On Day 16 Judith and I were both preparing our minds for her to go home. I wanted her to stay but her schedule demanded she get back to Oklahoma. Feeling a bit melancholy, we spent the morning drinking espresso and visiting the Sunday morning fresh vegetable market. Afterwards, we enjoyed a late brunch down at one of our favorite corner sidewalk cafe’s “Cafe Le Buci”. I did not want to see her go!!! We knew the afternoon was going to be busy with a meeting that was scheduled with the The Wild Child’s manager – Harry and his wife Jesse – at their home in Paris, so we only had a few hours to relax and enjoy each other before Judith had to get back to pack and prepare for Monday’s early departure.
Here are Judith’s parting notes on her experience these last two weeks in Paris….it is beautiful! Thank you sister, and thank you for the beautiful memories that you have given me on our latest journey together. I am looking forward to many, many more! Love Love – Sandy
ON LEAVING PARIS – from Judith
Today is my first day home after having been in Paris for two and a half weeks. This was my second visit to Paris – last year I was there in May for eleven days with my sister Sandy. I had never been to Paris and Sandy had only visited briefly many years ago at the age of twenty. So needless to say, our trip to Paris last year was spent on a dead run determined to discover all the major sites and attractions the “City of Lights” had to offer, and with wide-eyed wonder, discover we did. We discovered the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and Montmartre, the Latin District, Notre Dame, Place Saint-Michel, the Seine River, and most impressive to me, the innumerable, hundreds-of-years-old buildings that greet you at every turn boasting their intricate and finely detailed architectural design. It was a fabulous time to say the least. However, going back this year, we decided to situate in a neighborhood and immerse ourselves in the culture of everyday Paris life. And so, that’s exactly what we did.
Sandy rented an apartment in the Latin Quarter – a small Paris gem on Rue Dauphine just three blocks from the Seine and Notre Dame and a stone’s throw from Saint-Germain-Des-Pres. This was the perfect place for our Paris neighborhood experience – an experience that we hoped would afford us the opportunity to get to know the people, their way of life, their take on the world, on America, their idea of work, of love, and most of all, of friendship. We wanted to sync our heartbeat with the heartbeat of the people who inhabit this two-thousand-year-old* romantic and truly beguiling city, even if only for a brief time.
So, for two and a half weeks, we spent our days walking a four to five-mile radius of the Latin Quarter in in search of the best eateries, bakeries, shops, boutiques, sidewalk cafes, department stores, grocery stores, and flea markets. We rode the Metro and shopped the grocery stores; we scoped out the (numerous) flower and fruit markets that lined the age-old cobblestone streets; we visited galleries and met French artists and bought original French art; we cooked in our apartment and walked the early morning streets as the city was at a yawn, first waking and going to work on their bicycles and motorcycles (yes, in suits and dresses!) We spent a day at La Mosquee and experienced a Hammam (a Turkish bath) and dined on freshly baked bread and cheese and often, and most willingly, succumbed to the ah hah moments that were meted out, ever so delicately, by the best wine in the world. Everywhere we went the Parisian people were very kind to help us to learn how to use every-day words and phrases in French; they laughed with us and us with them as they spoke, oft times, in broken English attempting to help us speak French. At the sidewalk cafes we met fascinating people from all over the world (yes, even from TEXAS) who had come, just as we had, to capture the essence of Paris – to get a glimpse of the world from this window – a window that is stained and melded together by the masses of humanity, down through the centuries, and from all parts of the world, who designed, built, fought for and preserved this great city so that we can come and we can absorb a history that embodies many of the great works that characterize all of our beginnings. Yes, Paris is truly a window on the world.
As for the practical and every day, I did learn some things; I learned that the French people work very hard and that the French waiters and shop people are tireless and do their best to offer up their services in English; and ladies, speaking of waiters, these are some of the prettiest you’ll find anywhere…more on that later. I learned that the “mom and pop” shops – if you are missing them in the U.S. – are alive and well in Paris. You very rarely see “chains” with the exception of Starbucks which made me a happy girl on several occasions! These shops and boutiques, galleries and bookstores (the French love their books), restaurants, delis, flower and fruit markets, are all housed and tucked away along every crowded street and in every corner of Paris. Many of them, by American standards, are small. I do note here that they seem to make the most out of their smaller spaces. Everything is more compact and purposed. The grocery stores are about a third the size of an American grocery store, and if you want frozen, there is another store for that. Most of the people in Paris buy their food fresh and visit the neighborhood grocery more often for their daily meals. Fresh baked bread is a staple, as is of course, French wine. I sensed that the French are more about working to live rather than living to work. I can really appreciate that.
And, something that I really love: they are very fond of their dogs – you will find them sitting at the front door (inside) of the grocery waiting while their owner shops, and of course you will find them at the sidewalk cafes and in the stores. Sometimes they are on leashes and sometimes you see them following closely at the heels of their owners.
Now, about dress: I noticed that Parisians are definitely about a sense of style – no sweats or sneakers, or over-large t-shirts and baggy jeans. I noticed that the women – even the younger women – took a more classic approach – I saw lots of skirts and dresses, scarves (of course) – and not just on women – men wore them too. I saw lots of fitted, artsy or branded t-shirts and narrow legged pants on both men and women. And of course, close to my heart, lots of really cool shoes! One of my favorite things was seeing men heading to work in their fitted suits and dress shoes sporting a helmet and riding a motorcycle. I guess there is a reason why Paris is the fashion capital of the world!
I would be amiss if I didn’t tell you about the evening we spent with our new Parisian friends Philou and Dominique who graciously invited us to their home for dinner. It was truly a highlight of my trip. The evening we spent with them was incredibly memorable. After an hour or so I knew in my heart that we were spending an evening with some very special people – people that I would want to know the rest of my life – they were wise and kind, funny and entertaining, beautiful, and most importantly, full of heart. They were open and shared their stories, and for me, in those hours I spent with them, the world became very small. These two beautiful people are my neighbors. And therein abides the truth and the reality of this thing called humanity here on the earth: no matter what country, what town or city, we are all in this together. Our feelings, our experiences, our desires, our pain, and our needs are much the same; and the one thing that can bring us all together is our willingness to open up, to sit down and share, share our hearts, share our stories, and yes, share some good food and drink! And on that note, I do have to say that Dominique served up a mouthwatering meal: after a great glass (or two) of finely chosen Champagne and a tasty salmon and mozzarella cheese appetizer, we sat down to a falling-off-the-bone, all-day-roasted cut of lamb served with slightly spicy, slightly buttery, whipped sweet potatoes and fresh baked bread. I am still thinking about that lamb! Thank you Philou and Dominique! I send you my love from America….
Lastly, about the “secret project,” here it is: being a couple of single women you would have to be blind not to notice the many, many beautiful men that you see everywhere in Paris – men of all ages who seem to embody a sense of style; men who seem to be oblivious to their looks as they go about their business. Maybe that’s because of the sheer number of them. Granted, I’m sure many of them are men from different parts of the world who have landed in this city and maybe that’s why they are so exotic, nonetheless, striking. So, Sandy and I thought it might be fun for the many other single women in the U.S. to get a look at some of these fine male specimens. With that in mind, we decided to start taking pictures of these men trying to be as candid as possible which turned out to be an adventure in itself. We took pictures in cafes, walking along the streets, and in stores; we took longshots and zoom shots. We were a couple of spies on a mission and had way too much fun getting those pictures. A few of the men we actually approached and spoke with telling them what we were up to and believe it or not, (of course you can believe it) they were ready, willing, and remarkably, able. Of course you could imagine that they were. So, pictures we got – lots of them. My favorite? Well, as a matter of fact, it is one of an elderly gentleman, quite well dressed and very dapper, taking a morning stroll with cane in hand.
I’m sure Sandy will do a great job of picking and posting the pictures. So ladies…enjoy! By the way….fortunately or unfortunately, however you choose to see it, all we did was look. (Considering my station in life, that might just be UNfortunate).
So, this year my Paris adventure was exactly what I had hoped for: I learned, I observed, I wrote, I ate, I drank, I walked, I bought (and bought!), I picked up more French, I rested, I made memories and I met new friends, so YES!! This was the experience I had hoped for and I had the time of my life.
In the movie Out of Africa, Meryl Streep, playing Isak Dinesen, said, “I had a farm in Africa,” well,
I had an apartment in Paris.
(*At that time, “the Roman city of Lutetia was being called the City of the Parisii after the name of the principle Celtic tribe which inhabited it and whose Celtic leadership had often acquired Roman citizenship. It was a short step to abandoning the Roman name and simply calling the place Paris.”)