I started writing this hours ago as sun streamed in through the windows of the apartment after a morning of rain, and suddenly, it was well after 5pm. The man at the bottle shop who sold me a bottle of pinot noir late this afternoon, greeted me with ‘bonsoir’ and when I raised my (out of control) eyebrows, he laughed, agreeing that yes – Saturday has certainly disappeared without a trace this week (thankfully, he didn’t ask if I’ve ever considered threading).
To be honest, the whole week has moved at a pace that feels ‘très rapide’ (very fast). It seems like just yesterday that I sat in the laundromat with my earplugs in, making every possible effort not to fail the entrance exam to the Sorbonne (which I’d been strictly instructed to finish by Sunday night). But that was Sunday last week- Sunday, my day of rest and when I spend far too much time in the laundromat drying sheets and making a general nuisance of myself. On this particular Sunday I almost burnt the towels and fried the sheets, as I struggled with audio spoken so fast on a test that I think was designed to achieve a 100% failure rate.
Monday arrived and I enjoyed dinner with lovely French/Australian friends which was followed quickly by Tuesday and before I knew it, Wednesday was flinging her arms around me. By mid week I’d made no effort whatsoever to publish a new blog post or even think of content that would feel even remotely interesting to put into writing. I did make an emergency trip to the florist on Monday, after missing the man at the Sunday market (naughty homme was fermé once I’d finished panting through the meats, breads, soaps and endless honey stalls).
Located in Rue des Saints Pères, the aptly named ‘Flower Saints Pères’ is an absolute floral wonderland run by handsome men in aprons to rival even the finest butcher. This is a place where hommes methodically perform surgery on the stems of the most beautiful fleurs, with the sharpest of knives in a room abundant with stone basins and bench tops which complete a studio so cool- in both climate and aesthetics. Once my plump bunches of roses were cut, de-thorned, wrapped in soft pink tissue and bound by sage green ribbon, I was walked to the door and sent on my way. A short time later I was at the hardware store, buying two new vases to adorn my bedside table, where the bearded mans wife commented that the flowers were ‘très magnifique’. Nodding, I thanked her and as I walked home, old women also nodded in approval- they weren’t to know that this salopettes (dungaree) wearing femme was on a mission of pure self indulgence- of course they were from my non existent ‘homme français’.
On Wednesday I found my childhood friend Oli sipping un café allongé at a café not far from home. We were booked in to visit Thierry at 1pm, a wine and cheese connoisseur who runs private tastings out of his studio in Rue des Boulangers in the 5th arrondissement. With five minutes to spare we chatted rapidly as we panted up the cobblestones which formed the pathway to Chez Thierry. Oli is as hilarious as he is charming and the two hours that followed were filled with both Thierry’s immense knowledge- foppish hair fell about his face (and I couldn’t help but admire his watch wrapped around his wrist with a band in the ever familiar red, white and blue), and Ol’s good humour – his questions asked with a complete diligence and sincerity but always peppered with fun. These were two hours well spent, and I would not for a second hesitate recommending a visit to Thierry when in Paris (you can find all of his details in my page dedicated to Paris).
I first met Oli when I was probably 10 years old and he, about 4. My sisters and I were brought up in the country and Mum always liked to dress us in matching outfits, or at least versions of clothes that were exactly the same but perhaps in varying colours. The day that our ‘city friends’ the Wilkinson’s turned up with their younger children, I remember feeling a slight degree of relief that they too, were in matching outfits. We weren’t so ‘Von Trapp’ after all.
Oli leapt out of the car in a white frilly shirt and a pair of red corduroys, making a bee line for the first puddle, before splashing in it to the point that his trousers turned brown and his lovely desert boots a sort of ‘pond scum green’. That night, he regaled us at the dinner table with stories of kindergarten which had the adults in tears of laughter. At school as a teenager, he was in the year below my sister Sophie, so fortunately we have remained friends and I have always adored nothing more than seeing Ol at parties, most recently, Soph’s wedding.
Throughout his twenties, Ol lived in Paris where he worked for Yves Saint Laurent – therefore his French is impeccable and his knowledge of this city, enviable. On Thursday, we dined at an old favourite, Chez Robert et Louise, a wonderful little restaurant tucked up in the Marais on Rue Veille du Temple. Robert et Louise has been around for seemingly ever and they prepare escargot with just enough garlic and butter to stir even the most dormant of cardiac arrests, and huge scotch filet are lovingly prepared on an open fire, before being served to perfection on wooden boards – accompanied with ample carafes of vin rouge. A salad is rare, but it can be found, and pomme de terre comes (and goes) without saying.
Over lunch, we chatted at a pace so rapid that we could have almost entered the conversation Olympics and, as the afternoon drew to a close, we thought it would only be right that we continued on for another ‘petite carafe’. I can’t for the life of me remember how we ever stopped talking, but it was a happy afternoon with a friend who is as talented as he is funny, assured as he is humble and with a sense of humour that is kind as it is nuanced.
This week, one of my oldest friends will see her life change forever – my sister Edwina will have her first child. I only ever knew life without her for 18 months (none of which I can even remotely remember). And, while I won’t be there to support one of the most important people in my life through this enormous stage in her life, what I do know is that as I type these words, the Pogues have just filled the apartment with their excellent song, ‘and the bells are ringing out, for Christmas Day!’. There is no denying that for the short amount of time that I have lived in Paris my family has seen exponential growth.
I love to live in the past (the worlds most hopeless meditator is ‘moi’), but in saying that, I do know that the only real guarantee is the future. And for me, the most exciting view of the future is one filled with great friendships, both old and new, and funnily enough living a million miles from home has brought me closer to ever realising this.
Absence really does make the heart grow fonder – this post is for my friends, the old and the new, and most importantly, my family. Bonne chance pour ma belle sœur.
Pictured: steaks cooking at Chez Robert et Louise.