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Pardon My French: Our Heroine Gets Lost In Portland

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When I planned my escape from Washington all those many months ago, I wasn't thinking that far into the future. It was only a matter of weeks between the day I hatched my plan to flee the confines of my desk, and the day I actually arrived in the French Riviera.

I was taking a risk and I didn't know how things would pan out. I didn't know if I would like living abroad and I didn't know how things would go with the Englishman, so I booked a round trip flight rather than one way. I will be returning to France before too long, but I wanted to see what it was like to be back on the West Coast for more than just a fleeting visit.

As much as I wanted to live in a new place and have some new experiences, there was another reason I wanted a change. Part of what I felt was missing, part of why I felt I needed to break out of the comfortable life I had been living in D.C., was the feeling of a sort of estrangement from my family.

Over the past decade or so, since college, I have really only seen my parents and my sister for a few days or weeks at a time during cross country visits, so for most of my adult life, I haven't had the kind of day to day relationship with them that I sometimes envy in people who live close to their families.

I saw breaking out of Washington as an opportunity to see how that might feel, and to scope out what appears to be every hipster's dream come true: Portland. Since I wanted to spend the holidays with my family anyway, I decided to tack on some extra time and to see if Stumptown might be a place I could see settling down in someday.

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The jury is still out on that one, but here I am, getting some quality time in with the people who raised me, and evaluating my current life in the cold rainy winter daylight, without any dreamy Mediterranean seascapes to cloud my vision.

Its good to get back to my roots a little and Portland, with its lush landscapes, oodles of restaurants and quaint neighborhoods, is a calm place to reflect the past few months and think about the future.

This time four years ago, I was rushing from Iowa to New Hampshire and beyond, up to my eyeballs in election coverage for the BBC.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the excitement of chasing candidates, talking to voters, and generally being in the middle of the action.

But I in some ways I feel more balanced now then I did then. I feel more like myself.

It's hard to re-create an identity, which is really what I am doing. For a long time I defined myself by my work. I think most of us do to a degree.

And it's taken some time, but I am beginning to work on other aspects of my life, like the relationships with people I love and exploring other cities and parts of the world. Things that I had to put aside in order to do the work I was doing and live the life I was living in the nation's capital.

In retrospect, January might not be the best time to explore a city like Portland... I put on my heavy-duty raincoat shortly after I arrived, and there have been precious few days since that I've left the house without it since.

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But the days are starting to get longer, and in an attempt to foster some bonding and to give my body a break from the gallons red wine, and mountains of cheese and pastries I have been enjoying, I invited my family to join me on a clean eating challenge for the first few weeks of 2012.

My dad, who has a penchant for cheeseburgers, and who barely makes it through a day without eating at least one fried egg, declined the invitation, but my mom, my sister, her girlfriend and I have been juicing, steaming, sprouting and generally consuming outrageous amounts of fruits and vegetables over these past few weeks, and actually liking it.

It's not Provence, but the view from Portland is pretty nice.