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At Home and in Paris

Updated: Jan 13, 2023


Men and Women Propose, and the Gods Dispose’...

The Summer of 2022 was beginning to take shape. In June, friends from the East and West coasts and from the Midwest of the United States came to visit for the first time since the beginning of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. We hadn't even seen our friends from Minnesota since we moved to Paris in 2016.

One friend, Judith from Los Angeles had lost her husband not long after we had immigrated to France, and she was now going with a very charming gentleman who came with her to visit not only Paris but other countries in Europe.

Our French friend, Caroline,who had lived with her husband

in Los Angeles much of each year, had recently lost him to a long illness, and returned to Paris after an absence of over a year. She treated us to a lovely leisurely lunch in our favorite secret

garden behind our choice of Michelin Star Restaurants, Les Climats.

Ted and I enjoyed dinner with friends Bernard and Bianca and their son Michel in

their cozy Paris apartment, and Bernadette and Didier, whom we had not seen for a year, invited us to come to Caen in Normandy for a delicious luncheon. Afterward, we spent that night in a lovely old Chateau, and visited the town of Lisieux the next day before returning home.

Soon after our return, our financial manager, who we consider a godfather of sorts (even though he is younger than we are by decades) came to our home to visit us.

His trip from New York was the first since the initial outbreak of Covid in March 2020 and his phenomenal promotion at Morgan Stanley that brought about his move from L.A. to New York. Along with other clients in his international practice, he could take this opportunity to see his mother who still lives in the Netherlands.

Our relatively new friends, Phillippe and Beatrice, invited us to attend a special homemade dinner served in their exquisite, lush,

and spacious garden, just outside of Paris in Le Vesinet in the department of Yvelines. It was on this occasion that we were reunited with our oldest friends in France, Monique and Alain. We were also introduced to some lovely new colleagues as well.

We have high hopes to be able to get to know them better in the future. It was a promising start to the season, but in the months since, we have had to digest quite a large portion of this age-old reality. Or perhaps it is just that 'old age' is taking over our lives earlier than we had planned?

It had all begun to come together late last year, when we started to plan the perfect summer vacation, one that would have us chasing the cool, fresh air, farther and farther North from Paris, meeting up with dear friends Susanna and Ulf (our accomplices in this Scandinavian caper) at their home in Malmo Sweden, which is located just across the famous bridge from Copenhagen to Southern Sweden, and traveling ‘ensemble’ up the west coast of Sweden. Ulf, knowing this territory quite well, suggested that we spend a couple of days and a night

exploring the extraordinary archipelago off Göteborg, the Western coast off Sweden's second-largest city in the North, of which Marstrand is the largest island. Then we were to drive up through the mountains and fjords of Norway to Oslo, where we would spend a week enjoying all the extraordinary indoor and outdoor art, the music, and enough seafood to fill a whale's belly!

It was about six weeks before Ted and I were to leave for our first stop on our journey to Malmo. Cologne in Germany, home of the renowned cathedral that is revered throughout the Christian world

as the home of the golden reliquary that was created as the final resting place for the remains of the three wise kings—The Maji—who had been said to bring precious gifts to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem,

This marvelous Cathedral of Cologne was built over several centuries beginning in the 1200s, and is the tallest in Germany and perhaps one of the tallest in all of Europe, with its filigreed spires standing approximately 515 feet tall. If you can climb as many stairs, you can see all of Cologne, which is an enormously colorful city along the Rhine river.

The Cologne Cathedral may also be one of the most visited landmarks in all of Northern Europe, with over 20,000 tourists daily making the pilgrimage to see this glorious piece of Gothic architecture, with its original stained glass windows

(carefully preserved by removal at the beginning of World War II, and beautifully restored after the war) in all their brilliant splendor. It's difficult to describe and do justice to the majesty of this

remarkable world heritage site, but perhaps some of the photographs we took will give you a peek at what there is to admire about this cathedral.

We were to spend two nights at the Excelsior Hotel across from the cathedral and the famous old town and drive on from there to visit the city of Hamburg for an additional two nights. From Hamburg we were to catch the ferry to Denmark and drive over the bridge, made most famous by the scandalous tale of the same name of a body that was found cut in half and placed exactly on the borderline between Denmark and Sweden, requiring investigation and hard-won cooperation by two detectives, one from each country. The Swedish town which figures largely in this investigation is Malmo, also famous for those who follow detective Wallander, a star in the genre of Scandi Noir books and television series. Our friends, Ulf and Susanna, who are proud of their beautiful home in Malmo

had offered to receive us in their home for the night, and the next morning, the four of us would leave together on the journey North up the West coast of Sweden.

Or so we had planned. It always amazes me how the best-laid plans, based on a foundation of dreams, can crumble at a moment’s notice. This crumbling took place in four stages. First, the month before our planned departure, I developed an infection at the site of a nasty mosquito bite on my left arm, which caused that limb to swell to unbelievable proportions. After consulting my doctor I was immediately sent to the emergency room for surgery. I was amazed at the extraordinary attention I received from a skilled and kindly surgeon who numbed me from what felt like my wrist to the tip of my nose, and painlessly gouged out all of the infected tissue with her scalpel, allowing the edema that had formed to corral the infection in a relatively local area of my left arm to gradually dissipate with the help of massive doses of penicillin drugs. I was put in the care of a nurse, the same one whose cabinet was just across the street from our home and who had attended me when I split open my right knee almost

exactly one year ago. He deftly and gently unpacked, repacked, and dressed my wound each evening for three weeks. Raphael’s visits became a rather pleasurable evening ritual in which we three exchanged stories and played “name that tune” with classical music and film scores. We came to learn that Raphael had originally been educated in classical music and as a gifted Trumpet musician. It is surprising now that one would never know by looking at my arm that anything so serious could’ve taken place so recently, and I was released from Raphael’s care just in time to begin our journey which had been postponed by two weeks. Coincidentally overlapping this event, our friends in Sweden were also going through a bad patch. They were dealing with a tentative diagnosis and the surgical removal of what was suspected to be a melanoma on Ulf’s leg and belly. The results of the culture, which would determine if the tumors had been completely excised, and if they were of a less serious variety than originally thought, would not be availabe until 15 July, the very same day that Ted and I were to leave to begin our journey to the North. To make the story even more complex, the pressure bandage required at the site of the tumor on Ulf’s leg resulted in his foot blowing up to the size of a football. Luckily

Susanna, a medical doctor as well as a Psychoanalyst, and a true fashionista had started Ulf on a course of Penicillin. The doctors determined that there had indeed been a serious infection in Ulf’s right leg and foot, coincidentally much like the one in my left arm. So although the news we all received on the 15th of July regarding the tumors was relieving, Ulf was left exhausted from the worrying wait, and uncertain if he would be able to drive as far as we had originally planned; he suggested that we might try to at least make it to the Archipelago. We laughed together as I told him that the two of us could hobble along together as my knee had gone out just a couple of days before we left Paris and I wasn’t sure how quickly or how long I could walk.

All of this news was received and discussed as we had stopped for lunch in a small village on our way to Cologne. Before the end of our lunch stop, we had resolved to shift our plans a bit and decided that it would be prudent to forego Oslo and to aim for the Archipelago together. Then we perhaps to spend some time back in the South of Sweden and across the bridge into Copenhagen. In other words, we decided to ditch plan A as well as Plan B. The latter was the plan that Ted and I had put together in case Ulf had bad news and needed further treatment. Plan B would take us from Hamburg to Munster, and from Munster to Luxembourg before returning to Paris. We four certainly demonstrated plenty of flexibility in putting together what would be plan C, which eliminated our drive to and stay in Oslo, Norway and things were looking up again.

When we arrived in Cologne, we were delighted

with the hotel, our lovely room, and more amenities than I have ever seen. Although our reservation in the hotel restaurant had been

mislaid, the promise of a light meal in the piano bar from the kitchen of their two-star Michelin restaurant sounded pretty good. Of course, when we came down to the piano bar we found that there were not one but two pianos, but ironically no pianist to provide the music to help us chill out. We had arrived on time at our table at 8 o’clock, but by 9:30 we still hadn’t seen a morsel of food. Knowing that there was no way that we could stay up late, with only one day to explore the city, we canceled our entrée and pleaded for rapid delivery of our main course, so that we could retire relatively early. Indeed some food finally arrived, and we managed to be ready to hit the sack before midnight. However, just as I lie down in bed, I checked my phone for messages. 

It was unusual not to have received word from Jeffrey nor the customary photographs of him and Mickey cuddling and playing together to relieve our concerns about having left them on their own. I immediately sent him a text asking if he was okay, but was dismayed to find a response in the form of three photographs of his three-year-old daughter Geneviève, enjoying herself in the

TV room and attempting to make friends with a terrified cat, hiding under the bed from this strange and aggressive (although well-meaning) predator. Of course, I immediately had a meltdown and told Ted that we needed to go back to Paris, if not the next day, surely on Sunday after we’d had a little bit of a rest from the very long drive on Friday. At that moment, I thought that Ted felt the same way, alarmed and facing the reality that we couldn’t possibly attenuate the situation from such a long distance. Originally, we were certain that Jeffrey had been agreeable to not bringing the family in for at least 24 hours so that Mickey could be reassured that we had not

abandoned him to strangers, and could reestablish his close relationship with Jeffrey. We thought this was especially important because Jeff’s wife Michel had been scratched as a child by a cat and ever since was afraid of and disliked cats, an emotion that cats pick up very easily. After texting Jeffrey about our plans to return home, I went to work before going to sleep writing emails to all of the hotels to cancel our reservations and decided to wait until the next morning to call Ulf and Susanna to tell them the bad news. Of course, we were most disappointed about missing our reunion with our dear friends. But

we were determined to enjoy at least one day in this beautiful city. We were up, showered, dressed, and down for breakfast by 9 o’clock

in the morning, eager to visit the storied cathedral. We were not disappointed. We spent a good two hours amongst what seemed like at least hundreds of others exploring all aspects of this imposing

and wondrous edifice, and we were treated to the sounds of its great organ. Even with so many people, it never felt crowded. However, I don’t think I have ever seen so many visitors in

a Catholic cathedral at one time in any city in Europe, including our beautiful Notre Dame of Paris.

After strolling around the old part of town, forgoing the interesting museums in that area, even the chocolate museum to enjoy the glorious weather, we had our lunch by the river and listened to the young people playing what seemed like a very idiosyncratic prank on passersby, who had to traverse through the circle of local folks, while the musicians played musical caricatures that represented what the band thought of each person who dared cross the circle. Every few moments a loud roar of laughter would come from the crowd of locals in response to the musical impressions of those who passed by. The weather was perfect, cool, and sunny, and the beer chilled just right to accompany the warm local dishes.

We wandered about in the old town and came upon Great Saint Martin’s Church. This Church was a Romanesque Catholic church whose foundations rested upon the remnants of a Roman chapel, built on what was then just an island in the Rhine. The church was later transformed into a Benedictine monastery with quite a spartan decor. It was just about to close for the day, but a young and very handsome monk (who could have been a double for Gregory Peck and who spoke fluent French and English) allowed us to take a peek inside and we chatted about his few years living in Paris. Meandering along the cobblestones we discovered an ice cream shop called Marco Polo that was unique to say the least!‘ After taking photos, we finally gave in to the temptations of trying at least one of their very special concoctions before returning to our

room to pack up and prepare to leave early in the morning.’ After a farewell breakfast in the Terrace garden of the hotel, we were on the road again.

Midway home to Paris, we stopped in the town of Namur, the capital city of Wallonia, the Francophile region of Belgium, located at the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre rivers is the Citadel, a medieval fortress with 7km of underground passages, gardens, views, and a golden statue of a giant turtle.‘ In town, the Felicien Rops Museum focused on the works of this 19th-century Namur-born erotic artist.’ The baroque St. Loup Church was said to have marble

columns and a richly carved ceiling. We had stopped for lunch only, so we did not have the chance to visit any of these treasures, but we did visit St Aubin’s Cathedral, the only cathedral in Belgium in academic late Baroque style.‘ It was the only church built in the Low Countries as a cathedral after 1559 when most of the dioceses of the Netherlands were reorganized.’ It is classified as part of Wallonia’s Major Heritage by the Walloon Region. Evie, as always, navigated us straight to the main Cathedral in a town, where there are always good brasseries in the church square.

This day was no exception, and after visiting the Cathedral, we walked across to Brasserie Francois, a charming establishment ongoing since 1868. Its decor and cuisine made me think that we had already arrived back in Paris. It’s There’s no escaping the fact that Namur is mostly, and rightly, famed for its enormous citadel, or ‘Europe’s biggest anthill’ as Napoleon witheringly referred to it when his armies conquered the fortress and annexed the town below in 1794. While the citadel might be the reason to go back to Namur, it’s the town’s relaxed and friendly atmosphere, well-preserved historical sights, and famed culinary scene that makes us want to return.

Back on the road, we seemed to be flying all the way back to Paris.“ Refilling Evie’s tank just before we reached town confirmed that we had been running mostly on electricity in this self-charging wonder of ours; Over 1,000 Kilometers (635 miles) took only one-third of a tank of gas, and Evie self-charges as she goes! When we finally reached home, Jeffrey was there to help with the luggage and Mickey greeted us with hugs and purrs Home sweet home❣️


P S. Our friends did manage to reach the Island of Marstrand and attended a splendid Opera performance in a Medieval fortress and a lovely dinner, as well as some days in the sunshine with the fresh ocean air. Bonne Sante Ses Amis❣️🥂

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