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L’aventure commence

Well, mes amis, where to begin? Or, as we say here, où commencer?

Today Parisian Christians are carrying greenery – it’s Palm Sunday, my Catholic friend Lynn informed me, so at least I know what day it is. I have been here for three days, which feels already like three weeks.
My arrival on Thursday was rocky, to say the least. The flight was nearly two hours late, so, after a sleepless night tossing on the plane, when I arrived at the apartment I’d rented (and at last located in the rabbit warren of doors), there was no one there. The concièrge was supposed to be waiting inside with the key. I stood in the dark hall with my hundred pounds of luggage – two fifty pound bags but no cell phone – and nearly wept. Finally I knocked on the neighbour’s door and an elderly lady let me use the phone and leave a message. 
When the key lady finally arrived an hour later, as she opened the door, she announced that the electricity was broken in the flat. Soon the electrician and his assistant arrived with a ladder and much talk of fuses … and I realised that the phone didn’t work either or the internet. Luckily the sun was shining, because for a while there, my sense of humour disappeared. I could barely see the apartment through jet-lag and concern, but did realise that it’s  in the absolutely best location, in the heart of the Latin Quarter but on a non-touristy street, the flat itself bright and pretty and facing a courtyard, so surprisingly quiet. 
Once I’d figured out how to buy and use a phone card in the phone booth down the street, and had made contact with my friend Lynn and the man who knew about the internet, I took my woozy head for a walk. The apartment is five minutes from the famous Panthéon, the glorious dome and structure where many famous citoyens are buried, and then I walked another few minutes to the Jardin du Luxembourg. It was dusk, the beautiful city and its ancient buildings glowing in gold light, and full-on spring here, trees and flowers in bloom, the streets crowded, the cafés packed, smoke and laughter spilling out onto the sidewalks … and I thought, maybe I’ll stay after all. 
Because for a while there, the thought of five months in this pandemonium was overwhelming.
By the next day, I could see more clearly, and here two strokes of luck: young Denis arrived to fix both the phone and the internet, and my friend Lynn arrived to stay with me after her conference. Lynn and I have been best friends since our first meeting in 1967 in a modern French literature class at Carleton University, she 18 and I 17. (She is a year older as I like, frequently, to point out.) Lynn and I became actors at Carleton and professionally, but then she went to France for a year to work with Jean Vanier at L’Arche, where she fell in love with a Frenchman and stayed to raise a family of five French children, none of whom now, as adults, live in France. She has lived in France since 1970, is now a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Montpellier but was in Paris for work – and now has almost a week off. 
So Madame Blin has been my introduction to France. She is showing me how to shop for food and wine. There’s a market down the street on the Rue Moufftard, where we immediately bought bread, yellow tulips and “gariguettes” – especially delectable strawberries. At the wine store she selected two delicious bottles for a total of 7 Euros – just over $12. Many things are very expensive here, but wine and flowers are not. So far the culinary highlights of my trips have been: a solitary croque monsieur at a sidewalk cafe, watching the French buy their baguettes on the way home from work; my first frog’s legs at a local restaurant –  tender, like little ballerina chickens; and lunch today, which Lynn and I bought ready-made at the market and ate here at home with a bottle of $6 Bordeaux – roast suckling pig and roast potatoes and ratatouille, followed by four cheeses (“This one is a little young yet,” she said, “it’s better in the summer,”) and lemon cheesecake, followed by a stroll around the neighbourhood.  I nearly wept for joy, for the first of many times to come, I’m sure. She and I have not stopped jabbering since 8 a.m. this morning, except for now – she is marking papers, and I am writing ecstatically to you.
One more thing, for now: yesterday I gave a talk on my book at the Maison de la Culture Yiddish de Paris.  The small room was full, thirty or so people listening attentively even to my fractured French. I apologised in advance, and when I fumbled for a word, everyone leapt to my aid, even arguing about the right word. After the talk came a series of focussed questions about Gordin’s life and work, including several so dense I had to ask them to repeat more slowly. It was thrilling to introduce my great-grandfather to a whole new continent. 
Afterwards, to celebrate, Mme. Blin and I went to the sale at Au Bon Marché to look for shoes. She found a pair, but there were few in my size 41 or 42 – like boats to these petite Frenchwomen, and anyway, very expensive, even on sale. But afterwards we went to the Grande Epicerie, a vast hall next door full of delicacies from all over the world, to buy food for dinner. And that is what matters most.

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5 Responses to “L’aventure commence”

  1. Mary says:

    I’ve wanted to visit Paris since my high school French classes 30 years ago, but haven’t yet made it there. So I’ll visit vicariously through you for now!

  2. MFRD says:

    Glad to know you are safely arrived. The bumpy start presages a fulfilling sojourn!

    Spring is finally sprung here on the west coast.

  3. Oho says:

    Bravo, ma belle!
    Dervla Murphy would be proud of how tenaciously you made your entrance!
    Me thinks, I can hear Piaf in the background.
    Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!

  4. Chuck says:

    Kelly and I hit the market at Rue Moufftard several times in our week+ in Paris (even though we were a bit of a hike away, near the Republique station). So glad you found it!

  5. beth says:

    Dear Mary, Margaretta, Oho and Chuck:
    How wonderful to have a cheering section! Mary, I’ll take you with me on my journey. Non, je ne regrette rien.
    love to you all,
    b.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

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Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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