A Time For Friends and Family…
For all of us, the first two Covid years were challenging and unusual, to say the least. For me, the first consisted of extreme caution (not my style), fear of the unknown (countered by denial), no vaccines (not anyone's 'bad', just science scrambling), amid three government-enforced confinements (necessary but simply awful for many in this land of "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité"). Fortunately, there were many ways of occupying our time and distracting our attention. Those of us with furry pets and spouses were the most fortunate. I was one of those doubly lucky homebound, mainly caught up
in my writing -- two books, a memoir, and a murder mystery -- while Ted played catch-up with his reading in at least four languages We both cooked appetizing meals for each other, and sometimes we even ordered in -- mostly Japanese and Chinese culinary delights -- and deserts that were well beyond our baking, grilling, roasting, and stewing talents and provided a welcome change of flavors. When we were finally vaccinated we
decided to purchase a brand new shiny car and felt free to flaneur all day on Tuesdays and Fridays (see previous posts) when Jeffrey would be here at home with Mickey for at least a half-day such that our little fur-baby wouldn't become lonely.
We found that our week-day journeys into the countryside to visit the endless gardens and chateaux scattered throughout the entire perimeter of Paris offered safety and solitude, and beauty beyond expectations and description. Barely another soul, with the exception of the staff, could be found in these royal venues that might ordinarily have been crowded with both locals and foreigners. We were beginning to feel like royalty! The countless Cathedrals and Basicas we visited, each one more beautiful and unique than the one before, had us considering conversion to (ha, ha). Infrequently we would hear news and hellos from friends, but it felt as if even electronic contact risked contagion, if not of the coronavirus, something even worse -- some bad news of one kind or another going around. If we didn't hear from a friend for more than a couple of weeks, we were afraid to call for fear that there
might be a good reason for the silence. Many French friends fled to their country homes where they could have indoor and outdoor freedom, privacy, visits with their children and grandchildren, and peace of mind. Friends from other countries, who had frequently visited us after our move to Paris and had
fleshed out our social life before the pandemic reared its ugly threat, were now nil. After two years of being mostly just two of us on the road, and the three at home (with Mickey to keep us company), we began to meet infrequently
with local friends and relatives. More recently, every so often we took the chance to stay overnight for a few days in order to enlarge the perimeter of our exploration of our new country. It felt like we had made a good adaptation to the unthinkable events that had taken over our lives. In this third year of Covid-awareness, life began to return to something approximating LBC (life before covid). We began to visit with friends, both
in our homes and in restaurants, facilitated by the vaccine pass requirements. We felt less endangered by attending an occasional opera or concert live, with the strict masking regulations for indoor gatherings. Recently we received a call from long-lost friend Laurence, who lives just around the
corner on rue Tronchet with her little French bulldog Violetta. She suggested we go out for a drink and we were happy to meet together at a sidewalk terrace. We attended Parsifal at the Opera Bastille, the first live opera performance since Les Eclairs, which was a public ice-breaker for us because of our
adoration of the voice and the presence of our lovely acquaintance Elsa Benoit.We boarded the elevator, and were surprised by a chance meeting with 'besties' Richard and Claudine, whom we were aware would be there, but coming from two different directions by two different means of transportation, who knew we'd meet like this?. We reunited for a chat during the first interval and made a date for dinner in Charenton for mid-June at our favorite place by the lake Spring was definitely in the air. Happily, after the many health problems that had plagued our favorite cousins, Jean and Cathy finally subsided, they invited us to join them for an authentic Greek dinner at finest in Paris
Les Délices d’Afrodite in the 5th Arrondissement and owned by the famous Mavrommatis Brothers to celebrate. Both the food and the companionship were a delicious and welcome treat and we felt thankful for this renewed connection with at least a part of our French family. While on the topic of family reunions, I have been stunned by the electronic reunions with family members in the States through Facebook, and Instagram. It has made me so very surprised and gleeful to 'see' the youngest of these
family members, mostly the many great-grandchildren of my sister Mimi, now eighty-five years old. It is a pleasure to view photos and videos of their shining faces and to learn about the countless successes of my nieces and nephews and their brood. The photo at the right is of my adorable niece Lisa, with whom I have gratefully kept contact over the years, her wonderful husband Gary, and her extraordinarily talented son Garrett. And below is the glorious sight of my
nephew David and his newly restored sailboat, the "Salty Dog" which he enjoys sailing in the waters of the Coast Gulf Coast of Texas, where he lives and operates his successful home-building enterprise, even building a home for his mother next door so he'd be able to care for her in her 'later' years. All these happenings have contributed to beginning to feel my normal happy self once again, just remembering and writing about all these precious gifts of life is a gift in itself. Ted often has a smile on his face too, even though he has yet to be able to return to creating his wonderful artwork, unsure if it's really safe to be in a small, poorly ventilated space with people whose health practices and activities are unknown. But we still manage to find beauty and joy wherever we go. Most recently we left Paris early for Caen in Normandy to the North to visit and share a wonderful, home-cooked lunch with our longtime friends, Didier and Bernadette, whom we had not seen in nearly a year.
They reside in a lovely apartment right next to the Gothic Cathedral in that famed city into which they moved when their elegant city-centered four-story house became too much to reckon with. We had traveled to the city of Caen many times in the past twenty years on many different occasions, but I admit that it was difficult to resist a re-visit of all the wonders that this city has to offer.
Its center features the Château de Caen, a castle built by William the Conqueror in 1060. It stands on a hill flanked by the Romanesque abbeys of Saint-Étienne and Sainte-Trinité, which both date from the same period. Caen's multimedia Mémorial museum is devoted to World War II, the 1944 Battle of Normandy, and the Cold War. We were only a week away from the June 6th Celebrations of the landing of the Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy and the many memorials that have been erected to American troops that were instrumental in liberating France from Nazi occupation.
We also had so many fond memories of our visits, especially the first which was the time that Didier -- then the Chair of the Department of Pediatric Psychiatry at the University -- organized the very successful second International Frances Tustin Memorial Conference in Caen, including two days of lectures and discussions with Lunch served on-site to all 300 participants, a trip to visit the magnificent Mont St. Michel, and a gala French banquet of delicacies deserving of at least two
Michelin stars and that took place in a grand hall in the then newly refurbished Abbey des Dames, where representatives from nineteen countries feasted, enjoyed the festivities, this the very special historic venue, and made fast friends.
After all the events were over, I decided, impulsively, that after 23-years of big hair, I would finally have it cut off. Knowing that I'd hate the way I looked without my mane and the person who had butchered me, I decided to choose someone in Caen, a total stranger that I would never see again!
And I was right to do so because I did hate my short hair and couldn't wait to return to L.A. to my Hairdresser so that he could 'fix' it for me This trip to Normandy was also something different. we spent the night at Château D’Audrieu. The history of this Château is closely linked to the history of Normandy and, like Caen, its most famous representative, William the Conqueror. He became William II of Normandy in 1035 after the death of his father. It was he who turned Normandy into a powerful duchy, which was independent of the Kingdom of France.
Following his victory at the Battle of Hastings, William became King of England in 1066. His epic is illustrated by the Bayeux Tapestry (you can explore the entire Tapestry bit by bit at https://www.bayeuxmuseum.com/en/the-bayeux-tapestry/discover-the-bayeux-tapestry/explore-online/), a precious and spectacular embroidery from the 11th century, which is listed on the Memory of the World Register by UNESCO and preserved in the William the Conqueror Centre in the town of Bayeux, very near to the hotel in which we had chosen to stay the night. The hotel was a château listed as a historical monument and remained unchanged since it was built in 1715. However, inside, the architect Philippe de Lanouvelle, in charge of the renovation of the château and in agreement with its new management, made the decision to “rejuvenate” the whole interior whilst both enhancing the spirit of the time when the Château was built and improving comfort. The Château is situated in a 50-acres park with 12 acres of gardens
landscaped in 1985 by Louis Benech. They include a Jardin à la française (French formal garden), an English garden, the “white garden”, the “rose garden,” and a vegetable garden.
We roamed the grounds and had a light bite provided by our hosts in the dining room before retiring to our sweet little chambre looking out onto the front gardens.
The following day after breakfast we explored the town of Lisieux before returning home. Lisieux, a commune located in the area of Calvados in Normandy, is a world center of pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a Carmelite nun who died there in 1897 and was canonized in 1925. Lisieux is also known for its streets of Gothic and Renaissance houses until the town was burned down in Allied bombing raids in 1944 during World War II. However, many of the places associated with the greatest figure of 19th-century Lisieux, Thérèse Martin, survived, perhaps by some act of God? Born in Alençon in the south of Normandy,
Thérèse moved with her family to Lisieux when she was four. Following the example of her older sisters, she became fascinated with religious life from an early age. She joined the Carmelite nunnery in Lisieux at the exceptionally tender age of 15, by special dispensation. Not just because of her exemplary pious life, but also because of her clear writings on faith, she became one of the best-loved Catholic figures of her century. She died young, having achieved a great deal. In the 1920s, she was cannonized as Sainte-Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus, as were her parents for having raised such an extraordinary chid. In 1997, Pope John Paul II declared her the 33rd Doctor of the Catholic Church thanks to her spiritual writings. At the time, she was the only woman to be given this exceptional title. Nearly three-quarters of a million pilgrims visit Lisieux every year, making it the second most important pilgrimage site in France. We had just enough time on this trip to visit
the Basilica of St. Thérèse on the hill, often compared to the Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Paris. The Exterior was imposing and impressive but did not begin to give away the
brilliant colors we would find in the interior with its gilded frescoes, marble, mosaics, and the enormity of this grand tribute to the little woman that attracted so many Catholics and other visitors like ourselves.
We also visited the Cathedral de St Pierre, built in the 12th and 13th centuries in early Gothic style. Within its walls lies the tomb
of Bishop Pierre Cauchon, who had tried Joan of Arc. As a child, Thérèse née Martin attended Mass in this cathedral. Upon entering it, we heard heavenly voices from all over the church.
These voices seemed to be accompanying a small funeral service that was taking place, and on the hour we heard all of the beautiful bells ringing out in harmony.The awesomeness of the architecture and the moving story and the incredible wisdom of Thérèse's words displayed throughout the Church will surely stay with me for some time to come.
Next, we enjoyed a pleasant lunch in a seemingly quaint restaurant called Auberge du Dauphin,
where we were to discover that Queen Elisabeth herself had lunched in this very same institution with her 'party' on May 29, 1987— almost exactly 35 years to the day before our own lunch on May 31.
The food was scrumptious, the wine superb, and the service was impeccable. And for those of you who enjoy 'phood-photos', here's something to cast your eyes on, and a great place fit for a queen around which to plan your own trip to Lisieux.
Satiated and sober after this three-hour degustation dejeuner, we returned to our sleek and speedy Evie who took us back home to Paris, and our adorable Mickey, just waking up from a nap in his favorite hand-crocheted Afghan, as happy as ever to see us again!
Next, on June 2nd we enjoyed a visit from Gloria & Bill, old friends from Minnesota who were stopping over in Paris for just three days before taking what sounded like an interesting voyage along the canals of the central section of France. We had a lively time together, first for apero in our home, and then a wonderful dinner at our favorite restaurant, Les Climats. We spent nearly five hours playing catch up, and they surprised us by picking up the check, a very generous gesture indeed. On the 8th we have
plans to meet with another old friend from Los Angeles. Judith (yes, another one) lost her dear husband Herb shortly after we moved to France. We look forward to seeing her again and meeting her new friend Merv who will have much to talk over with Ted in his fluid French and Italian. After apero at our home, we plan to take them for a stroll through the Place Madeliene on the way to dinner at our favorite Brasserie, Chez Monsieur (if it doesn't rain).
The remainder of the month is filled with get-togethers with friends from Paris and New York, and in between, rendez-vous with the doctor and dentist, a visit to our coiffeur, my esthetician, and a last-minute manicure for me before we take off for our monumental drive through three cities in Germany, a ferry to Denmark, driving over "The Bridge" to the South of Sweden, and meeting with good friends and colleagues, Ulf and Susanna, who live in Malmo Sweden. After an overnight stay at their home, the four of us will swap vehicles and Ulf will drive us all, along the western coast to the Archipelagos near Gutenberg toward the North of Sweden. And after an overnight stay, we'll continue on to Oslo, Norway for a whole week!
I promise a full report and lots of photos as soon as I unpack and make up for lost time with Mickey for being away for two weeks with lots of cuddles!