Why this blog?

To understand why this blog was created and where it got its name, start here

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Thanks to Teri (or Tess?) and JD (or Jim?) I finally visited Claude Monet's house and gardens in Giverny. Teri's daughter Rachel is married to my son Philippe. I was delighted to learn that she would be in Paris this week - I love being tour guide and showing friends "my" Paris. However, in all of the years that I lived in Paris and all the times I've been back to visit, I'd never been to Giverny and always wanted to go. That's one of the limitations of never having a car when I lived in Paris: most sights are accessible by public transport, but Giverny is easier to get to by car. So on Saturday we took JD's rental car for a drive in the country.

The day was cool and overcast, with a few sprinkles, but that didn't diminish the beauty of the house and gardens where Monet lived from 1883 until his death in 1926. His flower gardens and waterlily pond inspired some of his most famous paintings and to visit this place feels like walking inside a painting. My photos don't do justice to the colors and fragrances and the overall sensation of peace, in spite of the large numbers of tourists.

Monet's house as seen from the garden

The waterlily pond

Teri - or Tess - as JD likes to call her

Jim - or JD - as she calls him

Teri and JD have embarked on a wonderful new chapter in their lives, finding each other via eHarmony. Friends and family were somewhat surprised to learn that Teri would be coming to Paris for a vacation with JD for two reasons: a) she is normally a workaholic, and rarely takes vacations, and b) she has only known JD since January. Isn't this sort of sudden? As for me, it was delightful to spend time with a couple who were so happy, and to see Teri let go of work and enjoy herself. Watching them, as well as Carol and Gary, and Christopher and Judy, I have seen that sometimes the right person comes along and you can find happiness in a new relationship when you least expect it - but only when you are truly ready and open and know what you want. I'm not quite ready yet, but who knows? maybe someday when I least expect it . . . .

Mother's Day in Paris

May 30th is Mother's Day in France and I spent the day thinking about motherhood and the birth of my sons who were born here when I lived in Paris in the 1970's. They were born in the Clinique du Belvédère on the southwest edge of Paris. The Belvedere was a former chateau with lovely rooms and gardens. This is also where I was introduced to the Lamaze method of childbirth which was to become a lifelong passion of mine. I was anxious to return to the Belvedere clinic and to learn how things have changed in childbirth practices in the intervening years. I was dismayed to learn that the maternity clinic closed in 2003 and the building is now in private hands. It still looks the same from the outside, but the gardens seem much smaller:

I didn't bring many old photos along with me, but here is a picture of me and my son Philippe reading a book for his first Christmas in Paris. He has always been a reader!

This is a picture of me and my younger son Eric, taken in the Belvedere clinic. You can see that my hairstyle hasn't changed much in 32 years!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Birthday celebration

My 60th birthday was last month and I celebrated it in England with my friend Ruth. I wrote about it here

I celebrated my birthday again yesterday in Paris surrounded by friends old and new. We went to La Cabane à Huitres to eat more oysters, foie gras, cheese, dessert, and some very very special wine.

Here we are starting out with our oysters:

That's Eleanor Beardsley, NPR correspondent on the left, Odette Lefevbre, my Parisian friend of 35 years, and me.

After the oysters, we moved on to foie gras accompanied by a 1971 Sainte Croix du Mont (a sweet white Bordeaux wine that goes particularly well with foie gras).

After the foie gras, we had cheese - a brebis (sheep) cheese from the Pyrenees. And to go with the cheese, Francis opened a very very special bottle of wine - a bottle of Medoc from the year I was born!

Francis actually opened the bottle of wine ahead of time: the rule of thumb is one hour for every year . . .

The wine was DELICIOUS! Everyone in the small place joined us for a toast!

That's Monsieur Ponce in the background - he is the 96 year old regular that I've mentioned before.

A wonderful time was had by all!

Special thanks to Francis for the gracious gift of a very special wine. And thanks to Lauren and Odette and Emma and Julie and Eleanor (who had to leave early to work) for helping make this a very special occasion for me!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May 23

Today is the Pentecôte holiday in France. It is the seventh Sunday after Easter and a three day weekend for most people here in Paris. It is also International Biodiversity Day and the occasion for an amazing event on the Champs Elysees. The Champs Elysees has been converted into a giant garden for two days. Here is what the Champs Elysees looked like yesterday afternoon:

And here is a photo from the same spot today:

The professional photographers had a better view than I did:

It was a spectacular day and Parisians and tourists alike were out soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the event. Thousands of trees and plants had been moved onto the Champs Elysees overnight. Trees from every ecosystem were represented as well as wild and cultivated grasses, fruits and vegetables. You don't usually see pine trees and palm trees side by side, or tomatoes and strawberries in the middle of the Champs Elysees.

It was appreciated by Parisians of all ages.

This afternoon I went to the Luxembourg gardens. I wasn't the only person who wanted to take advantage of the gorgeous weather. There will be lots of people with sunburns tomorrow.

As much as I enjoyed being in Paris today, I did feel alone. Today is Charlie's birthday and he'll be having brunch with our sons and daughter-in-law. I wish I was there.

Friday, May 21, 2010


I had a massage on Friday afternoon to soothe my sore muscles after moving into a different apartment. The massage therapist was recommended by Bo, an English friend who lives in Paris and is expecting her first baby this summer.

I wasn't disappointed - the massage was WONDERFUL and I floated out of there.

This was my first and only massage in Paris, so I don't know how common my experience was. And I should first remind you that the French have a much more relaxed attitude to nudity that we do in the U.S. The beaches are largely topless here.

Anyway, when Bo recommended this particular massage therapist, a man, she also told me what to expect. Here is the package that he handed me to cover up in preparation for the massage:

And here is what I found inside the package! There was no top sheet for modesty, and when I opened the package I wondered: why bother?

On the subject of Paris fashion, you can see I'll have plenty of leeway as I redefine my own sense of style. The photo doesn't do justice to the shoes or the red teapot handbag, but captures the essence of the two sisters. You can wear anything (or nothing) here!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Moving day

Just as I've become acquainted with my neighborhood, found my favorite bakery and my favorite deli - it's time to move again. My apartment was already promised to another renter and I have to move out. I woke up early to clean, then decided to have a traditional French breakfast to remember the great bakery just downstairs. Believe it or not, I often just have cereal (Special K or something resembling granola), but today I rewarded my cleaning efforts by picking up a warm croissant and a brioche to go with my cafe au lait (typically served in a bowl in French homes).

I've returned to the apartment in the Passage d'Enfer. It isn't as quite as large and nicely furnished as the one I just left, but it has the distinct advantage of being free and it's more centrally located. I wrestled my belongings up and down the stairs of the metro and then up the narrow spiral staircase at Passage d'Enfer. This afternoon I'm going to have my first massage to soothe my tired muscles. Remember to travel light when you come to see me!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Profile

"Why is your Profile empty?" Ruth wanted to know.

I stammered as I searched for an answer. I didn't want to be pinned down, put in a box. Besides, none of my former identifiers seemed to fit. Since I've arrived in Paris, alone, I no longer feel like mother, daughter, wife, big sister, or caretaker. And I certainly am no longer software sales person or client advocate. I am far from "my" moms and babies, so the label Lamaze instructor and doula doesn't quite fit here in Paris. Furthermore, I feel like I'm still in a chrysalis, having left my caterpillar body behind. I am now dissolving and evolving into a new form; knowing that I may emerge as a butterfly, but not yet knowing what colors I'll be. My wings are not yet dry. I'm not quite ready to fly.

So I didn't know what to present in my profile. How can I show a picture or describe who I am if I don't yet know?

"Your profile doesn't have to be fixed in amber," responded Ruth. "You can change it. Daily. You can describe who you are TODAY. Not yesterday, not tomorrow."

And so dear Readers, maybe you've noticed that I've started putting pictures in my Profile. And the pictures have changed. They will continue to change as my wings start to dry and as my colors become clearer. And I will start to describe who I am - at least for today.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tilley Hat

I lost my favorite hat yesterday. Aargh. I was riding the metro, engrossed in a book (Tales of a Female Nomad, by Rita Goldman Gelman) I got to my station and jumped up, not realizing until I exited the car that I didn't have my hat. I immediately jumped back on the train and started searching for my hat but I couldn't find it. I rode for three more stations, searching, but never found it. I am desolate. I LOVED that hat. I bought it in Camden, Maine over ten years ago and have worn it to protect me from rain and sun everywhere from Colorado to New Zealand, from Peru to Glastonbury.

I have felt somewhat self conscious wearing my hat in fashionable Paris. I think I've always been intimidated by the French notions of style. I've felt that my shoes were never pointy enough, my blouses never tight enough, my skirts never short enough. So as I walk around Paris in my jeans, Merrell lightweight hiking shoes and Patagonia layers (it's been cold here), I fear that my appearance shouts "American" - even though the clothes I've brought have been perfectly comfortable and perfectly appropriate for the weather conditions. I felt equally self conscious about my hat, in spite being complimented twice on the street. One French woman asked where she could find one like it in Paris, and another said it looked Brazilian and sexy. No one seemed to find it as dorky as I felt. And it has served me well, providing light weight sun protection as well as keeping me and my glasses dry in the rain.

Anyway, I'd become quite attached to the hat; but I have taken its loss as a message from the universe that it is time to let go of some old stories, and to develop a new look as I write a new story for myself. My first purchase? Some silly socks.

What did you expect? Dior?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

La Cabane a Huitres - again!

I went to the Cabane a Huitres twice this week. I went by myself on Thursday, my laptop computer in hand so that Francis could listen to an NPR article by Eleanor Beardsley on January 1st, 2007 featuring him.

When Francis learned that I was American a couple of weeks ago, he immediately trotted out an envelope from NPR with a letter and CD recording of the program. Unfortunately, Francis doesn't have a computer so he hasn't been able to listen again to his program.

I promised to bring the computer, along with a printout of the transcript, and Eleanor's contact information. You can hear the story for yourself here:
Here is my own photo of Francis shucking oysters:

I went again on Friday. But not alone this time. My friend Colleen from Boulder had to come to Paris on business. She and Lisa came early for a mini vacation. When Colleen arrived, she reminded me how much she loves oysters, having grown up on the East Coast. She has also been following my blog, and of course I wanted to introduce her to Francis and his oysters. Here is a photo of Colleen and Lisa:

I realized this morning that all of these oyster stories are not just about the oysters. Nor are they about Francis and his Cabane a Huitres. For me, oysters are inextricably linked with Charlie and our 40 years together. We both grew up in landlocked Colorado and never imagined eating something so foreign. We discovered them together and the story of our romance is interwoven with stories of oysters. Perhaps if I stay here long enough, I can create a new story about oysters - one that doesn't have Charlie in it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Mother

I spoke to my mother via Skype on Mother's Day. Isn't Skype wonderful? Who could have imagined the ease with which we can now communicate electronically? When I first came to Europe in 1972, the only means of communication was via letters sent to American Express offices. The first order of business upon arriving in each new city would be to head straight to the American Express office, hoping to find a letter waiting. The anticipation while standing in line was agonizing. Would there be a letter for me?

Now I don't have to wait for letters from my mother, she has a new computer and has figured out how to use Skype. My mom wasn't online on Sunday, so I used Skype to dial her phone number. She answered on the second ring. She doesn't get out much these days; she's tied to my dad's bedside, providing around the clock care with just a few hours of occasional respite. I used to offer a few hours of respite for her before I left, going over on Sundays, watering plants, and giving her a few hours of time off. Sometimes she would just sleep, the endless routine of caring for my father taking everything out of her. Other times she would go and visit her sister, a task almost as demanding as caring for my father. Sometimes she would just go to the grocery store, waiting for someone to come over and stay in the house so that she could go out for even the smallest of errands. My father doesn't like to be left alone in the house - not even for a minute. "What if the house catches on fire and I can't get out?" he pleads.

My mother has put others' needs before her own ever since she was married at 17. I was born when she was 18 and by the time she was 23, she had four children and a husband who never changed a diaper. I can't imagine how she did it; her own young adulthood evaporated amidst the wailing demands of 4 small children. But the women in our family are strong, we can take it, we don't complain. This notion of stoicism runs deep in my veins. And so I remained in a "marriage" that wasn't good for me for far too many years; refusing to leave even though nothing was holding me back - just my own belief that I was strong, that I could take it, that I wouldn't complain. But I wasn't telling the truth about what I was feeling - not even to myself.

Now I have left. I am free. And even though I am not in Denver to help my mother, she is surprisingly supportive of my freedom. She is one of my biggest fans, reading my blog, wishing me well, and letting me go.

Thank you Mom. I love you.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day - U.S.

Happy Mother's Day! to all of my U.S. readers, friends and family who are mothers.

Today is just a normal Sunday here in France. Mother's Day is celebrated on the last Sunday in May in France, so it won't be until May 30th this year. I'll let you know what happens then . .

In the meantime, I hope to talk with my own mother and my sons via Skype today. Ciao!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Why Paris?

"What does Paris mean to you? Why did you come here?" Lisa asks over a glass of St. Emilion. We are sitting indoors at "Au Sauvignon" my favorite wine bar on the rue des Saints-Pères in Paris.

I struggle for words to describe what Paris means to me. How can I compress a love affair of 40 years into a few meaningful sentences? But she presses on and I try to respond to her question: Paris is about Romance.

Romance? What exactly does romance mean to you? she asks.

Uh, Paris is a place where people can kiss openly in the streets, I stutter, you know, those photos of people kissing? . . . My mind flies to those black and white photos by Robert Doisneau

But this isn't really what Paris means to me. My story is much more complex, much more personal. I begin to explain to Lisa what THIS wine bar means to me: I can see the rue du Four from where I am sitting. I can see the hotel where Charlie was staying in 1972, I can remember the day when Inge dropped me off in front of his hotel, telling me that she knew that Charlie and I would get back together sooner or later, so it might as well be sooner . . .

But wait, the story starts a few years earlier; with our marriage in 1968, our divorce in June 1972, my graduation from college in August 1972 and the adventure planned with my best friend Inge as we purchased one way tickets from Denver to Paris, departing on September 1st, 1972. The surprise is that Charlie also purchased a one way ticket on the same plane - quitting his job and selling everything and following me to Paris.

Inge and I left Paris shortly after arriving here. We went to Germany to pick up a Volkswagen beetle that her sister had left behind in Freiburg. Charlie stayed behind in Paris. He didn't speak French and he didn't know a soul. The story of our personal romance in Paris continues from there and includes many many chapters. I'll be exploring some of those stories in these pages . . .

And so Paris is full of romance and full of memories. I'm here trying to sort them out, to understand them, to get over them, and to start anew.

I walked Lisa back to her hotel and as I walked past the Champs de Mars towards the metro Motte Piquet, old memories swirling through my mind; I happened to look up and I saw:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May Day

The First of May is a big holiday in France. It is the "fête du Travail" or "Labor Day" which we in the U.S. celebrate on the first Monday in September. People were bummed this year because the fête du Travail fell on a Saturday and they didn't even get a long weekend.

The labor unions typically march in big parades on May Day, but I didn't go see them. I was busy exploring my new neighborhood. Even more popular than parades, are the bouquets of "muguet" (lily of the valley) that you see everywhere. The first of May is the only day of the year when anyone and everyone can set up a stand to sell the fragrant little plants. They are reputed to bring good luck and EVERYONE buys them.

Here is what they look like:

I was going to buy some from this wide eyed little girl:

But before I could do so, this fellow arrived and gruffly took away her earnings:

It seemed pretty exploitive to me, so I waited until I found a friendlier seller with prettier plants . . .

I kept some for myself, and gave some to my friend Odette. She goes in for surgery on Friday and I think she could use some good luck.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


On my way home from my oyster lunch, I happened to notice that the Ballet de l'Opéra was featuring an "Hommage à Jerome Robbins" for Friday evening. I had no plans for Friday evening so I inquired about tickets. The performance was almost completely sold out, but they had a few remaining tickets with "limited visibility". The ticket was really cheap - only 10 Euros - compared to the 87 Euros that I paid for the last ballet that I went to!

When I arrived, I discovered that I would be sitting in a "Baignoire" on the main floor. "Baignoire" means "bathtub" in French! Here's what it looked like:

This is the view that I had from my seat in the baignoire:

I could only see the left side of the stage, so I had to wait for the dancers to come in and out of my line of sight. I didn't mind too much though; I had a great view of the orchestra.

Here's what the interior of the Opera looks like:

And here's the domed ceiling which was painted by Chagall:

Here's where you can go to have your glass of champagne during the Entr'acte (intermission):

Finally, this is the outside of the Opera building as we were leaving:

p.s. Someone asked me how it felt to be alone in Paris. Last night I realized that I felt your presence, dear Reader, as I recorded these sights and sounds. I imagined the funny things that we would be saying to each other as we watched and listened together . . .