French neighbors, French friends

“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!

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