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settling in

It’s a fine, slightly chilly day in Paris, and your faithful correspondent has hit the wall. No, not really, your faithful correspondent is over-dramatizing again. How like her!

But this is the first day since leaving home 20 days ago that I am alone, without a plan, in silence. I spent nine days with Bruth, three and a half with Lynn, and seven with a miscellaneous assortment of folks including Denis. My new solitude is wonderful and much needed; I spent the morning getting back to writing work. But it’s a shock.

Bruce is still in Paris, living in the Marais, so we’ll get together again soon. I’ll be seeing a few friends who live in Paris, and the Friday after next, Chris Tyrell flies in. This is the most friend-filled travel adventure yet, and it’s great. But now, during the next week and a bit, for something completely different.
On Monday, Lynn and I attempted to plan a museum visit, but the ones she wanted to see were closed on Mondays. Plus she had to spend the morning sorting out work problems. Which left us only enough time to go shopping, darn it! To the local papetrie, where we spent half an hour choosing notebooks and pens; Monoprix, of course, where we looked at clothes, housewares, cosmetics and face creams; Marionnaud, beauty products, since it sells those only. I was there to buy a lipstick, but the saleswoman took one look at my face and showed me a gommage, a cleansing product that scrubs off the dead skin and leaves you looking decades younger. At least that’s the promise, and I’m buying it.
I bought it.
For lunch, leftover Lebanese food from the market, followed, it will surprise you to learn, by salad, an amazing assortment of cheeses, much Lindt chocolate and coffee. And then I walked my dear friend to the metro, and off she went. We knew instantly, when we met outside Professeur Galliani’s modern French literature class in September 1967, that we’d be friends, though couldn’t have conceived that we’d last through more than four decades, seven children and two continents. We are very different, and yet our greatest bond, laughter, has never once loosened. She’s that rare friend who’s as eager to see the paintings of Cranach the Elder as to inspect the selection of Wolford tights at Bon Marché. (Well, maybe slightly more one than the other. Me too.) She’s an extraordinarily good shopper, very thrifty, the combined influence, perhaps, of her Scottish father and her French husband. “Un bon rapport qualité/prix,” she often says – good quality for the price, or a reasonable price for good quality. High praise.
I learned a great deal from her this trip, as I always do. For example, the last two years I’ve come to France just as the fat white asparagus is in season, so have happily bought, cooked and eaten it. Lynn informed me, however, that before cooking, it should be peeled. It’s true that peeled, it’s a whole different experience. Less work to eat. Who knew?
She taught me that wines I’ve never heard of – Val Joanis, Gaillac, Bergerac, Corbières – are “bon rapport qualité/prix.” I listened in fascination as she discussed with the Mouffetard wine merchant the issue of the temperature at which we should drink our bottle. He told her that the old advice, “chambré” – room temperature – doesn’t make sense any more because houses have central heating. He asked if our apartment had wooden or stone floors, and said we should leave it for 20 minutes only on the door of the fridge. Which we did. And it was good.
And mostly, she taught me, yet again, that an old friend is the greatest treasure.
After her departure, I walked down to the Jardin des Plantes to see my tree. Every year, that tree gives the most spectacular show, and this year is no different. And, I confess, on the way home I happened upon a little store that had the bag I’ve been searching for – the right blend of practicality and fashion for a reasonable price, very bon rapport qualité/prix. Even without my wise friend’s advice, I bought it.
That night, I had a simple, silent supper and kept busy, doing what, I have no idea. The internet, mostly. Such great websites about creativity.
Today was my hitting the wall day, when I just about shut down. I worked all morning, bought groceries in the afternoon – always a pleasure, the FranPrix on the rue Mouffetard, and then to the great bakery to buy a piece of leek quiche for supper. A nap. And then the sun came out, and I walked across the crowded, elegant Jardin du Luxembourg to Montparnasse, past the famous Coupole and Le Select, little tables crowded on the sidewalk, around the Boulevard Raspail and the rue de Rennes – on which, the sign on the window proudly proclaimed, is a shop that’s France’s biggest supplier of head cheese.
In and out and around, people taking l’aperitif, children and teens getting out of school, mothers waiting outside the nursery schools, great smells coming from bakeries and the line-ups outside for the evening baguette starting – shop windows full of pretty exotic things, and lining every street, row upon row of six story golden buildings with lacy black balconies. And I, the transplant, walking in my skinny black jeans, my second hand jacket, a new t-shirt from a discount store, and my bandouliere bag, disguised as a Parisienne. Oh yes, and of course the scarf – bought at Monoprix two years ago, floating in the breeze. I may not know how to tie it, but there it is.



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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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