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Catty on the Right bank

I will have been here two weeks tomorrow, hard as it is to believe – and today was the first day that I truly felt at home, relaxed, coping and able to take it all in.

This morning, two charming gentlemen came to fix the heat in the apartment. And then today’s project: to do some serious Right Bank exploration. This time I prepared for a Himalayan excursion: not only camera, notebook, lipstick and map, but little water bottle and, yes, I packed a sandwich. I can hear my children screaming, but why pay a lot of money to sit at a cafe when I have this perfectly good Poilane bread going stale? I dressed carefully too, because I was going to Fashion Central – le Faubourg St. Honore, the most fashionable, expensive shopping street in the world. 

The bus passed a big demonstration on the Boul’ Mich’, and I asked the woman next to me what it was about. She explained that it was the “sans papiers,” foreigners without papers, who want to be legalized. “Oh yes, they should all be given papers,” she said bitterly, “and then they’ll ALL  come.” We did not converse much after that.
My first destination was the store Colette, which has become, apparently, the world centre of trendiness. After a little tour around, I think it is the centre of attitude and expensiveness. Anyone can be trendy in a 2500 Euro Comme des Garcons dress, or a 145 Euro t-shirt, or with one of those handbags. Oh the handbags! I picked one up – Yves St. Laurent, 4500 Euros – and looked at myself in the mirror. On one arm, nearly eight thousand dollars of squishy grey leather; on the other, a colourful Japanese canvas bag I bought at my favourite couturier, which also provided most of the clothes I had on: Goodwill of Gerrard Street. 
The place had not only clothes, but the smallest iPods and cameras, the grooviest sunglasses, the most ridiculous shoes, diamante Hello Kitty headphones. The thing I liked best was a map of Europe and Asia, all in pink except for a big blue France. Underneath, in blue, was printed, “France.” And in pink was printed, “Not France.” 
Otherwise, I thought it was humourless and sterile, all silver and glass cynicism. I thought of my kids and their effortless, fabulous, penniless style, and wished they were there to diss this store with me. No, I just wished they were there. We visited France together when they were 13 and 10. I wished, all day, they were with me again.
Continued along the street, gazing at one mind-boggling display of luxury goods after another. The street has every luxury name in the world, including Sothebys which is soon auctioning a Picasso for an estimated 18 million Euros. There was an Armani Junior for children, and a shop with silver bowls for dogs. My favourite shoemaker was there – Stuart Weizmann, who makes shoes for the big-footed woman. I myself was wearing shoes bought in New York, though not Weizmann’s – nice loafers from the thrift store across from my cousin Ted’s on W. 77th. 
At one point I saw a skinny blonde dressed from head to toe in  Chanel – jacket, bag, shoes – walking, barely, arm in arm with a stooped, much older man who did not look like her dad. I wondered if it was worth it.
Meow.
I turned off the street, finally, towards the Champs-Elysees and stopped at a sidewalk cafe for a grand creme, a cafe au lait, and to watch the crowd. The Elysee Palace where Sarkozy lives and works is on St. Honore, and this is a quartier of French bureaucrats – there they were bustling along, hoardes of natty little men in perfectly tailored grey suits and silk ties. A family of four tourists went by, the father dressed in a pink polo shirt and Hawaiian surfing shorts splashed with giant pink and green flowers. What, I asked myself, was he thinking?
Meow.
And there it was – the Champs-Elysees – so wide and spacious, so very grand. I was only at the midpoint, so I decided to explore the Arc de Triomphe side to the right another time and turned left towards the Louvre. And soon stopped on a bench right on the Champs to eat my delicious sandwich. I felt pretty smug, I can tell you.  
Couldn’t get over the sweeping vista from one end to the other, then le Grand Palais and le Petit Palais and the Tuileries gardens – in fact, all afternoon, one magnificent building or square or monument or church after another, La Madelaine, Place Vendome, then coming up to Place de la Concorde which I managed to cross alive, and then the elegant and endless Louvre. Stunning, breath-taking, glorious. Did I mention that I’m having a good time?
Home on the #21 bus, which stops right around the corner, and on to my second most favourite activity of the day, after wandering in Paris – no, my fourth, after wandering, drinking and eating – telling you all about it.

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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.

Some Blogs I Follow

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.

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

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