My apartment in Paris has no lift, just (approximately) 95 stairs and I live like a pigeon in a tiny loft at the top of each and every one of those stairs. Actually, not counting the final ten which lead to a little green door. Nadine lives there.
For those of you who have been with me since the beginning of my pinnings will be familiar with Nadine – my wonderful neighbour who has lived in her little Saint Germain pigeon hole since the end of the 1950s. Chez Nadine is a rabbit warren, neatly arranged but full to the brim with everything from potted ferns, books, at least 100 saucepans, and I mustn’t forget to add the endless jars filled of multiple hair brushes. There are cupboards full of linen and bag upon bag of all sorts of things. Do I need a printer? No, I’m good for printers. A coffee cup? Got them too.
When I arrived back to Paris from Australia almost a month ago, I found myself fading by about 5pm for the first week but on day two, I did slip a note under Nadine’s door letting her know that I was home and ‘très fatigué’. With every intention of catching up sooner rather than later, I was met with alarm on Wednesday as I packed for my month in Morocco, when I discovered a bag filled with souvenirs from Australia and a card written in ‘my best French’ to Nadine.
Fortunately, after hours and hours of racing around the city ticking ‘to do’s’ off my list, just as I’d raced up the stairs short of any breath and almost perishing, Nadine was waving off her tradesman as I reached my door. We said our hellos, I had four kisses planted on each cheek, before she summonsed me up the final ten stairs for a cup of coffee.
I love these moments that we share together, she thinks differently to me on so many levels- but in the same way in many others. Her heart is kind, and our thoughts are separated only by about four decades and two different languages. Every time we sit together, I know that I have to speak in French (this retired school teacher has no time for laziness) and she is ever complimentary about my accent and vocabulary – it’s in her DNA.
As we sipped our coffee her eyebrows became buried under her neatly arranged fringe at the sheer mention of me leaving for Morocco the next day. ‘Pourquoi?’ she asked, before adding that there were many Moroccan people in Paris. I agreed, but went on explain that I have a long held dream of wandering around Morocco- this stuff is in my DNA.
Patting her ever present ‘bum bag’ or, for the Americans in the group ‘fanny pack,’ she asked if I had one.
Explaining that I went to a fiftieth birthday two years ago dressed as Edina from Absolutely Fabulous wearing a gold bum bag and a copper perm, was all but impossible for me to describe in French, so I decided to end that question with a simple ‘non’.
So here I sit, on my first night in Marrakech in the most beautiful Riad sipping on a glass of ‘rosie’ wine (they had me at rosie) after my first ‘real’ Morrocan tagine. Each time I reach for my phone, I have to rummage through my borrowed ‘bum bag’ from Nadine. It has sat loyally beside me since the moment that she went through on of her many bags, with one obviously allocated to ‘fanny packs,’ before wishing me ‘bon courage’.
The rain was heavy as my flight landed in Marrakech just after six pm tonight, and the French pilot made every effort to apologise for the weather – as if it was his fault. After seemingly hours of lining up and presenting my entire life to the men at passport control, I finally emerged out of the airport and was greeted by a man with no bottom teeth, holding my name on a placard. As we whizzed through the Kasbah, he taught me the basics of Arabic; ‘shukraan’ for thank you and if I want extra points, ‘shukraan jazilaan’ for thank you very much. ‘Marhabaan’ will see me saying hello and ‘eazim’ will suffice for great.
The Royal Palace is ‘just there’ and do I speak French? I should really get a French-Arabic dictionary and some books to aid in my Arabic lessons, is what I was told.
And then suddenly I was tipped out of the taxi and walking down a cobblestoned street under an umbrella with a man named Hafeez. Quite the gent, he wheeled my suitcase- all 23 kilos of it, full to the brim with at least seven versions of my travel uniform of white shirt and matching trousers- before flinging a nondescript door open on an equally as nondescript cobble stoned street, revealing Riad Daria, my home for the next week.
As I sat down for dinner, I observed call to prayer sounding in the distance. The sound of this is easily one of my favourite things. It’s heaven here, and I couldn’t be happier that I’ve finally made it.
Bum bag and all.
Pictured: the entrance to Riad Daria where I enjoyed tea on arrival after skipping through puddles.