Routine, Toes in the Health Water and Water Lilies…

2015-05-28 10.18.412015-05-28 10.29.39 2015-05-28 10.36.43(Some photos to tempt you to keep reading – can you guess where I was?)

Routine? So you wanted a routine?

Be careful what you ask for, you may get it.

Someday – soon, I shall explain the name of this blog, Infinite Paris. I believe I promised I would do that in the first blog. Oh well.

Back to routine. Thanks, Universe. I now have one. And I am not too excited about it. Well, I am, but I am not.

I must really study French.

I received too many comments from my conversation exchange partners this past week about my need to refresh the basics. Fine. Bien! I get it.

Albert used the word “articulate” but I don’t think he means that. He just means remember how to speak proper French.   And Chantelle. And Virgine. And Camille.

OK I AM LISTENING.

Actually, my written French is not awful. It’s the thinking and speaking and being grammatically correct simultaneously that is hard. And I suppose if I do these exercises, it will help.

2015-05-30 13.05.37After the conversation with Albert this morning I went to the big bookstore and bought a couple books of grammar exercises. So yes – there’s a Routine starting. Study every morning after I do my physical exercises. Just fine.

And did I tell you I had discovered some hidden secrets in the RATP cell application? Tuesday while waiting for bus 82 – which seemed to be taking a long time – I played with the app and discovered that there was a – yup! – Manifestation going on somewhere so service on that line was interrupted. Instead of waiting for the bus and the manifestation to be over, I found the closest Metro which was actually a RER and got myself across the Seine to a stop where the 82 was still working fine.  Photo is of a minor manifestation going on outside the Palais de Congress near me.

The RER is the suburban train line that run below ground in Paris. You can take them within the Paris boundaries just like a Metro –but they just look different. A regular train. For some reason I have avoided the RER – just not too experienced with it I guess. Today was my third time since I have been here this year and third time’s a charm as they said. Piece of cake. And it does open up more travel possibilities for me.

Studying. How ever did I finish school? And even get a master’s degree? I get so bored studying and doing exercises. I am quite the creative procrastinator. After a quick trip to Monoprix Wednesday morning to arrange a delivery, I had set aside the remaining time to complete exercises. I get through one batch of – wow! – a whopping 8 questions and I am looking for something to distract me. Actually I am on page 40 but there are a total of 215 pages. So I am simultaneously en- and dis- couraged.

Health care in France. Well, my toe went in the water yesterday. I have had continuing hip pain for 2 weeks now. It hurt when I walked and I would even wake up at night to a dull ache. So finally last Friday I decided to see a doctor. My friend who has lived here for 20 years had given me the name of her doctor. He’s Irish and has lived here 20 years himself. Making the appointment was simple. And then the pain disappeared. Totally. Gone. But I kept the appointment – never hurts to get to know your doc before you really need him or her.

First I learned that there isn’t a code for his building. Even though there is a keypad. I guess during the day they program the keypad off. There’s a button under the numerals and you just push that. However, I did not know that in advance. I was just starting to call when another person came by and gained entry that way. I followed them in.

No big intake form. Just a form for my name and address and birthdate. When it was my turn, he came to his office door and called me in. We sat in a large and very nicely appointed office. I would have thought he was a banker or general manager. After I related my hip story, he had me walk around a bookcase divider that hid a small exam table and cupboards. After manipulating my hips and knees, he pronounced me very flexible and non arthritic and so for potential muscle inflammation he prescribed Aleve. And yes, he prescribed Aleve – or the generic equivalent. It is not over the counter here. And then he read my list of prescriptions and said that they could all be filled here in France. (An acquaintance told me horror stories of unique meds that they don’t have in France!) And he would be happy to write me prescriptions. So if I only remember to take the script to the pharmacie here I may be better. Oh. Why better? You thought the pain went away? After all that manipulating, my hips and knees are both very sore this morning. Ah well.

And prescriptions – he word-processed it on his letterhead – but not really printed letterhead – just from Word. And signed it. I took that to the pharamcie. It was for 5 days of pills, twice a day. Could be refilled twice. In the states, the pharmacist would have counted out 10 pills, right? Here she went in the back, handed me a box of 16 pills in a blister pack and then handed me the prscription letter. She didn’t write on it. How will she know how many refills I am getting? Oh well. Cost me 3 euros.

Writing this blog entry has kept me from my French homework very effectively, but now I feel guilty.

Homework pause.

Well, long homework pause as that was Wednesday and this is Friday. And the homework pause continued until this morning.

2015-05-28 09.50.08Yesterday was Giverny. This is where Monet had a home. And where he built himself – or probably had it built – a water lily pond. Instead of paying a motor coach company some $200 for a roundtrip bus ride plus lunch and entry fees, I went on my own. $2.50 for the Paris bus to get to the Gare St Lazare, $22 to get to Vernon, $8 to take the shuttle to Giverny, $12 fee, $18 lunch…. 61.50. Worked for me.

I have the train down pretty well now.  Leaving early lets me take a morning bus, even before the commuters are going to work.  And I always remember to composter the ticket before I get on the train.  And I have my senior carte ready for the conductor.  With the senior carte, I can take first class for the same as 2nd.  And this time it was fascinating to see how many people had tried to sneak in the first class cabin.  The conductors started there  and shooed a lot of folks out.  S2015-05-28 08.43.16itting next to me was a gentleman from … well I am not sure where.  He was very tall, very black, and was wearing a turban and a long flowing blue gown? Not a robe.  Very classy, actually.  But without a clue about train travel.  He handed the conductor a Metro ticket.  That didn’t go over too well.  The conductor was very polite but the gentleman did not speak French.  Or English.  Somehow it was finally clear that he needed to pay for a real ticket.  And move to second class.

As I as saying, I took the early train and shuttle so I was in the house and garden area about 9:45. 2015-05-28 10.45.44By the time I came back from the water lily pond, there was a long line at the house. Good planning.

I envy Monet. What a beautiful retreat. And how inspiring. And his rooms were filled with paintings from his friends. These are reproductions, but it was still good to see what pictures he surrounded himself with.  A Berthe Morrisot was there.  And the view from his library window… gorgeous.2015-05-28 09.52.47 2015-05-28 09.53.57 2015-05-28 09.50.15 2015-05-28 10.07.36 2015-05-28 10.09.49

But that was in the early 1900s. Now it was crowded with tourists – there were 5 motor coaches in the parking lot when I first arrived. And more showed up later that morning. As I was navigating the paths to the water lilies and back through the gardens, I just thought about the rude French, no, the rude Japanese, no, the rude Chinese, no, the rude Germans. And yes, the rude Americans. On narrow paths, some people – from ALL nations – continued to walk two abreast. Which meant that the people going the other way – and it was a two way path! – were forced off the path or jostled or poked. Arrgh.   I just wanted to shout – people, really! Pay attention!   But I didn’t. I just admired the flowers, took a lot of photos and got out quickly.

There were two workers weeding (for lack of another term) the lily pond.2015-05-28 10.18.46

When the shuttle dropped us of in Vernon at the train station, everyone else went to wait for the train. 2015-05-28 12.23.57
I took a stroll about Vernon and had lunch. Nothing much to blog about. A nice medieval city center.2015-05-28 12.33.54 2015-05-28 12.30.08  Nice Romanesque… gothic church with modern stained glass windows (bombed out in the war).

The train was a short 45 minute return to Paris. The bus home during rush hour took just as long! I was home by 5 but exhausted and fell right into bed. Trains put me to sleep! So this can’t be construed as procrastination for studying – I was physically unable.

This morning, however, I did hit the books. And this is actually a good process. I had dinner tonight with Elizabeth and I caught myself at least 3 times realizing I was using pronouns correctly. And that would imply (correctly) that previously I was not.

We ate at Café Milou near the Gare Montparnasse. This area is a bit modern and therefore charmless. But Elizabeth had chosen well – Café Milou is right on a tiny square, Square Gaston Baty, and is a very charming old bistro. The brochette onglet provence style was tasty. Onglet threw me at first – the dictionary translates it as thumb. A brochette of beef thumbs??? Then I saw the entry for cuisine – skirt steak. Whew. We are meeting again next week and it is my turn to pick a restaurant. I shall be perusing Trip Advisor.

Another of Edith’s walks tomorrow – on the French Revolution this time. We start at the Bastille.

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Sunday in the Park

I must admit that I weaseled out of the cooking class. Maybe I shouldn’t have. But my gut wasn’t excited. Making Sole (some French word) was just not appealing to me. So I worked it out with the chef to pay him for the materials (I told him the day before) and we are no longer ennuyer (irritated). I think the reality of prepping the fish was getting to me. In the abstract, making a meal of sole sounded exotic and French. As the reality of it became clearer and clearer, my reservations about taking biology classes came back to me. I have a feeling it was not going to be like unwrapping a frozen fillet of sole and plopping it into a pan.

2015-05-23 12.39.37Instead I went to the Musees of Liberation and Jean Moulin. These two free museums are located at the Gare Montparnasse next door to each other. Jean Moulin was seen as the founder of the French Résistance – he was killed/died in 1943. The museum of Liberation is all about the Liberation of Paris in August 1944. I actually bought a book – a heavy book! – with photos from that week.

It’s Pentecost Sunday. And that’s another and the last holiday in May for France. But I have also noticed that anywhere there is a plaque to someone having been killed in the Liberation fight, the Marie de Paris (city hall) has placed a bouquet of flowers. That makes it feel like Memorial Day back in the States. I can’t find out why. I will ask around. I went by a government building the other day and saw a plaque that said it had been bombed during WWI and the marks were left for the world to remember. Similar to several places in London where you can still see the damage from the Blitz. People here grow up with these souvenirs; to Americans, well, to me, they are sobering reminders of what war is. We are so fortunate to have been spared.

After that visit and a bit of shopping (well, Galleries Lafayette just happened to be there!), I came home to clean. I appreciate my cleaning lady in Sacramento. But I would be embarrassed to hire someone to clean 400 sq ft. And I have found the way to reduce the cleaning time. No, it’s not do it faster or more efficiently. It’s to wait until I am hungry and then I clean right through and don’t stop and procrastinate in the middle of each task. I hadn’t had lunch and it was 4. So I whipped through the vacuuming and got to the restaurant for a very late lunch and early dinner. This is a new place for me – Coffee Parisien.  2015-05-23 17.04.22When I walked by it coming off the bus, I noticed someone with a delicious looking hamburger. It’s a great but strange place. There are two others in Paris. They are basically American burger joints. The bacon cheeseburger was delish. Except for the fact I ordered medium and what I got was well done. No worries – it was still tasty. And the paper placemats – had the pictures of all the US presidents from George to Barack.

2015-05-23 11.42.41Saw a French La Poste mail lady on a bike yesterday.  My Dutch friend thinks this is normal.  Maybe here, not in Sac!

2015-05-24 13.44.34 2015-05-24 13.32.14 2015-05-24 13.35.26 2015-05-24 12.54.56This Sunday the parks are filled with Parisians. And me. Rented a velolib’ and biked the Bois de Boulogne. High 60s/Low 70s. Clouds and sunshine. Saw families, dogs, bike riders, kids on scooters, handsome horses, the equestrian competition at the Bois de Boulogne, ducks and baby ducks, and landscape and lakes.  2015-05-24 14.19.45And saw the kids train that goes to the Jardin d’Acclimatation (kids zoo etc)  This photo is for JS.

And I simply cannot take a bad picture of me – even selfies –2015-05-24 13.52.19 here in Paris. <shrug>

Malmaison

Have my blogs become too mundane? No more sitting on the edge of your seat wondering what she is doing now – in Paris? Tout seul (all alone)?

I am still trying to find a routine in Paris. Although, now that I write that I wonder why? When have I ever really had a routine that I stuck to? Routines bore me. SQUIRREL!

Time continues to challenge me. It’s now 10:30 pm on Friday  and I wonder how did it get so late? For one thing, the sun doesn’t set here until 9:30. So my brain/body gets confused – sun sets in CA about 8:15. That gives me an hour of confusion. And then, of course, when there isn’t a routine, time just … what does it do? I think it exists in a room next door to me. And every now and then, I open that door and peek in and check on it. Work expands to fill the time allotted. In this case, when the concept of time is only attached to a few appointments here and there, everything I do floats about in space without a temporal perspective, looking for a place to settle.

Speaking of appointments – the word here is rendez-vous. And of course, that has a different meaning over the pond. (Can you use the term over the pond for between US and France? Or is that a purely US/UK reference?) (Wikipedia says the pond refers to the Atlantic Ocean, so yes, it works)So I have found it a difficult word to use (Rendez-vous, not pond.) – my gut reaction is that I don’t mean to have a rendez-vous with this or that person! Really! Today I was told that “that kind” of rendez-vous here is called a rendez-vous gallant. OK. That helps. The appointment with the doc is not a rendez-vous gallant!

2015-05-21 11.07.06 The trip to Chateau Malmaison 2015-05-21 10.08.19 - Copywas wonderful. It’s a beautiful house and they have restored it quite well. Somehow they were able to round up much of the original furniture. And once again I found floors with the black and white tile exactly like I put in my kitchen a couple of months ago.2015-05-21 10.24.25 Little did I know I was being French with that 2015-05-21 10.33.44selection.

2015-05-21 10.36.43-1Napoleon had a beautiful library with an intricately painted celling…. 2015-05-21 10.27.44Large too! And it was a rush job. Painted in full in ten days. 10 days! They must have had several painters all working simultaneously for 24/7. But when the Emperor speaks…

There was also a special exhibit upstairs on America and Bonaparte.  His brother moved there. And Napoleon asked to be able to go there after he was dethroned. He never got the approval – I couldn’t tell if it was the US that said no or the English. Napoleon wrote a letter to George the Prince Regent about his treatment. It was very honorable, I was impressed with his style. And I guess George was too because he said something about it being classy (not his words exactly) and that Louis Phillipe (I think it was that King but maybe it was another Louis) never wrote anything like it.

2015-05-21 10.52.11-1And a map of the US at the time.  For those familiar with Minnesota, Fort Snelling is shown on the map.  I was born less than 20 miles from there.

 

After the visit inside – and I seemed to have timed it right between several large tour buses – I walked through the gardens. 2015-05-21 11.14.27It was actually a large park. In some places it reminded me of the park behind Buckingham Palace. You felt truly out in the woods. I took some time to sit and meditate and enjoy the view and the sounds of nature.

On the return, I transferred busses at the station La Defense. This is the business area just on the other side of the Seine. It’s where all the major businesses have their headquarters. And they have a big shopping mall. And yes, it is big. I thought So Ouest was big. This one is truly US size and style. I found Sephora and was able to exchange a lipstick (got the wrong color) without problems and in French even.

It was such a beautiful day that I had a late lunch outside at the Marche. The small cafes around the Marche space put out tables and chairs. The waiter assumed I wanted my meat “medium.” And I did. And I appreciated him after the waitress at the café by the Arc de Triomphe (Etoile as it is called here) who looked at me and said “well done.” She was anticipating all my choices as a stereotypical American. We don’t meet there anymore. Ha.

More French conversations today, starting with the wife of Albert, Victorie. She’s not what I expected. But then I am not sure what I expected. Blonde. Blue eyes. Talks a mile a minute. Very extroverted. And laughs a lot. We talked over lunch for 2 hours. They’d be interesting to see together because he also talks a lot. But I think that is the attorney coming out; he doesn’t strike me as extroverted. I think they are a cute couple. They would either be embarrassed by that comment or laugh at the silly American.

It’s always hard to keep up with a new French conversation – I think part of it is learning that individual’s rhythm of speaking. And their vocabulary. And just getting to know them and having a better ability to anticipate the flow. At first, like today, I just tried to keep up. And with someone who talks quickly, that’s difficult. She – and everyone – says stop me if you don’t understand. But it isn’t that easy. I don’t simultaneously translate yet. Or process. At some point, I hope to be processing the words automatically and understand without translating because the French makes sense. I am not there yet (to put it mildly). I find I am about 2-3 seconds behind. My brain is hearing the French, translating the French, then trying to comprehend the meaning not just the words and anticipating what’s coming next to understand the context. So sometimes I don’t realize that I don’t understand until several sentences later when suddenly the conversation is going in a totally unexpected and inexplicable direction. And then before I can say, stop, the conversation is back on a track that I do comprehend and all is good and is it worth it to go back and say, wait, what?

If you speak two languages, you should totally get this. I enjoy talking to my Dutch friend about this issue – she is quite fluent in English. She knew English well before moving to the US and after 3 years, she is very articulate. And she can relate to what I am going through. She’s my role model and hero – I hope to speak French someday as well as she speaks English.

After Victoire, I spent a pleasant 2.5 hours with Chantelle whose speech patterns I know well. And we also spoke English (The entire time with Victoire is in French). Chantelle is much more fluent in English than I in French but today she read to me. She wanted help with a book, definitions, and pronunciation. There is a difference between speaking and reading. We use words we are accustomed to in our conversations. Reading pushes us with words or terms that we are not used to. So for me it was a … not redeeming… but comforting moment when she stumbled over some phrases. As my mom used to say, don’t put the em-PHAS-is on the wrong si-LAB-bul. This also made me feel like I was finally helping her after all the time she spends teaching me.

2015-05-22 16.12.10And I got an invitation to come on the 14th of July to her place to watch the fireworks across Paris. Yes. Love that idea. That is, of course, what we call Bastille Day.  Instead of Independence Day, we say the Fourth of July. Same concept. But that’s a long ways away.  (That’s the view from her balcony.)

Great news today – I will have a visitor over a June weekend. My Dutch friend is coming over. That’s good timing too.

I have some planning to do.  When oh when am I going to Berlin because I need to buy the plane tickets. And maybe Giverny next Thursday before the tourist crowd gets huge.

And I will leave you with the saying I heard every Friday when I worked in Truckee: “They’re here!” Like the aliens had landed. But it meant that the weekend tourists had arrived and were in Safeway stocking up. There are always tourists in Paris, but I must admit I am seeing more now that two months ago…

Observations on the French and more

Observations on the French…

Wednesday was a busy day, starting with Albert in the morning for our weekly conversation exchange. He was just back from the long weekend in Normandy. And he brought me a present! 2015-05-20 22.08.30Some file folders (have I told you about the wonderful French file folders? I told him that we can’t get them in the states and I love them – he’s brought me 4 now!) and a tin of butter biscuits from Normandy with D Day on the top.

WWII and the French are somewhat of a mystery to me. One of my French language sites, www.commeunefrancaise.com had a video specifically on WWII on May 8. She warned people to be diplomatic about the war and that the French people don’t like to speak of it. OK. I was thinking of painful memories. And I have gone to the Churchill De Gaulle exposition at the Musee de l’Armee. No love lost between them. And recently reread the Herman Wolk Winds of War and War and Remembrance with its perspective of Roosevelt and De Gaulle.   And then, of course, Is Paris Burning? And a few days ago I finished Suite Francaise. Hmmm. I am certain there are better more informed history buffs and scholars in my readership than I am. But what’s the psyche of a country that has been invaded multiple times? And had to live through Vichy France? And changed the Allied timing to liberate Paris to one of De Gaulle’s timing? I grew up in a country that honored the vets of WWII. We tell the stories, make the films, John Wayne-ho. And here I am encouraged to not talk about it? In fact, the quick conversation I did have with a Frenchman about WWII was almost at a whisper. At his initiation. More to ponder.

But let me say, I am changing my mind about the French and the topic of rudeness/nicety/gratitude. I have noticed and shared the story about not saying Merci so often with a number of other French folks. And all strongly support saying Thank You. And now that I am more fluent in French, I am starting to initiate conversations with strangers – and they are nice people. Reserved at first, and formal. But nice. Now I am not ready to back track on the “getting involved” question as I still think that’s more an American trait!  And I reserve the right to change my opinion in the future.  🙂

Several years ago I sat next to a consultant from one of the Big ? the accounting/consulting firms… used to be a bigger number and now there may be only 2-3. Anyway, one of the big ones. She consulted on intellectual property rights and worked all over the globe. She was just finishing 2 years in Paris. She shared an observation with me. She said that the French took longer to get to know you, but once you get past that reserve, she thought they were closer more connected friends than any she had in the States. I don’t know about that yet – time will tell.

But I can say that the expats I meet here are the most open and helpful group of Yanks I have ever met. I so enjoy that Meetup Group. People are eager to meet the new drop-ins. Quickly exchange cards or emails or phone numbers and follow up on the comments to get together in the near future. And everyone is interesting in his or her own way. Yes, we share a common love and desire – for Paris and to be in Paris. And that seems to be enough to develop a friendship – there are no expectations or judgments. Everyone brings an interesting past and exciting future. When I moved to Sacramento years ago, I encountered many “nice” people but clearly they had exactly the right number of friends and didn’t really need to make space for any new ones. Totally opposite here.

2015-05-20 13.01.53Today after conversation with Albert, I went on the Crypt under the plaza of Notre Dame. Albert was sure it would be packed with tourists. 2015-05-20 12.29.21But no. I didn’t think so – heck, it’s taken me 8 years to even think about going there. Probably 5 before I even noticed it. It is NOT the place of bones and skulls. This is the archeological site of Roman ruins. And medieval ruins. Walls, stairs, the quay on the Seine – yes it was closer then. Very interesting indeed. I need an engineer to explain to me how a river is transformed into a channel with stone sides. Because back in the day, the Seine had regular old river banks. And there were more islands than just the two. And how do ruins like this get covered over? It had to be 10 feet at least lower than the plaza above. That’s the level of the cathedral. How does it get buried and built upon? And forgotten until someone needs a parking lot? There were great exhibits and drawings showing the transformation of the island. Check out www.paris.3ds.com.

And what do you think of this fashionable combination I saw on the Metro today?2015-05-20 17.04.25

 

2015-05-20 13.19.28And more flags on the Hotel de Ville – for the State Visit.

2015-05-20 11.14.52And the police are all decked out in fancy uniforms with braid!

And have you seen my stairs yet? I am less winded every day.2015-05-20 14.40.01

The day ended with a conversation with Elizabeth. And I just chatted away in French without much thought. But I made sense. I look forward to the day when I don’t notice that I am speaking full sentences, full paragraphs of French. Now, when I do, part of me steps aside and, as an observer, jumps up and down in excitement! Hurrah you! Elizabeth gave me her professional assessment tonight – yes, I used to speak in sentences, pausing between each thought to compose. Now I am speaking in paragraphs, getting a complete idea across at once. Still have vocabulary to work on and still need to work on the verbs. The best thing she said, however, was that at times she didn’t hear an accent! That I actually sounded really truly French. (So there, Michel Jouet – French 5 teacher at UCSC who yelled at me every time I said something in class. I dropped out. A French friend said to me – what does he k now about pronunciation? He’s Swiss!!!)

Tomorrow should be a clear day (today was showery off and on – Oh and a true HAIL storm!) and I am off on an adventure to Chateau Malmaison – home of Josephine (of Napoleon fame).

Weather:2015-05-20 11.36.32  Look closely for the hail.  2015-05-20 11.45.11And the day was like that with those clouds- Dark blue sky, white clouds, dark grey clouds.

Paris

Continuing the adventure

The lunch time chat was great fun! Many thanks to that friend! But next time, he’s planning to eat earlier and I later so that we can actually break virtual bread together! Wish I could take him to the soufflé restaurant!

T2015-05-15 17.00.18he afternoon conversation with Chantelle was super. And her apartment is fabulous and its view spectacular. She walked me around the neighborhood – Courbvoie. Just across the Seine and to the right from me. She’s on the 7th floor of a fairly modern apartment building. Yes, with an elevator. Enjoy the view!

Saturday was another Edith adventure – this time a walk through Les Halles. That was the “belly of Paris” according to Balzac. (Or Zola?) The market place where all the food was sold. In the 60’s the powers that be decided that it was too crowded to remain in central Paris. Too many delivery trucks, too much congestion.2015-05-16 16.11.45 And so it was destroyed and moved to the suburbs. Such a shame and yet I can totally understand. The main area was converted to a park and huge metro/underground shopping mall. Pretty tacky. But it’s undergoing a renovation and new building. It should be completed in 2016 – it will be interesting.

In the meantime, many of the old restaurants and stores remain so it has a colorful character away from the shopping mall. After the walk several of us went for a café. And there I got to know Ronique. She’s another French woman who teaches French as a second language. Now I have three! With us, Annie from Ireland/US and a young man from the Netherlands. Ronique encouraged us to speak French. Anther workout.

2015-05-17 13.15.48Sunday was a new MeetUp group.  I walked across the bridge to the meeting place – bus 73 does not run on Sundays!  And saw how many Parisians were already out enjoying the weather on the Berges. Wasn’t too sure about this group as there have been one too many emails about their “rules” and how they are going to enforce them. You have to attend at least one meeting in 8 weeks or you are kicked out. And once you go to something, you get to be a silver member… Is this paramilitary? Or the second grade? But this event was just meeting for the Legion of Honor Museum which is free.

I actually enjoyed the museum much. Not just about the French Legion of Honor,2015-05-17 13.56.44 but it also houses a collection of medals from many many countries. I particularly liked the order of the elephant from Denmark. Why an elephant? They didn’t explain. And there was the necklace – I am sure that is not the right term but it’s like a huge necklace that the grand ones wear in ceremony. Anyway – from the Order of the Garter from the UK. I was a bit surprised actually. I understand that this is a limited order – maybe 26 “knights” and the queen and princes… I was wondering how France got a hold of one? On the black market? Why didn’t Elizabeth demand that it be returned? And then I read that it’s the 26 plus the UK royalty AND other countries’ royalty. And then I came upon the document presenting the order of the garter to Louie Phillipe, roi du France. Love it when mysteries are solved. And that the Brits don’t have to break in to recover stolen property.

Ronique came to this meetup too. We were the only two older than 35. Make that 30. So we ended up going for coffee by ourselves after. She’s very interesting. Very bright. Helpful. And takes a lot of energy. That doesn’t mean she is an energy sucking vampire. No. But I think I need to moderate my activities with her. That said, she is very helpful in the French department. I asked her how I compared with Annie from Ireland because really I have no idea. She said I was much better – clearly an intermediate. Wow. I thanked her. (A friend I skyped with said – when I told her this – weren’t you putting her under pressure to say something nice? How can you believe her? Well, I didn’t look at it that way – I was asking her professional opinion.) And she said, no, don’t thank her. It wasn’t a compliment. She is a teacher. That was her assessment. And then she proceeded to tell me where I was having problems. Ha. So quickly are we brought back to earth.

We talked movies and agreed to go to Taxi Tehran the next afternoon. Not sure I can recommend it – it was in Persian with French subtitles so much of the complexity was lost on me. But I give the director kudos – he filmed the entire movie in a taxi driving around Tehran. I felt my brain really working hard during the movie – trying to process the visual with the subtitles and story.

Toastmasters ended the day for me. I have missed two due to visitors. It was nice to be back. Mark asked if I wanted to be on the list for Table Topics and I said sure, why not. Then he proceeded to call up 7 other people but not me. And dang it, I could have aced each one of the topics. Watch. Next time I say yes and he calls on me, I will be tongue-tied! It was their open house so there were a lot of people and it ran very late. But a cool note – one of the members – and I heard his speech in March and it was good! – won the – hmmm, I think – South west Europe region and will be going to Las Vegas to compete against 99 others. Now that is cool!

The contradictions of living in Paris continue to amaze me. I got a good night’s rest last night but after making breakfast, I found myself crawling back into bed. It was cold. And I wanted to finish Suite Francaise. But then I ended up falling asleep again. I was absolutely dragging. What had I done? Not much. Oh. Going several days straight and the movies and toastmasters late yesterday. Oh.

So I considered doing nothing all day and staying in my jammies. But I was supposed to meet Camille at 5. Yet she hadn’t answered my confirmation email. What to do? I think I just got bored with the idea of staying home. So I set off for the Museum of Style where they had a Lanvin exhibit. With plans to visit the shopping center of So Ouest after.

T2015-05-19 15.42.47hank you, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, for having the Balenciaga exhibit years ago, followed by the paper fashions and then Gauthier. I find I really enjoy shows of clothing.   And this one was amazing. She was at her prime in the 20s but still going strong til her death in 1945. The House of Lanvin continues – it is the longest existing couture salon in Paris.   In the world? I recall Lanvin more for perfume. But my, she designed some beautiful outfits. I wish I could find a photo of the dress with jacket called Papillon du Nuit. Extraordinary! This is another beautiful dress – here’s the sketch – they had the actual dress there. The embroidery was exquisite.   This museum has a beautiful park – I had planned to come sit here sometime when the weather gets better. I thought I would be able to today – and I brought my Kindle just in case. But when I walked outside after the show, it was raining.2015-05-19 15.30.27

Paris is like the Sierras. If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.

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When it stopped, I ventured across the street to check out the Palais de Tokoyo and the Modern Art Museum. Palais – ferme (closed) on Tuesdays. 2015-05-19 16.01.20Between the two is a beautiful courtyard the looks over the Seine and a view of the Eiffel Tower. So I ended up sitting there with a very reasonably priced (less than 4 euros! It was 2.50) Diet coke and my Kindle. It rained (I was under a very large overhang), the wind blew, the sun came out. At least it didn’t snow. I did, however, have two tiny birds – maybe wrens – that tried to join me at the table. Little beggars!

Next stop – explore So Ouest more. It’s the shopping center I learned about from the Ikea monsieur. I visited it once – quickly. Seemed hard to get to, actually. But I have learned more of the secrets of the RATP app. That’s the company that runs the bus and metro. So it looked like a quick trip from bus 72 to 94 and there I would be. 72 is the favorite tourist bus. Ask Rick Steves. It goes along the quai of the Seine on the right bank. Gorgeous views. So I found the bus stop and waited. By then the weather was sunny but cold and windy. After 10 minutes I decided to walk to stay warm. And I also noticed something going on with the traffic. The traffic was flowing from the left back across the bridges. But not from the right bank to the left. There were police at every bridge between Radio France and at least Place de la Concord. That’s over a mile. That meant the quay was quite backed up with traffic so my decision to walk was a smart one. And I discovered lovely benches and great views. Another return spot. Oh and why the closures? I am not entirely sure, but the policeman said it had something to do with the State Visit from the President of Singapore. Yesterday I noticed that all the government buildings were decked out with multiple French flags. And there was another interesting red and white flag with crescent and stars. Upon research I discovered it was Singapore. More research – State Visit. I wonder if we put on a similar show in DC for State Visits?

At Place de la Concord I found the bus 94 stop and rode all the way to the end and voila. There was So Ouest. I have no idea why I missed seeing this bus stop on my first trip. With more time, I wandered more. Bought some nice fake flowers – I prefer fresh but dang, these freesia’s are costing 7 bucks a week. And discovered Leclerc. I saw the name last visit but didn’t get over to the store itself.

It’s Target!

Or similar. On a much smaller French scale. But much bigger than any other French store I have seen except Auchon in the suburbs of Tours. I could have saved my trip to Ikea and just shopped here if I had known. Well, next time.   2015-05-19 18.41.17 I also discovered a Hollister shop.  I find this amusing – this company has been around a while and I knew nothing about it.  But last time I was in Paris, I saw more and more kids wearing shirts or jackets that said Hollister CA.  The first couple – I almost said, hey, I’ve been to Hollister too!  Then I saw a shopping bag with the name and figured out it is a line of clothes.  But why ever Hollister?

And more on the weather – I was on the bus riding home and looked out to the right, admiring the blue sky and high puffy white clouds. When a downpour suddenly hit the bus. And it wasn’t a slow build up of rain. No. Immediate intense destroy your umbrella type of rain. By the time I was home, just 15 minutes later, it was clear again.

Oh. You wonder what happened to Camille? She cancelled our appointment. Which was just fine with me. Gave me the time to wander at So Ouest and time for my brain to relax from French. Yet, at the end of the day, I did have maybe 6 encounters in French and handled it fairly ok. And even talked to the policeman! Woo hoo me.

The theatre!

Today was the third holiday in May. There will be one more at the end of the month. I forgot about it until I opened my shutters and thought people were certainly coming in late at the office across the street. Then I noticed no one was in the office. Ah. But fortunately, I had provisions so not to worry.

miss carpenterLate breakfast and exercises. Janine will be happy to hear I am doing them. What I really need is a pilates machine to stretch the heck out of me – or my massage therapist Kim to fly over. I suppose I could find a massage therapist here. What I am very happy about is – knock on wood – my back has been fine or self-healed in a day. I’d say happy for little things –but that’s actually a very big thing.

I puttered this morning. That’s a nice way of saying that I have no idea what I did. Maybe listened to a little French pronounciation on my CD. And then set out for a conversation with Elizabet. E.   One of the teachers who teaches French to non native speakers. She was reading Jonathan Franzen in English when I joined her. It was a very convenient location but in the middle of the tourist area as it was in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe.   The waitress insisted on speaking English to me. E and I had a good conversation. We talk about so many different things. Culture, meaning words, life in general, French history. And then it rained. And it really rained! Paris has nice rains and then downpours. We were able to leave during a lull. But I learned something. Which I should have known already. E went to the toilettes and while she was gone, I asked for the bill. Thinking that we’d have it on the table and then we could pay later. When E came back she saw the bill there and it was a signal to her that we were done. So. I shall never ask for the bill until the conversation is absolutely and finally over.

I came home to listen to more French pronounciation and finally cracked open the French book I was reading in the States. It is by Marc Levy – he was an architect before he becaome a novelist. And he lived in SF. This book is set in SF and was recommended to me by my French tutor in Davis. It’s good. He’s a best selling author in France. I got through about 8 pages. Slow going at first, dictionary and pen in hand. But then it sped up. But after 8 pages, I was exhausted. I just went to bed for a nap.

Using the brain really takes energy. I am realizing that I need to stage these conversations and the reading or studying in French with some other activity. Probably walking – but today with the rain that wasn’t possible. Actually, I am very active. My fitbit tells me I am getting in about   5 miles a day average. It’s a contradiction – I actually need to schedule some downtime to give my physical body a rest too. <shrug>

A reader asked about the bise. Was it right or left cheek first? That’s an interesting question and I had to think about it. I turn my head to the left so it’s the right cheek and then turn my head to the right for the left cheek. Whew.

This evening was specatular.

miss carpenter 2I was invited to the theatre. Miss Carpenter starring Marrianne James. OMG it was funny even though I missed a lot of it. It reminded me of Beach Blanket Babylon in a way – without the hats. All about Miss Carpenter Oscar winner 1967. Lots of singing – many pop songs. Grease, Elvis, Satruday Night Fever… Tres drole, tres amusant.

My friend Chantelle invited me. A friend of hers got free tickets. How sweet. I am going to go back before its run is over and see if I understand more of it. Hope so.

2015-05-14 20.48.10  The theatre was tiny. It was built in 1820 and holds 800. Beautifully decorated. Painted ceiling.2015-05-14 20.46.02 And comfy seats but the seats were closer than airline aisles! Seriously. Chantelle is taller than me and her knees were touching the seat in front of her. Don’t know how tall guys can attend. Theatre du Gymnase.2015-05-14 20.45.56

Tomorrow I have been invited to Chantelle’s home for more conversation. Whew. I took a sleeping pill (over the counter US) to get a better night’s sleep and have a fresh brain. And then I am going to have lunch with a friend in Sacramento. Well, he’s going to have lunch (seriously, at his desk!). I shall be sitting in my apartment at 9pm just chatting over Skype. Fun!

Of speaking French

In the light of day, I am not sure how good the movie Le Jardins du Roi was really. In my research I discovered it was pretty much a fabricated story. Which makes sense as a female landscape artist in that day and age didn’t seem realistic. And it was a bit heavy in the relationship – too serious and sad and well, whatever. This is supposed to be a blog about Paris, not a movie review column. I leave that to the Roger Ebert wannabes.

Today I reflect on some changes I am observing. I am no longer uncomfortable with the bise – the kiss on the cheek. I stand and step into it with anyone. In fact, when we parted last night, Anya the English friend after the movies, and I – I found myself wondering if two non-French were supposed to bise upon leaving or not. I was instinctively going to but then reason made me hold back.

I met Chantelle today for conversation before the conversation Meetup. First I had to find a Tabac to purchase the phone coupon so my French phone will continue to work tomorrow. Because I do not have a French bank account nor a French credit card, the only way to have a French number is to buy a month plan and for that I have to buy it at the tobacco shop. Coupon in hand, I hopped the metro to meet Chantelle at the Tuilleries – the garden just in front of the Louvre on the way to the Champs d’Elyeese. The metro seemed uncommonly crowded for midweek non rush hour – but maybe I haven’t ridden it noonish?   Maybe it’s all the Parisians on their two hour lunch break? And it seemed odd because all the women had short – really short – hair cuts. Except me. Is there a new fashion trend?   Can’t be. Michel would have cut mine shorter if there was. He is all about a la mode.

2015-05-13 13.02.22-1We lunched at an outdoor café in the Tuilleries. Heaven. Really, this was the first time in Paris this trip where I truly felt the moment was perfect. To sit in the beautiful weather, high puffy clouds, in front of the Louvre, and just BE in Paris. Priceless.

I continue to mangle the French – but Chantelle is patient and seems to understand me. Sometimes the sentences just flow; other times I go perfectly blank. We then went on to the Over a Certain Age Meetup that I regularly attend on Wednesdays. That’s where I met her. And there I spoke French for the most part of the two hours. And then I went on to see Camille, my publisher friend. Our conversations are interesting as they seem to have evolved into her speaking English and my responding in French.

Today she brought something to edit. She has an apartment that is going on AirBNB. She brought the FAQ she wants to leave for the renters- a copy in French and the English translation. I was happy to use my metaphorical red pencil.

The exercise actually helped me understand French better. It took two pages for the French and only one for the English version.

I have to slow down my communication and expect to use more words. In English, I like to be brief. And sometimes ignore the grammatical constructs of noun verb. Why take the extra time with a noun if it’s implied? Just like the issue of articles in front of nouns – the waiter says what do you want? We or I say – coke. Or tea. Here it must be du the.   Some tea. Some water. Not THE water… Never just water because then what about the water?

Nice to meet you. We even contract it to Niceta Meetcha. French: Je suis tres ravi de faire votre connaisance. To speak better French, I have to get my head into a place of taking the time for more words.

And when I was editing, I would cross out five or six words and simply use Please. This really did give me a better understanding of the French language construction.

One of the things Camille included on the FAQ was mention of the “inventory.” I recall this from the time I rented a house in Brittany – before AirBNB existed. The Frenchman sent me a huge list of inventory of everything in the house. I just ignored it actually. Camille says they count everything! Every dish, cup, spoon. I explained that AirBNB doesn’t do that – it’s less formal. And if the fridge breaks, she takes care of it – not the AirBNB rentor.

I like these kinds of conversations – where I really find out more about the French approach. More practical.

Coming home, I had time to stop for the baguette at the boulangerie in the Metro. As I walked home (oh my, I so enjoy being able to write that!), I noticed dots appearing on the sidewalk. It was starting to rain. But it seemed to be missing me – a good thing because I had no umbrella. I felt like my dog Gypsy- when she would go outside when it was raining, she would look up, feel the raindrops, and then duck her head down close to the ground, as if she thought she would avoid the raindrops if she could just get her head lower. As if the rain drops stopped 2 feet about the ground. Get under that space and she was home free. I felt somehow I was able to thread through the rain drops unscathed. And then it stopped altogether and I got home dry.

Blogging in what I now consider to be real time is a joy. Trying to catch up with the activities of Shivaun’s visit was becoming a burden. A death march. I hope you didn’t find reading it the same?

And speaking of reading – or communicating…

I welcome comments – on the blog or in email. Most of you appear to read it through your email. So I have no idea then if it was read.

And to take this further, for my good friends, don’t forget Skype. I have one person with whom I regularly Skype. Others seem to think that I am too far away for “real” conversation. Or that it’s too expensive to call Europe (Skype is free, as is FaceTime and there are others). So even though I am trying to learn French, it is also nice to catch up with you and your activities in real time – video or voice. The only small challenge is the time difference but that is not insurmountable.

And a photo of a store window selling beautiful pens – for you my dear accountant!

2015-05-13 17.02.29

Current! Cooking and films

Monday Night Miracle.2015-05-11 18.55.48 2015-05-11 19.04.13

That, my dear readers, is a photograph of  my whisking efforts and of my homemade Hollandaise sauce atop of marche asparagus.

Some of you may shrug. But those that know me well realize how much a miracle this is. I DO NOT COOK. Totally incompetent in the kitchen. But now. In Paris. Something is happening. First the Cordon Bleu.   Now I am signed up for a cooking class with Edith’s friend Denis the Real Chef. And then I just come home from the movies and make Hollandaise Sauce like it’s the most normal thing in the world.

Moving to Tuesday…  And tonight I am making dinner that consists mostly of vegetables. I have never been enamored with veggies. Most of my friends are. Maybe even all of them. And my dear Ginger has been extolling the Mayo Clinic’s current craze of 5 plus veggies a day. (OK maybe not a craze…) So I am giving it a shot. The marche shopping is actually fun. Feeling confident enough in my language and my pointing ability, I was able to pick out a goodly assortment. Hmm. I guess I am starting a relationship with my vegetable stand. Tonight, lettuce, asparagus, mushrooms and wine soaked chicken. Oops. I suppose I should say marinated chicken. Must master the terms.

Cultural differences… I still find myself doing the hand wave when a driver stops to let me go across the street. And I catch myself. Years of being a friendly American are hard to shake. A French woman wrote in a blog that when the person waves, the driver smirks that it is an American. And how stupid/silly/unnecessary to wave. Hmph. So I shrugged and decided he (the driver) was free to smirk. After all, he could accuse me of smirking right back. And is smirking a bad thing? Well, maybe. Just looked it up. Word dictionary on my iPhone says it is a smile expressing smugness or scorn instead of pleasure. Or to smile derisively. OK. Not necessarily too nice.

But don’t we all smirk at some time? We see something done differently by another culture and we feel smug that we don’t do that?

For me, however, when I say – as I say often when something is done differently here – It’s the French. I really don’t mean to be smug. Some of these differences make more sense than what we Americans do. Some… well, I admit to being clueless. But in fact the difference is unimportant really. I mean really, I have come to the maison de France to live for a while. I figure house rules.

But I will probably still wave thanks for another ten years…

At the D’Orsay while waiting for Shivaun, I had a drink in their café. Very upscale. Bustling. Clearly both French and tourists. Seated next to me was an older woman, very short hair. Think Mia Farrow or Pixie for those with long memories. It was salt and pepper. In spite of the comfortable afternoon weather, she had a long black wool coat on and the requisite wool scarf. It had a hint of geometric design and color but mostly tucked tightly in the coat.   When I arrived, she was eating a salad. I was drinking, observing the cafe, and writing. I noticed that she would on occasion lick her knife. I thought, my thst must be a tasty dressing. Then she scrapped something off the side of the bowl the lettuce was in and licked that too. Maybe slices of almonds? And when the bowl was empty,, she continued to scrap the sides with both the knife and fork and lick and lick the utensils. And sometimes she would clutch the knife rather than hold it as a culinary implement. I must admit, it did become a bit worrisome. I realized she was exhibiting what I would call obsessive compulsive behaviors. But I am not a therapist and some who read this blog are. When she scrapped on the bowl hard enough to make a sound, it was strange. I blessed her and was happy to see her leave. The world is made up of interesting people, isn’t it?

Did I say I was speaking French? After my 45 minutes today with Albert, I feel battered, bruised, and hope and clue-less. But he told me emphatically that I am progressing. Right.

Off to an incredibly late showing of a movie with a Meetup Friend who works from 9 to 7 – odd hours but she has a 2 hour lunch. Two hours!

jardins du roiAnd, surprise! I am back. Did you even miss me? The movie – Le Jardins du Roi – was great. And if you like Versailles – this is a great movie for you. (Just discovered that it is not out in the US til June and there the title is A Little Chaos.) (And I love Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci and Kate Winslett – and also this great actor from Belgium Matthias Schoenaerts!) I will spend some time researching to see how accurate they were but obviously, it’s about the gardens of Versailles – the building of one particular area and fountain. It was VOFST (version originale French sub titres) and the actors were all British with wonderful accents. The gal I went with is from London so she enjoyed it too. But it was easier for her.

Here I am, watching a movie in English with French subtitles – should have been easy just like the last movie. But no. The British accents were killing me. Listening, trying to read the French to see how they translated it but not quite getting the full English because of some of the thick accents. Cor blimey!

AND OMG.  In real Paris time it is Wednesday morning.  This means I am finally caught up with my blogging.  Done with the details of activities.  Back to random ramblings and philosophical ponderings.  Hurrah!  No longer a captive of Word Press.

Monday 5/11 oops! 11/5/2015

Monday – I am starting to get used to the European way of writing dates…

Another big outing! Well, first a livaison – Monoprix Delivery. It has become tres facile for me now. This was my third delivery – time to stock up on all the big volume and or heavy items – milk, OJ, paper towels, etc. And herbs and spices. Also time to break a hundred euro bill.

Catch 22. I stopped at a bank – BNP: the place for Bank of America cards.   They told me no they could not break a 100 euro bill. Go to Monoprix. So today at Monoprix, I tried. Was sent from one register to another. The lady, politely but firmly, said they were not a banque. I did tell her that the bank sent me there. Oh well, I purchased an item for 8 euro and got change.  I use my credit card for t he delivery items. No wasting cash on them, especially with cards that have no foreign transaction fees. The two Chip-and-Pin-guaranteed cards I got for Europe still are disappointing. Neither work without “signature” in stores. One will work for less than 20 euros at the Metro but it doesn’t ask for a PIN. The other will work with a PIN at the train station. And I guess that’s the most important one.

I find I am getting by quite well at the grocery store. I couldn’t find bouillon cubes. I repeated POULET several times and when that didn’t work, I did the chicken dance. Well, NO. Not the entire chicken dance – just one arm bent and ready for the squawking. He led me straight to the bouillon cubes.

2015-05-11 12.49.45Back home waiting for Monoprix, I catch up on one more blog and then sit down to read Suite Francaise. I wanted to finish it before I saw the movie but the movie is now in very limited release here. I didn’t go when it was in all the cinemas. However, this caused me to discover the Cinema Chaplin in the 15th arrondisement. Still a bit confusing – but I think they show a ton of films that have finished their wide play. So it was there today at 1415. Proud to say I have discovered a new bus, the 80. And it stops almost in front of the place (after I change from the 82 but you know that’s my favorite!). I have a feeling I may be back here often.

Before the film, there were ads. One in particular stood out – Kevin Spacey driving a Renault. He referenced his former roles and current on in House of Cards – funny if you know his movies. I have heard that some actors won’t sell things in the US but don’t hesitate overseas (there was a Bill Murray movie about an aging movie star in Japan but it escapes me). The film was shown in VOFST. Version Originale. English with French subtitles. I really like to see films this way as it gives me a idea of how they translate the English. Tomorrow I am going to see the Jardins du Roi with Kate Winslett. Well, not with her! She’s in it. Going with someone I met on Edith’s lectures.

As for Suite Francaise, I have very mixed feelings. The book – the part I have read to this point – was nothing like the movie. And I didn’t really like the movie all that much. It was interesting. But no more to me. So I shall continue reading. I really like the book/translation’s use of words.2015-05-11 17.00.37

Coming back, I decided to stay on the good ole 82 to the end of the line. That’s in Neuilly-sur-Seine at the Hopital Americaine. And clearly I live in the lower end of Neuilly. This place is supposed to be the Beverly Hills of Paris. And have the highest per capita income. The photo to the right is the Neuilly City Hall. My southern end by Porte Maillot is certainly not a slum, but it’s not the wide boulevards, gracious mansions or new apartment complexes of the north east. I did discover some nice parks a few bus stops away.2015-05-11 17.08.57

The bus continues to be an adventure. At one stop, the bus driver turned the bus off, got out, hit something a couple times, got back in and we went on. And down another street there were parked cars on the left and a BIG truck on the right. The driver actually opened the door and looked out to check his clearance (about 2 inches). I begin to worry when the seemingly fearless Paris bus drivers show concern.

And later, on the way home, there’s suddenly an announcement and the digital signs says: A new destination. It was going to the Luxembourg Gardens. Now it was stopping at the Place Juin 18. Really? How can they do that?

Gaelic shrug.

It’s France.

Daily life. And Coco

Catching up with the blog – are you frantically reading it? Sorry to overwhelm you, but things just keep happening here and I want to write about the new experiences, not play catch up with last week.

Il fait beau! That means it was beautiful today! Today being Sunday. My gosh –almost 75. Hot in the sun but there was a little breeze so it was excellent. And the French came out. The parks were filled to bursting with the Parisian families out to enjoy the weather.

I headed for the Marche after a very good night’s sleep and lounge in bed this morning. Now that I am back alone, I am determined to start eating healthy.  (Coaching tip – the starting is the easy part.  I am really good at starting almost anything… it’s the achieving that can be a bitch.)

The French do not snack between meals. That’s why they have such big meals at lunch and such a late dinner. A friend who works here said she has a two hour lunch break. That makes sense here. In the States, I know so many employees wanted to skip lunch or just take 15 minutes to woof down a big mac. Oh the horror! But my problem has been that my transition to a Parisian has not been complete. So I am eating the big French meals but only tapering off on the American snacking. Yikes. Fruits and veggies, here I come.

I missed the landlady who was stopping by to pick up the printer. I like her. I would have liked to chat a bit, but she decided to come later and I had to leave. She was at the park with her husband and son. As I said, that’s where you can find all Parisians on a day like this one.

Another Edith Meetup called me. This time about Coco Chanel.

I know more about Coco than I realized. Some of it from general trivia, some from the movie – Coco before Chanel.

She came up from poverty and changed the world of fashion. Thanks to her, women can wear comfortable clothes – and we all have a little black dress in the closet.   Edith walked us around the Opera area and the Place de Vendome. And past the original Chanel boutique – still there. Shivaun had wanted to visit the Chanel museum – but it seems there isn’t one. If you shop in that Chanel store, you can look up the stairs to the room she used. Apparently there is a mirror strategically placed from her apartment to see downstairs to watch the reactions of clients. Apartment – sounds like she lived there. But no, she lived at the Ritz – the back entrance faces her store. We came around to the Place Vendome where the front entrance is normally. The Ritz is closed for renovation. Serious renovation as it was closed in 2013 – we think, based on a sign in French.   Anyone besides me remember Love in the Afternoon with Audrey Hepburn, Gary Cooper and Maurice Chevalier? That’s the hotel Gary Cooper stayed in. Love that movie. (A friend posted on FB a list of the Top 30 Romantic movies of all time. HA! Not one b&w film. Insane.

Back to Coco – she closed her shop just before the war but stayed in Paris. And took a German officer as a lover. So she falls into that collaborators horizontals category mentioned in the YSL blog.

She should have been in the group of women whose heads were shaved and who had swastikas painted on their bare breasts and were paraded down the street by the Resistance after the liberation of Paris. But she wasn’t. Edith said that she was picked up by the Resistance but was let go after a phone call from Churchill. Yup. Churchill was close friends with the Duke of Westminster who was her lover at some point. So she went to Switzerland and stayed there until she was irritated by Dior’s new fashions in the 50’s. She came back and that’s how most of us remember her today.

Always interesting and entertaining with Edith.

And a bonus – a quick dinner after and plans for a movie with a new friend, Analise, from London.