Archive for June, 2011

French neighbors, French friends

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

“It’s unusual” American friends tell me when I tell them we have a friendly relationship with our French neighbors. We have lived in this Boulevard Saint Germain building for six years, first in a courtyard apartment, now overlooking Notre Dame. French neighbors on the courtyard side invited us to a neighborhood cocktail party when they were doing major construction on their flat We invited our building caretaker, called a guardian, and her family to dinner one Sunday. Fatima is Portuguese as are most guardians. “You do not invite the building hired help to dinner” an American, ironically an African-American woman who grew up in the southern United States, told me. However, I have never been one to live by the rules or dictums of others.

So our relationship with our neighbors has continued to grow. We rent our Boulevard apartment from a French man, now our accountant, and his French wife, human resources director for Ralph Lauren France. After I spent time in the hospital in 2009, my French neighbors greeted us with housekeeping, kisses and vital legal help.

I invited all the neighbors for a holiday party in December 2010. “They will never drink sorbet punch,” my husband Jim’s French conversation partner told him. Au contraire, they drank the southern-style punch, strawberry sherbert, sparkling wine and ginger ale with gusto.

The Paris plage beach comes to the Seine in July and the apartment-house contingent is alreading planning a  picnic party.

Life is good! Viva la France!

NO Soul on the left bank?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

“Is the fifth arrondissement in Paris losing its soul?”  screams the headline in a recent issue of the French magazine Le Point. My reaction- non, non seasoned with a little bit of oui! Independent bookstores are threatened here in the fifth as in the USA. Okay ya’ll, you do not go to readings on Amazon. Keep buying books. I know Kindle is the rage and the future. Maybe that will be good for books but not so for bookstores. Thursday night in Paris we will go to a fiction awards ceremony co-sponsored by Shakespeare books.

Is food threatened here in the 5th- well we still have the Maubert street market near where I live plus a few French chain supermarkets. As for dining, there is the excellent, good, and tourist trap ugly, just like any major city.

So what is soul to me, Crepes, croissant amandes and authentic cuisine just as my grits and biscuits soul food in Savannah, GA, and real grouper sandwiches in Florida; the back streets of my nieghborhood and Montmartre instead of major thoroughfares, just like the cobblestones in Savannah, and waterfront streets in St. Petersburg.

See life is not so different no matter we live on the right or left bank of the Seine or the Atlantic.