Silence is delightful.
Since her departure, I have washed 5 loads of laundry – and found ways to dry the stuff – which is an art in and of itself. But everything is now neatly folded and put away.
And yet,, I miss her. Gosh, I sound like Professor Higgins – I’ve grown accustomed to her voice…
I had great plans for another delivery from MonoPrix for Friday morning – get there about 845, pay for it, and wait at home for delivery. Then about 7 pm the night before I had this sudden thought. May 8 is the day the Germans surrendered and the war in Europe was over. And there were going to be commemorations. Hmmmm. Thinking there might be a problem here, I did an amazing thing – I called Monoprix and asked – in French! – if there would be deliveries on Friday. Nope. And not until Monday. So that meant a quick trip for a few essentials to get me through the weekend. Fortunately they are open til 9:30.
Because my Friday was now free (cleaning done, no delivery) I decided to stroll down to the Arc d Triompe to see what was going on. Actually, I strolled up to the Arc on the Avenue de la Grande Armee. It is on a hill. The French Tricolor was waving from all lamp posts. And there was a small crowd watching the back of the events. Of course the main event was positioned on the other side, the Champs d’Elysees side. There were barricades – steel fences – all around so it took some time to maneuver the side streets to the front. (Language note – I was telling Albert about this at one of our conversations. I had translated barricade. Oh no. A barricade is a big deal here – and a cultural legacy. The various communes and the 1968 student riots put up barricades. Think Les Miz. Albert made sure I understood that these little steel fences were flimsy barrieres. As I finally reached the Champs, a regiment, a division, a whole bunch, of cavalry riders went trotting by. All dressed up in fancy uniforms.
When I got to the Champs, I moved up to the closest spot to the Arc. This was more difficult as there were many people here. There were barriers to maneuver. At the first of the bottlenecks, a man in a tan suit with a raincoat was letting people through. He had a walkie-talkie in his left hand. His back was to the road and he was gesturing people through with the walkie talkie. Looked official to me. However, there was a lady there with a bike. She wasn’t riding, but she was walking with it and she wanted to go forward. He wasn’t allowing that. They got into an argument – he was polite the entire time continuing to say no, she was getting louder and more belligerent. I didn’t grasp it all – but I did hear her say to him – I don’t have to do what you say. Only the police can keep me from going forward. At which point, he turned to face her straight on and pointed to his right arm and the armband that said – yup, you guessed it. Police. The entire crowd watching broke out in laughter. She was still going on about something when I walked by.
There were two viewing spots – the sidewalk on the Champs is quite wide. There were barriers on the curbs of course. But there was another line of barriers down the middle of the sidewalk. Of course I wanted to be closer. I discovered that to get to the curb, you had to be frisked. I was directed to the female gendarme who I swear took everything out of my bag and opened all zipper compartments and then patted me down quite thoroughly. She decided I was not a threat so I moved to the sidewalk.
On either side of the Arc were large video screens and the loudspeakers blared. I saw John Kerry there (you know he speaks fluent French? I think it is his mother who is French and the family has a place in Normandy or Brittany where he vacationed as a kid.).
And of course Hollande. When it was over, the limousines sped by. In the first group, surrounded by motorcycle cops, there was a hand waving out the window. I think it was him. But then a later group of cars went by and a Frenchman said he was there. <Gallic shrug>
I also think Manuel Valls, the prime minister was just walking down the Champs with a group of people, seemingly unprotected – maybe I was wrong, but the French ladies next to me thought it was him too. I believe Hollande was off to another commemoration – to lay a wreath at the statue of Charles de Gaulle.
Then walking back I saw this long line of cars waiting for them to open up the roadways again.
Truly there is a different perspective on WWI and WWII when you are actually in Europe.
As I plan my next week, the first in 3 weeks without a visitor, I am prioritizing – get this blog caught up! And study French. I bought a Grammar book, complete with exercises, last week. I have to hit the books. And increase my French conversation time. Last night I talked with E over vin blanc cassis. I can feel my comfort increasing – but at the same time, I know I am making great mistakes with conjugations and noun gender. E told me there are more English words than French and that it is difficult. I reminded her that at least our nouns are all proceeded by THE and she doesn’t have to remember Le or La like me! HA
A friend posted this pic to my FB page and I love it. I just had an experience at the Metro – you know how all rail systems define direction by the end of the line? So I was trying to figure out the destinations on a metro line I haven’t used before. I trace it both ways – and I get to the end which is NOT the right one and I say: Pas Ballard. Instinctively. Automatically. I don’t say Not Ballard. I used the French. OK OK It was a very simple French word, but still! It’s a start. And it’s more than a start because I have noticed a couple times while typing this that I have almost used a French word. That’s so encouraging.
I also just finished the book Is Paris Burning? Which was a big goal. So now time to immerse in French and go discover all those places here that I just read about. Oh, and have drinks with Chantelle – another Conversation with a gal from the Meetup group.