Saturday, March 25, 2017

a new woman

It's Saturday March 25 and your faithful correspondent has had ten hours of sleep and a huge breakfast in the hotel, with chunks of the most delicious bread in the world, a lot of coffee and the French television news - there's a vital election going on here. And hooray, Trump goes down to one more defeat. The sun is shining tentatively, and the world awaits. I'm off soon to meet Lynn, my best friend for fifty years - is that possible? - at the train station, and we'll go to the apartment she has rented for us in the Bastille. Is this real? Am I really here? One minute I'm in my kitchen looking at sparrows, the next, in this ancient city devouring fresh crusty bread and reading "L'Officiel des Spectacles," an 170 page booklet of everything that's on in Paris THIS WEEK.

On my list: seeing friends, the Fondation Vuitton museum, the Vermeer exhibition at the Louvre, several other museums, and a shop or two. A meal or two. A certain amount of pleasure.

This, however, taken Friday afternoon in the conservatory at Allen Gardens, is who I've left behind:

Friday, March 24, 2017

jet-lagged afternoon walk

 Montparnasse's La Closerie des Lilas - one of Paris's legendary places for writers. Click to enlarge.
 Luxembourg Garden and its palace with Eiffel Tower peeking through. The sun had vanished and it was cold and damp.
Statues, vistas, and flowers everywhere. This is in Luxembourg Garden; he's a Greek actor learning his lines. I cut off his head to get more flowers. And below - always have to go see her first day, so I'm sure that I'm actually here. Yes, I guess I am, because there she is. Be still, my beating heart.
 Someone, at some point, said, let's build a little ol' fountain to celebrate St. Michel on the Boulevard St. Michel, and this enormous thing resulted.
Ranunculus - my favourite flowers, all over the place.
If I lived nearby, I'd go here every day to get the patron's wine recommendations.
My dinner tonight - at 6.30, the only person in the restaurant, of course, as my eyes were drooping shut - a fantastic ramen place nearby. Perfect for the exhausted stranger on a cold night. With a beer! Wine starts tomorrow.

And now - it's 7.10. I've made it. A quick shower, a sleeping pill and I hope tomorrow I'll be my usual perky self.

the eagle has landed

Sitting in the window of my hotel, tiny hotel, tiny room, noisy street below, but it's one of my fave places in all Paris. They know me, I've stayed here briefly 4 times, and it's my 'hood, the 5th, the Latin Quarter. I'm so woozy I can't think straight, but my face is in the sun as I sit at the window and type, and that's what matters. After a hideous night of no sleep, I have to keep myself awake till about 7 Paris time; then I take a sleeping pill and will be on the road to recovery the next day.

God I love this city, the elegance, the vast array of riches on display - fruit, cheese, wine, chocolate, all my favourite things. Elegant people and shops. Also dog shit everywhere, still!, homeless people camping on the street, beggars. It's spring - cherry blossoms and daffodils, the trees in bud or green already.

The flight was, in a word, horrible - on time, efficient staff, but ye gods, it's unpleasant in Air Canada economy. I was hoping for an empty seat next to me, but there wasn't an empty seat anywhere on the plane, the seats are small and hardly recline, it's a kind of torture for seven long hours, no sleep, sitting squashed and upright. But that's the price we pay for Europe.

At the airport, a small victory for moi. The Parisians like to torment their newly-arrived guests; when people go to the station at the airport to get the metro into Paris, the best and quickest way to get to the city, there are machines to buy your train tickets, and thousands of confused tourists lined up in front of them, taking forever because they don't understand. Is there anyone around to help? Of course not. But the last time I was here, two years ago, I got a round trip ticket when I went to the airport to go home, so I walked by the giant lineup, fished out my ticket and got on the train. Oh boy did I feel savvy.

I got to the hotel and went out again for a bite to eat on the rue Mouffetard - sat outside with a coffee and a quiche, then went to my bakery for a pain au chocolat, the taste of my childhood time in Paris. Wandered, seeing which stores are still there and which are not. But I can't write more now, my brain is a fuzzball; I am literally dizzy with fatigue. I'm going out again, over to the Boulevard St. Michel and the Jardins du Luxembourg, just keep myself walking until I collapse.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

almost gone

9 a.m. Canadian scene #2642: sparrows on my deck pecking at the last little patch of snow, the garden a vista of green, grey and brown, but so much life waiting beneath. When I get back April 23, it'll be starting to burst.

I'm more or less packed; my suitcase weighs 32 pounds, but that's with some gifts, including children's books for the small people I'll be visiting and a heavy pot of peanut butter for Lynn. Son Sam came over to say goodbye and is asleep upstairs; later I'll meet Anna and the boys, have lunch with all my nearest and dearest. Yesterday, the English conversation circle - Nurun, Foyzun and other new friends. Then Carole's class at the Y, a gathering of old friends, some I've known nearly 30 years, sweating around the gym. Lunch with Ken, who at 81 is as lively as anyone I know, though with a big scab on his head from a melanoma cut out recently. I told him I'd been to the shrink and the doctor, so had taken care of my body and mind. "And now," he said, "you're going to France for your soul."

This morning, waking up in my room with its row of framed portraits facing the bed - Beethoven, Matisse, Colette, Paul McCartney, my great-grandmother Anna, and other notables. My British grandmother's sewing basket, my childhood books, my mother's teddy bear Donald Leonard Brown and her china doll Janet - the comfort of beloved artifacts, of familiarity. Tomorrow morning, I'll be groggy at the end of the long flight, about to emerge into adventure, glad to leave responsibilities behind for a few weeks - house, tenants, children and grandchildren, students, editing clients, garden, conversation circle, Y, piano lessons, and all the rest (though not writing). Just me in the wide world - with, of course, a computer and smartphone, my Canadian life a finger's touch away. Thank God.

More sparrows have discovered the snow. This I will not see in Paris. My flight doesn't leave till 9.45 tonight. It will be a long day.

So my friends, my dear bloggees, I bid you farewell. Hope you will come along for the journey - Paris with Lynn, Provence and Montpellier with Denis, Nice with Bruce, and a week in London alone though with a visit from Penny. Not a bad little jaunt for an old bag.

Onward. Or as they say in the country with the cheese, En avant!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Another stunning day - a girl could get used to this. People outside in shirtsleeves. I just ran into JM and Richard, who said, "How can you leave weather like this?" Oh, but I can. Or at Pierre Elliot Trudeau once said, "Just watch me!"

Had a tuneup and a check-up this morning, the first with my shrink, whom I see now once or twice a year to touch base, let her know how I am, get advice - she's the ideal mother, calm, accepting, and completely trustworthy, and she knows me better than anyone on earth. Today we were reminiscing about my visits to her during the early days of the divorce, when I was a terrified, depressed, unemployed single mother of two fairly difficult kids in a falling down house. Things, shall we say, have changed. Thank the good lord.

Then to get myself checked out with my GP, a wonderful tall woman with big feet, also rather like my mother, only also supportive and trustworthy. We talk about having big feet a lot, as she pokes and prods. All seems well so far. Fingers and toes crossed.

End of the Ryerson term last night - another very interesting group. Today a bunch of emails I will post here because they say nice things, so why not? Obviously, the people who didn't like the class did not send notes. The first is from a young woman who's getting married in April and announced that she's coming back to take the course again in September.
I LOVED the class. It's one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I didn't feel a burning need to tell a secret story, but just wanted to find a creative outlet and I have always loved to write. It's such a great forum. Going to take the summer off and enjoy it, but can't wait to start up again! 

You were so very genuine in your approach without babying us. You have a wonderful sense of humour. I will miss my Monday nights and look forward to reading your memoir when it is published. 

It has a been such a wonderful experience sharing and growing through your wonderful class. Thank you for creating a supportive environment where we could all feel free to share - it has truly been a liberating experience.

Good to read these as I sit in a patch of sunlight, with my laundry drying outside on the deck.