of French, bises and sun

I left you on the bus to Montparnasse and my French/English conversation.  

Tres bien.  Edna teaches French to FSL students.  Yes, that’s like ESL but in France.  So that means that she is used to speaking slowly and deciphering what we non-French say in our multitude of accents. After drinks, we stayed on for dinner.

Le Coupole is a restaurant from the 20s and 30s and was the haunt of many writers and painters.  I think we sat at the table that Sartre sat at. But who can be sure?  And once again I ordered steak.  Some of you have commented that you don’t care for French beef.  I certainly am not an expert – seeing I haven’t eaten red meat for more than 10 years –  but this was delicious. And I am even eating it medium!  (Well, I usually do in the States – but medium in France is really “rare” in the States….)

Saturday was the morning of the PRINTER.  But I already posted about that.  I have used it several times already so it was indeed worth it.

Saturday afternoon I set out for one of the meetups – La Vie Parisian.  Edith is the creator.  I belief she is a lawyer in real life.  That last one I attended was a lecture about the American writers in Paris – that prompted me to read A Moveable Feast.  So this foray was to the Museum of Romantic Life.  It’s tucked away in the Pigalle area.  An old mansion.  One of the gems of Paris.  The contents weren’t too exciting – but I love to see the architecture.  They have a lovely courtyard with a tea garden.  I will be going back there for tea on a sunny and warm afternoon.

Edith focused on George Sand in her lecture.  And Chopin.  And Liszt.  I do like Liszt – will be figuring out how to download some to ITunes or Amazon music.  

Edith’s a resourceful one.  She took us to a building where Dumas, Sand, Chopin and other artists and writers lived.  The big green doors on the street were closed tightly on the weekend – but she said it was open during the week as there were also some businesses and shops there.  So Denis, one of our group who is French and a police officer, called on the intercom and talked someone into opening the door.  So we wandered about – this is the type of thing that amazes me in Paris.  Behind the doors can be tiny villas, simple courtyards or a labyrinthine of connections.  That’s what this was.  There were 5 courtyards in all.  With plaques on three of the buildings about the former occupants.

On the way home, I had the privilege of introducing one of our group to the bus.  She’s English and a computer IT consultant who has been living in Paris for a year.  And she had not taken the bus yet!  You have all heard of my cult-ish obsession with the bus.  I made a convert.  We may get together in the future – she lives nearby.  She says the world is now her oyster because of the bus! How British!

Sunday was a brand new day:  A day of BLUE sky and SUN.  I have had sun on this trip – there was that day I rented the bike.  But I realized on that Sunday morning that it has been a while since I felt the sun on my face.   I soaked up the Rays.  I really had not been sad or depressed but I certainly could feel the energy level rise with the sun.

Paris will be in the sixties finally this week. And 72 on Friday but I will be in Amsterdam. That’s ok. It will be 68 there and being with an old friend will make it feel at least two degrees warmer

My friend Laura from Sausalito was going back to the States on Monday, I was honored that she spent her last day, Sunday, with me.  We just wandered according to her whims.
In Paris, if you want to meet a friend, the best meeting place is the quay of a metro.  Who knew?  When a metro station serves several lines, and your friend is coming on another line but you both want to continue on the line you are on, you just jump off your train and wait.   Even if you are going to go outside from that station, the quai is still the answer.  So much better than figuring out what exit you will meet at.  (For example, today I spent 5 extra minutes at Palais Royale metro trying to find the right exit – out of seven possible exits!)

So we met on Ligne 1 at Etoile Charles De Gaulle and rode to the Place de la Concorde.  There we exited to stroll through the Tuileries gardens.  The wonderful things you can stumble on.  This dancer was having a photo shoot.  We watched for a while then struck up a conversation.  Well, Laura did the striking.  She is much more fluent than me.

And we continued our stroll.  Basking in the sunlight like every other Parisian out with us.

I didn’t realize the lack of sun until I had the sun again. My Dutch friend laughed at me when I told her this – and she said that was one of the reasons why she loved California!  I guess we are spoiled.

Laura and I dropped in at the Louvre – love that annual pass! – Then stopped for water.  I am trying to up my intake of water to prevent dehydration.  And maybe “oil” my joints and muscles some.  Even this morning, I had Perrier instead of tea.

More wandering.   Across the Seine to the 6th Arrondisement.  Wonderful lunch.  And then on to the Luxembourg garden.  We found a sweet outdoor café next to a bandstand.  The music was too classical and slow for my taste.  Where was John Phillip Sousa when you needed him?  Or the Gaie Pariseienne (can-can)?  I must admit I fell off the water wagon and had a kir.  Almost the end of the day.  We went back to Laura’s for my goodie bag.  She has been giving away things to all her friends before her flight back.  I see this in my future!  She had a much larger and more modern place than I have.  And a view that I would have died for.  Photos too impossible to post on the train (more on that later).  The Eiffel Tower – right there!  

I have been here almost 4 weeks and can do the “bise” now without hesitation.  Bise is the term for the cheek kisses.  So when Laura and I hugged when we parted, it actually was a bit strange at first.  Now that sure means I am getting acclimated.

It was a bittersweet day for Laura.  And me too.  Watching her say good bye to Paris and knowing I will eventually have to do the same.  But Laura should be home by now with her sweetie.

Now to Hollywood!  Monday was my first experience at the French cinema.  There’s a cinema just 2 blocks from me.  Edna helped me figure out how to find times on the internet.  I went to the sequel to the Marigold Hotel.  It was in English (VO- means version originale) but with French subtitles!  Actually, it was a great experience because I could see how they translated English phrases.

Came home to do business work on line – invoices, banking, and correspondence.  And then set off for the Toastmasters group.  I wish I   could join them but the economics of it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  And the timing.  Their year runs from Sept – June.  Not much time now and I will be traveling in Sept and October.  Maybe even November.  But they have welcomed me as a continuing guest.   Last night I was called upon for table topic.  They give you a topic and you get to speak for up to 2 mins.  No preparation.  Mine was – what would I do if I had the superpower of ventriloquism.  I said I would use it for Bill O’Reilly – and have him say he loved Obama and Obama care.  Which would cause him to have a heart attack and he would get to use the health system.

I didn’t win – but the tally-people told me I had a lot of votes!  I heard three speakers and three evaluators.  And I learned from each one.   There’s another English Toastmasters but it is on Thursdays and I seem to have client meetings on Thursdays.

I am in Belgium!  My phone told me.  But the architecture is different too.  So I might have guessed.   Really, my French phone just beeped with a text that said welcome to Belgium.  And pretty much the rest of the message was that it will cost you to call or text here.

So how can this be, you ask?

I am on the Thalys high speed train on the way to my Dutch friend’s house.  Thalys to Rotterdam, local train to Breda, car to Rijen for three days.  Friday we will be in Amsterdam and I take a late train home.  (oooooh.  Home= Paris!)

This morning Alain and I met for conversation – did I say before how ironic I find it that the French word entrepreneur is used for a purely American characteristic?  Today was more listening for me than speaking French.  I am getting better, I think.  He spoke very quickly today.

Then home to pack.  And of course, once again I lose things – this time the cord for the Fitbit.  Finally, after appealing to the house elves AND my mother, I found it under a bag on the bed.  All packed, downstairs, and I decide I am taking too much so back upstairs to leave a few things.   Probably not enough to make a difference!!  Except that it made me later and so I was quite relieved to arrive in Gare du Nord before the Voie (platform) was announced.

In France, you stand around staring at the big board or TV screens waiting for the number to be announced.  Never before 20 minutes before the train and often not more than 15.  Once the number appears, the hoard starts dragging their bags to the train.  First class.  They feed us.  Our seats lean back. And the attendant says we are going about 300 kph or 185 mph.  The scenery literally speeds by.

Except that this train is late now and I will miss my connection in Rotterdam. However, I think there are frequent trains.  Fingers crossed.