7 Days in Paris, Not the Novel, the Real Life

Some of you have asked what my day is like in Paris. And like everyone else, all my days are different. I’ve been back in Paris for 3 days, (the time moves too quickly here, and I never have as much time here as I want, although I am here for half of the year, but the time speeds by too quickly whenever I’m here).

On Saturday afternoon, I arrived, puttered around my apartment, opened the mail, looked around happily, and went out to do some errands, a little shopping and buy some food….and then I dove into one of my favorite hobbies in any city: I reorganized my closets. I have a ball doing that, I think for a simple reason. (Cleaning out the refrigerator gives me a small thrill too, but cleaning out my closets gives me a much bigger thrill!!!)So I attacked my closets on Saturday afternoon and evening, and turned everything around, changed seasons, and weeded out some things I just don’t like or wear anymore. And in some cases fashion mistakes. (I used to shop with my assistant who is 6 feet tall and 20 years younger than I am, and a truly beautiful woman. And I’d shop right along with her, and then come home, look in the mirror at what I bought, and I somehow thought that youth and height were contagious and rubbed off on me when I shopped with her. And suddenly I’d see this very short woman (5’1″), who was not as young as my assistant, looking pretty ridiculous in some outfits, and if I don’t take things like that back right away, or get stubborn about it, then they can sit in my closet for years. So Saturday I weeded it all out, and felt supremely virtuous, organizing everything with precise and meticulous order. And on Sunday, I did more closets and finished the job. But I had a ball doing it and discovered some new/old/forgotten treasures, which I revived and plan to wear soon.

The reason I think I love doing closets (and sometimes cleaning out refrigerators), aside from the obvious reason that I find some great stuff that I’d forgotten I had—but also because the work I do takes a long time. First I write the outline, after chewing on the idea for 6 months to a year, then I write the first draft, and then it bounces back between me and one or several editors for their comments and many re-writes for at least a year. I see it once again in ‘galleys’, loose printed pages, before it goes to the printer to be done in final form at last, and two years after that, the book comes out and is published. Sometimes three or four years between initial concept and book in hand. That’s a long, long time to see the fruit of your work in tangible, visible form. But you take a closet, you pull things out, you make a giant mess on the floor and all over the place. For several hours it looks worse than when you started, you weed it all out, get rid of some, send some things to be cleaned, pressed, or changed, and then you put it back together, and by the end of the day or night, you have an impeccably neat closet. Presto magic. Instant gratification. You don’t have to wait three or four years to see it. It happens in a few hours or one day, and you see the result of your work immediately. For those of us who work in abstract concepts, doing something visual and manual like that is enormously gratifying. When the closet is neat, you’ve done your job and you’re finished. A psychiatrist friend of mine says she feels the same way, and loves reorganizing her closets, probably for the same reason, a need to see an immediate result of your work. It takes her years to help people and see results. But not with a closet. You’re finished in a single day, with a visible result you can admire and feel proud of. (Even if all you do is throw out old pickle jars and outdated mustards in a fridge you’re cleaning out). For people who build houses and see the result of their work daily, they probably don’t need to clean out closets. But I sure do!! I love it!!!

So that’s what I did on Saturday and Sunday in Paris (and for a couple of days in SF before I left). And on Sunday night, I met a friend for dinner at the Hotel George V in Paris. There is a very fancy restaurant there, and an open space in the lobby called “La Galerie’, with a person playing the piano, and you can have any meal you want. (I had chicken/mushroom soup and a chicken sandwich). It’s a beautiful, relaxing place in a beautiful old hotel, which is now a Four Seasons. There is also a cozy bar. And one of the most noticeable things about the hotel are spectacular unusual flower arrangements, that are totally untraditional and very striking. They are done by an American man named Jeff Leatham, who has enormous talent, and revolutionized the look of flower arranging in Paris, and people come to the hotel to see his work. So I had a lovely evening there.

And on Monday, I had the kind of day I enjoy as much as cleaning out closets. I had a ‘marathon day”. Did I run a race in exercise clothes and running shoes?? Nope, I didn’t. I did a million things until I nearly dropped and had a ball doing it. I had to record radio ads for the release of my newest book in France, and felt a little silly with ear phones on in a studio, reading from the script, selling my book to people who listen to radio shows. And then I hit the streets. I had a list of errands my children wanted, graduation gifts I needed to buy, a ring I had had reset (with a Tanzanite, an unusual dark blue stone with a purple cast to it). I picked up things I’d had repaired, or my kids had when they were here, I hunted for a pair of shoes I saw in an ad but don’t exist and were never made, and found another pair I had wanted for ages. And then I just did some random shopping, and I had a blast!! I bought some sandals, a gold belt, some black shoes, a jacket and a blouse. I spoiled myself royally, and I had a ball, running all over Paris, doing everything on my list. I did the shopping thing from noon to seven pm, sometimes buying nothing and just looking, and sometimes finding a treasure. I was on the Avenue George V, which is a great shopping street, with some great hotels on it too, and then went to the Avenue Montaigne (a major shopping street in Paris), and the Faubourg St. Honore. All great shopping areas that are quieter now in the financial crunch. I used to stay near the Avenue Montaigne when I was a little girl, on the rue Francois Premier, in the 8th district. And then I moved to the rue de Varenne, in the 7th district, on the Left Bank. And I went there yesterday too, on the other side of the Seine, across a bridge. I also went to the Place Vendome, where the Hotel Ritz is, where I lived more recently until I got a home here. I knew I was in a great mood yesterday, when I found a pair of black and white shoes I loved, and they only had 2 right feet. And I knew that somewhere in the store was a box with two left feet in it of the same shoes. Normally, I would have been too impatient to wait and given up while they searched for it, but I waited 45 minutes until they found them, and I didn’t mind at all.(I now am the proud owner of a right AND a left shoe of that pair) I was having fun. I have spent all of my adult life taking care of other people, nine children, my family (mother and stepmother), many employees. I have been surrounded by many people whom I have to respond to and be responsible for. It is very, very rare for me to have time to myself to do exactly what I want, and just answer to no one but myself. I love having all those people in my life to take care of, but once in a while, I love having a day to myself. I smiled at everyone, and they smiled at me. Paris is a gorgeous city and it is great fun just roaming around and enjoying the beauty of the city. And as I headed home at 7pm, the sky was a gorgeous pastel pink color. The sky in Paris is exquisite (and also in San Francisco). It looks like an impressionist painting, and it warms my heart every time I see it. I went home, and had something to eat, a friend dropped by just to say hello for a few minutes, and then I did some office work for many hours, by email and phone. And I finally went to bed.

This morning I started my day at my favorite auction house, which is a treasure hunt every time I go there. They had paintings, furniture, vintage clothes, china, all sorts of stuff. I didn’t find anything I wanted to bid on (they have 45 auctions a week!! and turn over every 2 days), but I love going there and digging around, so that is always fun for me. I have found some real treasures for very little money. I went to some art galleries after that, just to look, and I bought a thank you present for a friend, and then I came home to answer letters, write some blogs, and just spend a quiet evening at home. Tomorrow, I will go out to dinner with friends, and Thursday too. And on Friday, it is May Day here, which is the French equivalent of American Labor Day, and it is symbolized by the flower lily of the valley, which is my favorite flower. I’m having friends in to dinner that night, and it is a special day for me. May lst is the birthday of my late son Nick, and always a special and bittersweet day for me. He is always in my heart, and especially on that day. I will go to church and light a candle for him, and then I’ll spend the evening with friends, so I’m not alone. We’ll have pasta and talk and laugh, and I know I will feel Nick very near me. The day he was born was a wonderful day for me (he was a big, fat gorgeous baby!!)

So that’s what I’m doing in Paris. I will try to go to the Andy Warhol exhibit this week at the Grand Palais, a beautiful glass structure from the early l900’s. And I am planning to go to an antique show next week, and see more friends. You can see why I love it!! It’s a hard city to resist. And as I write to you, it is evening, and the sky is a soft pearl gray. The sky and the light are an essential part of the beauty of Paris, as are the buildings. I feel so lucky to be here!!!

So “Bonsoir” from Paris (good evening), and “a bientot” (until soon).

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