I Have Been Stalking Paris

rue Cler cobblestones

It’s been going on for weeks now.  It started with a movie – I don’t even remember which one now, but something from Warner Brothers, made in the 40s I’m sure, set in Paris – and I began to do a little internet research, borrowed some books from the library, started listening to podcasts in French (because, you know, my French is so good!).  And then I began to pull out some cookbooks, some of my parents’ cookbooks from their adventures to France.

La Fromagier

This lead me to a little more research on line.  I learned about rue Cler, one of the great open air marche’s in the city, with wonderful fromageries like the one pictured above, and patisseries, like the one below.

La Patisserie

And I began to read about cooking schools and language schools, about walking tours of the city and using the bikes available to rent everywhere (the Velib system).  I learned about the easy-to-use Metro, the buses that are almost as good and offer wonderful sights along the route.  I came down on the side of Musee d’Orsay over Le Louvre (line-ups can be such a bore on holiday, don’t you think?).  I worried about the pickpockets and the gold ring scams.  In my head, my suitcase has been packed and unpacked a dozen times, at least twice for every season, as I debated the bliss of Paris in April with the fresh fruits and flowers v. the relative calm and contentment of a quieter, cooler, rainier Paris in November.  I visited every website I could find with apartments for rent because, as expensive as some of those might be, I will never be able to afford Le Bristol Hotel, to which I have given my heart.  I became a lurker on Trip Advisor and even posted once or twice, offering up my opinion.  Not because I know Paris, but because… well, because I think I should know Paris.

Once, a long time ago, when I was young and foolish and thought that Paris would always be there, I decided to merely travel through it, on my way to see my pilot husband, sailing somewhere in the Med.  So my only experience with Paris was 5 hours in Le Gare du Nord, waiting for a train to take me south to Rome.  That’s it.  That’s my experience with Paris.  And for the past several weeks I have felt bereft, empty, lonely for a city I haven’t really ever seen.

There just is something about Paris that has generated in me such feelings of… longing, of belonging, of being drawn to the romance, the pride, the beauty, the smells and tastes of history and art and culture and, yes, the food & wine that so defines the city.

When my parents went to France, they planned in great detail their dining adventures.  My mother was in the business after all, so she wanted to see and taste and feel what made food so different in France.  As I stalk the city, I read the reviews of restaurants, find out what people like and don’t like, how they find themselves surprised by the formality of even the smallest cafes, how they finally learn to embrace the pleasure of savouring a meal and not rushing through it.  And in my reading I think I might have found the cafe for me…

Leo le Lion

Leo le Lion is a little bistrot in the 7th arr which has no stars, no one famous amongst its clientele, it’s just… part of the neighbourhood, the warp and weave of a village within a city, welcoming residents and visitors alike with good food and excellent service.  This is where I will have my first dinner in Paris.

When our lives turtled a couple of years ago, any plans or ideas I might have had for travelling overseas were halted.  There is no short-term plan for me to be in Paris… or anywhere else that I cannot reach in a half tank of gas or less… but still, I dream.

I walk the Champs de Mar, the paths along the Seine, the rue Commerce.  I visit les passages, the undercover ‘streets’ of Paris where sweet little boutiques can be found.  I sit in Notre Dame for Sunday morning mass, listening to the Gregorian service and bathe in the sound and glory.  I drink champagne at every meal and indulge in a croissant for every breakfast.  I sit in Rodin’s garden and let my mind wander with The Thinker.  I visit Giverny and wish again with all my heart that I could paint but as long as I can gaze upon Monet’s work, will let that joy suffice.  I wake up early to take photos of a rising sun lighting the golden domes and stay up late to stroll the cobblestones in the rain.

Paris, I am stalking you… I am loving you… I am missing you…. and someday, we will be together.

Paris in the rain

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Vita Brevis, Listis Long-as-My-Heart: in emulation of Her Bad Mother

I had heard the term ‘mommy bloggers’, but had never read one until I stumbled on Her Bad Mother when I first started Tweeting.  Someone who I was following followed @herbadmother and retweeted something Catherine wrote.  I laughed my ass off, started following her myself on Twitter, and now read her blog pretty faithfully.

I’m a  huge fan now – of Catherine’s energy and passion, her love for and commitment to her family and friends, her ranting, her praising, her joy.  Everything that rolls through her head seems to show up on her blog, and I think that’s a very good thing, for writer and readers alike.  I’d want to be like Catherine when I grow up, although I suspect she would say that she’s not sure she’s actually grown up.

Anyway, one of the things she’s done on her blog is to create her ‘bucket’ list which she called Vita Brevis, List Longa. I changed my title a little (didn’t want to completely rip her off) but the idea is the same.  These are things I think about, the experiences I seek (or wish were mine to have enjoyed, in the case of the historical ones), the truths about which I am most curious.  I’ve broken my Listis into several parts, and it will always be an on-going thing, hopefully with a few things crossed off the list, and lots more added to it.

Who:  I would prefer to lunch or dine with these people, maybe around my own table, but would willingly settled for martinis & lots of great talk, not necessarily about their areas of expertise!

  • Dr Oliver Sacks (I am in love with his mind & spirit)
  • Dr Temple Grandin (an interview by phone is not the same)
  • Robert DeNiro (we share a birthday)
  • Simon Winchester (who has written two of my favourite books of all time)
  • Molly O’Neill (my MFK Fisher)
  • Roger Ebert (even when I disagree with his film reviews, I love his politics)
  • Scott Simon, Jake Tapper & Brian Williams (the 3 US broadcast journalists I listen to/watch)
  • The Prince of Wales (to discuss organic farming and modern architecture, and to ask if he intends to take on a true leadership position in these areas when he becomes king)
  • Colin Firth (… and the second reason is, he truly is an extraordinary actor)
  • General Romeo Dallaire (a hero, in the best & most honest sense of the word)
  • US Vice President Joe Biden (an honest man, and embodiment of the reasons why so many people still believe in the American dream)
  • Michael J Fox & Tracy Pollan (have you read his books? that’s why)
  • Chuck Lorre, Aaron Sorkin and Shonda Rhimes (because I think they write really great television, and I would love to hear them discuss it)
  • and Her Bad Mother, of course

What: Some of these things might actually happen, some are beyond my scope of making happen, but all are things I dream about.

  • Standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower on a moonlit night, seeing Paris for the first time with a man who will love me forever
  • Finding a really good editor and publisher who loves “This Town” (working title) as much as I do and wants to publish it
  • Directing a play, professionally
  • Riding camels in the Egyptian dessert
  • Taking a long, slow gondola ride in Venice, with someone actually singing Italian love songs as we rippled along the canals (a late spring activity)
  • Cooking with Bobby Flay
  • Skydiving
  • Riding a hot air balloon
  • Having a one-line role in play at Stratford or at Shaw (whichever one offered me the gig first)
  • Playing anything by Chopin on the piano – which requires learning to play the piano first
  • Singing “Route 66” – the only jazz standard I can actually sing and sing well – with Diana Krall
  • Writing & publishing a cookbook based on my family’s love of cooking & entertaining, especially relying on my mother’s (and some of my grandmothers’) recipes
  • Learning to actually ride a horse
  • Owning a race horse (I’d call him Christmas Fielding)
  • Asking James Lipton the Pivot questions
  • Have a rose named for me
  • Dancing in the fountains at Versailles
  • Learning to tap dance
  • Actually, learning to dance a box step should come first
  • Taking the younger nieces & nephews to DisneyLand in California, and the older ones, with one husband & one long-time girlfriend, to Umbria

When: These are events/happenings/eras I would have liked to be part of… or at least a fly on the wall for. Some are pretty obvious, but some are about what I believe in or wonder about, and none are possible until Dr Sheldon Cooper invents his time machine

  • New York City during WWII, hanging around with the writers and other cultural icons of the day
  • In the studio for a day while Edward R. Murrow worked (& I choked on the cigarette smoke)
  • One day on the bus during the Obama presidential campaign (but a good day, please)
  • Churchill Downs, trackside, the day Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby
  • Four days in Victorian England: one as a servant, one has an aristocratic man, one as a married woman in Society, and one as a merchant or other member of the rising middle class
  • One day on Ellis Island at the turn of the 20th century
  • One day each Sir Wilfrid Laurier and with Pierre Trudeau – compare & contrast
  • Get back the day I met Mike Harris and, knowing what I know now, give him a much bigger piece of my mind than I did that day!
  • The day the first steam engine train rolled, I would have liked to be a passenger on it
  • Been in the CBC studio the day the first radio broadcast happened
  • Heard Beverly Sills sing her first Met role, live
  • To be in Paris on Liberation Day
  • Hung around with Mordechai Richler for a day
  • Hung around the Algonquin Round Table for a day
  • Spent a week at MGM studios in its  heyday
  • One day at Los Alamos, before the test
  • One day with Itzhak Rabin – but not the last one
  • Watching my friend Conor Vilaca make his Broadway debut (this is a future event which I am sure will happen)

Where: These are places (mostly cities, because I like cities) I long to visit without any particular, or little, agenda in mind.

  • The Faeroe Islands (this one actually does have a big agenda)
  • Tokyo
  • Istanbul
  • The Maldives
  • Qalia Resort in Australia
  • Hawaii – but not Honolulu
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Stavanger, Norway
  • all of Denmark
  • Santiago, Chile
  • St Petersburg, Russia
  • Glasgow

This list is long enough as it stands, but isn’t nearly comprehensive enough.  My dreams are still so big… and I’m running out of time!  I mean, I recognize intellectually I don’t have half a life time left to live any more, but emotionally, I want to believe that all the things I want and hope for are still possible.

This is not to say that I am ungrateful for what I have and for what I’ve done. Even considering the things that have gone horribly wrong, or the people I love who have died (most of whom having done so in their time), this is a pretty good life I’ve lead and have still today.  Although it’s going through one of those periods of great transition – again! – I have Jeff (and he  has me), we have wonderful family, and we have amazing friends, so the transition is not ours to make alone.

Listis Long-as-My Heart is partly a dream, partly an exercise, and partly… about tomorrow.