Chapter Sixty-Five    November 2011 

Paris!  Is this really going to be our winter home?  Pinch me so I know I’m not dreaming.

But before we get into Paris, we had some other adventures.  And what adventures!

First off we grabbed the train and met Bernard and Judy, our oldest and dearest friends, in Poitiers in the west of France.  Bernard is writing a book about one of the battles fought here (there have been several over the centuries).  The weather cooperated beautifully and we walked the battlefield in warm sunshine as he did his research.  We picnicked (or “fait un pique-nique” as the French say) under lovely old shade trees along winding brooks and rivers.  There seems to be a ruined chateau or abbey around almost every bend in the road.

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Speaking of “chateau,” Bernard chose one spectacular chateau for our accommodation.  Not only is the chateau itself fabulous, the restaurant sports a few Michelin stars, too.  Needless to say, we dined elegantly.  But the real joy of the reunion was just being with our friends who never cease to make us laugh and love.

We no more returned home from Poitiers than our next adventure began: our niece Rachel came to visit with her daughter, Audrey.  Audrey is 9 and was our guest for a week while Mom returned to work.  Sharon and Audrey have a shared passion: Fashion!  So all week the two of them traipsed from one end of Paris’ fashion parade to the other, window shopping.  There was the obligatory trip through the Louvre, of course, and several other distractions which included Le Musee de Chocolat, various trips to nearby playgrounds and a few bead and buttons shops but the rest of the week was Fashion.  They even attended the weekly fashion show at Galeries Lafayette, the glitzy department store.

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After her week’s vacation with us, Audrey had to return to school.  So we rented a car and drove her back to Landstuhl, Germany and reluctantly gave her back to her parents.  We all had a fabulous week together, if an exhausting one.

A week to catch up and our next set of friends arrived.  Joyce is Sharon’s oldest friend from high school. She came with her husband, Ron.  Ron has an old friend and business partner who lives in Paris, and they stayed with him at his elegant home in the 16th arrondissement, clear across the city from us.  Each day we would meet either here or there and walk/talk the day away.  Again, the weather cooperated beautifully so we were able to go where and when the mood of the moment directed.  We even biked all the way across Paris for a ride through the Bois de Boulogne.  If you know Paris, try to imagine riding a bicycle through the traffic at Arc de Triomphe or Place de la Concorde!  (It only took 3 days to recover from the trauma.)

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Between visitors we have been getting to know our new neighborhood.  We have found our favorite boulangerie now, so life can begin.  Everywhere we turn there is something new to see or experience.  We are constantly bowled over by the architecture throughout the city. From one corner to the next you can shoot a dozen photos. Sharon has an obsession for windows, doorways, iron railings and almost anything French!

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Sharon came running home one morning almost unable to breathe. She had just discovered that we live a stone’s throw from Place des Vosges. Place des Vosges is the 17th century perfectly symmetrical square of thirty-six identical houses built under the reign of Henry IV for himself and his government. Supposedly, the more important cabinet members lived nearest to the King.  (Turns out, his wife lived in the diagonal corner, about as far away as one can get.)   The buildings themselves are grand. It is a real escape from city noise where pigeons guard their fountains and people swarm to the quiet arcades and cafes.

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So we’re really wildly fulfilled aesthetically and culturally.  The week we arrived we became “Friends of the Louvre” so we can pop in any time.

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We have a wonderful book that takes us walking to the “Unexplored Paris.  Here’s an example. Ever hear of a caryatid? It is a sculpted female figure used as a column in a building.  This one is a favorite.  She is called “Lady with a Bag”, holding a sprig of myrrh in one hand and a small handbag in the other.  She offers a reassuring representation of charity, ever ready to give to the needy.

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There’s also Loïe Fuller, the famous 1880s dancer who was described "not as just a dancer but the essence of undulating movement floating through light."  She fascinated many, including Pierre Roche who depicted her as the dance artist she was with her cheerful disposition.  These sculptures were later incorporated into a fifth floor balcony on a Left Bank building.   

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Oh, have we shown you what we wake up to every morning?

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Ouch!  That pinch hurt, so I guess we’re not dreaming after all.

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A Bientôt.