris

This morning I walked to Vivoli for a cappuccino and pasta (pastry). I hadnít been there to have colazione (breakfast) in a long time, so it was a wonderful treat for me today. The skies were grey and it was raining lightly, but I still wanted to stroll the streets. I was leaving for Paris at lunchtime and wanted to walk around my beloved city before I left. I love traveling, but I always get a little sad when I have to leave Florence, my marito (husband), my friends, and my life.

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Since Iíve been back in Florence, Iíve been wondering what role the city plays in my happiness. Some people tell me that I must be happy because I live in such a magnificent, charming, and rich city while others Iíve met blame the city for their not being happy. I have finally realized that itís not the cityís job (nor anyone elseís job for that matter) to make me happy. Happiness comes from the inside. Everything external to me (my city, family, friends, job, writing, etc.) can affect me, but they do not dictate my happiness.

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Living in Florence :: Impossible to remain stagnant

Today I walked through Piazza Santissima Annunziata and stood for a few minutes in the piazza. I looked at my old building and was surprised to realize that itís been four years since I moved out of it. My life changed quickly that year, and even though I had to make difficult decisions, they were certainly the right ones for me. I have come to realize that Florence isnít a city where I can be stagnant. And I have a feeling the same is true for others who come to live here as well.

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The place I live in is important to me--maybe even vital. My stay in Paris reminded me of just how much a place can affect me. Since I moved to Florence, I havenít lived anywhere else for an extended period of time as a local, like I just did in Paris. My stay there was enlightening: I hadnít gone back to Paris to live since I left it in 1995. I was able to experience the city again and enjoy it.

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As my plane flew over Tuscany before landing in Florence, the terrain below appeared to be pieced together like a puzzle, fitting together perfectly. I looked out at the area surrounding Florence and was happy to see the terracotta roofs on the low buildings. I loved my stay in Paris even though I saw so little of it, but I did enjoy the energy of the city. Even though I was a little nostalgic leaving Paris, I was suddenly happy to be back in my beloved city.

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Being in Paris is a big change of pace for me. My life in Florence is generally much slower and calmer. It took me a few days to adapt to life here. Besides having to commute to work, having a set time to work each day, speaking French, not seeing the sun until 8am, and, of course, not spending time my marito (husband) and suoceri (in-laws). On the other hand, I am extremely fortunate to have many friends here with whom I have reconnected.

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Living in Florence :: In Paris for work

Before I left Florence on Sunday, I was a little sad. However, I was excited to return to Paris for work for almost two weeks. I hadnít been to Paris since 2007 and hadnít lived there since 1995. I was eager to see how Paris had changed and dive into its splendor. When the taxi driver drove me through the city to get to the apartment, I couldnít help but be reminded of my life here many years ago.

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Living in Florence :: Loving a sunny day

After a foggy day on Wednesday, today the skies were completely cleared. When I saw the weather outside, I couldnít wait to walk along the Arno today at noon to go to an appointment in via dei Serragli. The Arno these days is a cool green. Itís so hypnotic that I enjoy staring into it when I can because it brings me much serenity and joy. While I walked along the Arno, I kept glancing at it to see the light shimmering, the birds floating on its surface, and the muddled reflections.

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Living in Florence :: A quieter city

This morning when I looked out at the Arno, the sky was a blanket of light grey. I heard on the meteo (weather forecast) that it would rain in the early afternoon, so I decided to go for a short walk before it started. I love taking some time to just stroll the streets and look around without running any errands or having to be somewhere specific.

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