A tale of two hometown cities,Paris, France and Savannah, GA.

August 15th, 2012

To borrow from Gertrude Stein, Savannah is my USA birthplace yet Paris is now my hometown. The similarities are striking. My grandmother lived her life in Savannah, hopping an open-air trolley when the tourist spirit moved her. Visitors to Paris call out “bonjour” to me from the open-top double decker buses, thrilled to be here as Savannah tourists love that beautiful city.

My Mother and I lived in the historic Sorrel Weed house in Savannah when I was a young child. I walked alone to Independent Presbyterian Day School, stopping at a corner cafe for a cup of tea and a cake donut. Now I live in an old Boulevard Saint Germain apartment building, converted from horse stalls into dwellings between the two World Wars. Around the corner stands the petite French coffee shop where I go for coffee and a little cake.

Turning left on the downtown Savannah corner by the Chatam Club and entering historic Savannah, friends oohed and awed over the striking sites that to this day never fail to move me. Arriving in Paris from Charles De Gaulle airport, taxi drivers delight in taking the long route home, not for the extra fare, but to showcast the Eiffel Tower and Louvre at daybreak.

Food used to take center stage in Savannah before chain restaurants invaded the city, the white-tablecloth Anton’s of my youth, Hester’s for a great steak, Gottlieb’s Bakery for a date-nut pastry. I still go straight to Johnny Harris’ for a pit barbeque sandwich when home, to Carey Hilliard’s for Brunswick Stew, River Street for a praline,  and to Mrs. Wilkes for a boarding house-style southern meal.

In Paris I head straight to the 13th arrondissement for an Asian meal at the renowned Lao Lane Zang, to favorite creperies near the Eiffel Tower and Montparnasse, to Kaiser for a hot Almond Croissant.

Tourists still come here in record numbers as they do in Savannah. Recently a woman from Russia asked for directions to the Musée d’Orsay, thrilled to be in Paris. I remember being asked directions to the Juliette Gordon Lowe birthplace in Savannah, Girl Scouts young and older, overwhelmed to be on a Daisy’s house sojourn.

A college friend told me she got goosebumps in Savannah when she sat where a famous person had held court.

Here’s to never-ending goosebumps in both of my hometowns.

 

 

Hey New girl, New women too, Paris welcomes you!

August 7th, 2012

WHEREVER YOU GO THERE YOU ARE!

Yes, the cheerleaders, sorority sisters, mean girls, and lifelong friends are in Paris too. That doesn’t mean the city of light won’t be welcoming and fun to expatriates-just be patient and flexible, and open to contradictions in finding your closest relationships and your routine.  Welcome to the big city, small town, military base community known as Paris!

LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!

We arrived in Paris in April 2005. Having compulsively researched everything I could find about our new hometown, we headed out to a French-English conversation group coordinated by a well-known “rock star” American. I said “hello A…..” and she turned to me with a direct “do I know you?”. My first lesson- step back, some knowledge doesn’t necessarily mean instant familiarity. This “so-real” woman and I eventually became friends.  She also taught me to be gracious, how to engage waiters in French bistros and restaurants, and referred me for a writing job.

Fresh “off the boat,” we attended a potluck dinner hosted by a group of expats and English-speaking Europeans. ANOTHER NEWCOMER  MISTAKE- I did RSVP but did not check with the hostess about what to bring. SO we created Chicken Marbella and arrived with our dish. The hostess pointedly told me I should have checked with her as she was serving rotisserie chicken from her neighborhood boucherie. Fortunately and unfortunately, our Chicken Marbella was the hands-down culinery hit of the evening. Another lesson was learned, not only about potlucks but not to step on the toes of Queen Bees. Years later, this generous potluck party host sat at by bedside when I was in a Paris hospital.

QUEEN BEES, WANNABEES, BUS TRIPS AND HEAD TRIPS!

I joined the American Women’s Group in Paris the first week I arrived and registered for a day trip via group bus to a fabulous chateau near Orléans. I happened onto an AWG member at a cafe near the bus meeting place, and without invitation sat by this aoman on the bus. She was a short-timer, leaving Paris soon after a three-year stay. I peppered her with questions, and she soon let me know just because she was the first woman I met she would not be my new best friend. The luncheon at the Chateau in the private dining room was wonderful, even though a woman described to me by another attendee as the” mean girl you knew in junior high school,” threw rolls across the table, and jumped up and a danced with other women while singing “we are bad.” That said, over the years I got to know this “mean girl,” a fun woman with much energy, and another woman who danced with her that day returned to Houston not long after Katrina and ran a help-line call center. Bravo. ANOTHER LESSON- don’t jump to quick judgement of others based on reputation or initial impression.

Some women come here searching for the “players,” the popular girls, in “in” crowd. I came here seeking to live my late mther’s life, that of a military officer’s wife, going to luncheons, coffees, and alas, volunteering. I found my first opportunity through the American Women’s Group, a group I heartily recommend to newcomers and those here for a one to three-year stint. A note of caution, to thine own self be true. I soon tired of organizing coffees including cleaning up, fundraising, and board meetings-as a former Paris expat cautioned me-”serving on boards is too much like working without getting paid.” However,  I enjoyed much of my volunteering and board time, and made many friends.  Now I am a member of  the Paris Alumni Network and WIC, the women’s international club,  diverse groups offering great speakers and activities, more friends among newcomers and longtime Paris residents  from all over the world.

We moved to Paris for one year after retiring in Florida so here we are seven years later. While we love it here, saying hello is saying goodbye, just as I grew up on military bases. DON’T EVER FORGET, even in this midst of a saying goodbye pity party that if you haven’t moved to Paris you would not have met people from all over the world, some who will be your close friends and confidantes for the rest of your life.

LA VIE EST BELLE!

Just because there are Starbucks, MacDonalds, Subways on many corners, a KFC or two, a new Chipolte Grill (welcome!), and Hard Rock Cafe (incredible Apple Cobbler), don’t think you are in an American city. Every day I step outside my door and exclaim “WOW, I LIVE IN PARIS.”

 

Search Fox news online, published July 31, 2012 for a most informative article by Paris writer David Lebowitz about things you might know about Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!

 

A dark day in Paris

June 1st, 2012

Village Voice silenced in Paris, Red Wheelbarrow to be emptied too

Not shocking yet still sad, the famed and fabledVillage Voicebookstore on Rue Princess inParis Sixth arrondissment will close its doors for good on July 31. During my early days in Paris, I sat close to Amy Tan as she read, and this is where I met David Sedaris, and made contact with Diane Johnson. Owner Odile Hellier is an incredible woman,  and we love her helpful staff. Bookstores and print journalism are threatened by this new world of electronics.

To  borrow the American Library in Paris lament,” in a letter to friends and patrons, founder and owner Odile Hellier cites the reasons which will surprise no one who follows trends in publishing and bookselling. On-line book retailers such as Amazon and the growing popularity of e-readers, among other market forces, are threatening independent bookstores all over the world.

What is more, when Village Voiceopened its doors in 1982, the St. Germain quartier was funkier. Once known as the “triangle d’or de l’edition” and a cultural crossroads inParis,i, Hellier laments, “the neighborhood has been overrun by fashionable boutiques and bars and lost its attractiveness to book browsers and buyers.”

TheVillage Voiceis familiar to expatriates and visitors alike for its unique offerings of books tucked by the thousands into the tiny space’s nooks and crannies, and for the good judgment and personal attention of its booksellers. What is more, for three decades Odile Hellier’s bookshop has been a coveted rendezvous with readers for an incredibly distinguished roster of American and other English-speaking literary figures.”

So I continue my own lament and comments, the petite Red Wheelbarrow stands on a narrow street in the Marais. This independent shop will also be missed. Shakespeare and Co;, a left-bank cultural and tourist landmark lives on for now.

I remember our beloved Bright Books inSt. Petersburg,Florida. Dear independent bookstores, rest in peace.

Pam’sParis, a bit darker today

 

Pam’sParis

Memories- 2011

March 1st, 2012

The Reims Cathedral light show. Reims celebrated its 800th anniversary with a sound and light show on the cathedral facade.

The Jewish children’s refuge in Izieu in the Rhone Valley near Lyon. From 1943 until Klaus Barbie, the butcher of Lyon raided the home in 1944, Sabine Zlatin and her husband Miron operated the home.

Annecy in the French Alps.

In Paris with Joyce and Bill Frey, formerly of St. Petersburg, now living in Texas.

Drinking hot chocolate in the Marais with Patricia Calvert.

French neighbors, French friends

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?

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.

Pamela

French cuisine good and bad

February 22nd, 2011

     Debates continue about the state of French cuisine, in France at least. Some critics say the best chefs have left the counry for America and other ports. In my humble palate opinion, there are way too many tourist traps. However, I ran into the same experience in Florida where tourists seached for fresh seafood, and in my hometown of Savannah, Georgia where fast food and chains replaced white tablecloth good food establishments-Paula Deen and Mrs. Wilkes notwithstanding!

     So what’s a foodie to do in France. If you have an apartment with a kitchen, shop the markets and put the meal together yourself with fresh fish, seasonal vegetables, ripe fruit, and some gifts from the food gods- citron mayonaisse, almond croissants, fresh brioche bread, salted buter, salted caramel ice cream.

    Go out for crepes to the Montparnasse quartier or the 15th arrondissement, to Angelina’s for  hot white chocolate, to the 13th- Lao-for the best Asian food around.

   Keep it simple, avoid tourist corners, enjoy the sights-food for the senses. As for me, I will enjoy a glass of red wine at a corner stand-up bar later today.

     So what

Sweet and sad life in Paris

February 14th, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day! A French chocolate maker told me this past week the French still don’t get Valentine’s Day- I guess that’s because they live it every day. Visit my friend Adrian Leed’s site, parlerparis.com for her love-ly Paris column today.

Saturday we attended the American Women’s Group gala at the Marriot Rive Gauche- a  festive  evening with dinner, a wine auction, a silent auction and dancing. We brought home a lipstick red Eiffel Tower lamp.

More French differences for you to ponder:

Scarves around the neck are not for elegant fashion-the French believe the neck is the gateway to the body and thus must be protected.

These tibits to keep you out of trouble at the table française from my friend and author Shari Leslie Segall:

Do not order coffee with lunch or dinner-”this will cause an international incident.” Order it with or as dessert, though the waiter may insist on serving it after dessert as has been my experience-Pam. Did you know dessert comes from the word desservir- to clear the table.

This one from Shari I did not know- Jim and break this rule frequently. Shari says “Don’t pickat the basket of bread until the meal comes. It’s mal vu.

Sad news- We join with Jim Bitterman of CNN and his friends across Paris, the USA and the world in sadness at the sudden loss of his wife, Emmy-award winning producer Patricia Thompson here in Paris. Pat died at the age of 62 in December following a cerebral hemorrhage.  I met her twice last year and we laughed over our beginning days in television, mine as the Romper Room doobie in the 1970s at WFLA TV in Tampa, and hers in the newsroom at WMAQ in Chicago. There are some wonderful tributes to Pat on the Web. Jim is an incredible man and journalist and so was she . Who can forget Jim telling the world so many years ago that Diana was dead in Paris. He told us last year that he stayed on the air for many hours over those days. He and Pat were having a CNN labor day weekend party at their home when a tourist called CNN alerting that “something was going on at the Ritz.” Our best thoughts to Jim.

To end on a Happy Note, we celebrated 29 years of marriage on February 6, and still marvel that WE LIVE IN PARIS!!

Pamela

Some differences here

February 1st, 2011

Some words and meanings differ between France and the USA.

For instance douche means an all-over bath, not the intimate cleansing definition in the US.

To be invited for a cocktail means the time of day- usually 6 ish and wine or water is usually served, seldom a mixed drink unless some yanks are throwing the party.

A cafe following a meal usually means a petite espresso or a noisette- a nut of milk in the espresso. And lot’s of luck getting your coffee with your dessert- the French usually serve the coffee following the sweet, even if you are paying the tab.

The bathroom is where you take a bath here- the toilette is where you know, and many toilettes are unisex.

HAVE A GOOD DAY, Pam in Paris

Yes of course we are!

December 17th, 2010

I am too often asked if we are still US citizens, by friends, freelance contacts in the USA, sometimes family members. The answer is yes, yes, yes. We have a longterm visitor permit in France that we renew each year. We pay US taxes in large amounts, and a small amount of French tax. We pay premiums into the French medical care system.

 We live in a 50 square-meter, that’s 500 square-feet apartment, one bedroom with a balcony across our iving and dining salon overlooking Boulevard Saint Germain and the Notre Dame gorgoyles. We have the use of a cave, storage room,  in the basement- a great little abode for the four of us.

 Happy Holidays, Pam, Jim, Chablis, Maggie