Hi Everyone, it would be very hard to top my blog about the White Dinner in Paris, which was an incredibly memorable experience and a visually gorgeous event, but I thought I should share some of the more mundane events while I’m here. And after all, let’s face it, how mundane can Paris be? Even after spending so much of my youth and childhood here, spending time here every year throughout my life, and now living here half the year for the past seven years,—-Paris never fails to take my breath away, just driving through the city, or to thrill me as I look at the sky, a sunset, the incredibly beautiful architecture and monuments, or just enjoy a Parisian moment walking down the street. It is a spectacular city, and even Parisians love their city and are never jaded to it. It is a beautiful place to visit or to live, with a quality of life that is irresistible. People in Europe really do stop and smell the roses more than Americans, with a sterner work ethic, and in Paris particularly. They work hard here, but they want to enjoy life too, which makes it wonderful to be here.
When I arrived a couple of weeks ago, the weather was awful, cold, chilly, rainy, gray. I must have brought that weather with me, since I froze in San Francisco until I left in June, ran into the same grim gray wet weather in New York, and ran into it here too. And yesterday, it began to change, and by the end of the day, it was warmer and the sun peeked through. I had dinner at a sidewalk cafe, people watching, and today it is a gorgeous, warm, sunny summer day. And I’m planning to have lunch with friends in their garden just outside the city. A nice way to spend a Sunday, with good friends, on a brilliantly sunny day. And I can FINALLY put my winter clothes away. At last!!!
Since Paris is coming home for me, I usually get to do the same mundane things here that everyone else does at home, fix things that are broken, go to the hardware and grocery stores, take clothes to the dry cleaner, and get my life here up and running again. And a big part of my life here is seeing family and friends, which is an essential part of my life here. One thing I really appreciate about life here is that I think friends see each other more than they do in the States. People are much more focused on an intense work life in American cities, sometimes to the exclusion of all else. I see my kids doing that in their lives too, working in LA, San Francisco, and New York. And I do it myself. I get so submerged by my work, and writing can be pretty intense and very solitary, that sometimes I do nothing else, in fact a lot of the time. I have a handful of beloved friends I see in San Francisco, but I never see them enough. They’re busy, I am too, time drifts by, and sometimes I don’t see my good friends for a month or two, or even many months. That just doesn’t happen here. Friends here invite you over often, we go to each others’ homes. No more than a week, or at most two, goes by without seeing good friends, and we talk to each other more often. People make a real effort here to have a social life too, not just work. It makes for a warmer, happier life. And as a person alone, it makes for a busier, much less lonely life here. I never seem to have a day with nothing to do, or without contact with one or several of my friends. Here, sometimes it’s hard to fit it all in, which is a lot more fun. I think people in Europe make a much bigger effort to see each other, make contact, invite each other over, and even spend time with family. I really appreciate that aspect of life here, and miss it in the States. Sometimes I feel like my whole life is virtual in California, conducted by email and text. There seems to be more human contact here, and just more time dedicated to seeing people, and talking to them. I love that part of my life here.
So I’ve been out to dinner a lot with friends. Sometimes at their homes, or at tiny bistros with typical French food. I had a really fun lunch with a bunch of my women friends. And I think people are willing to make more effort to entertain here, even if they have no help to do so. People are shyer about entertaining in the States, or just don’t have the time. One woman I know here just gave a dinner party for 8 people in her very small apartment, she cooked it herself, served it beautifully, had everything organized from a rolling cart, remained part of the conversation at the table all night, and was a one man band doing everything, and we all had a great time. Even if people have small homes, no help, little money, or aren’t particularly good cooks, thy invited you to dinner anyway, they reciprocate invitations and initiate new ones, and it really keeps the social ball rolling, and constantly brings new people into your life, with those you meet at someone’s house. I love that!!! And I will confess that I make far less effort myself to be social in California than I do here. Here, everyone invites you to their place in a very short time, there everyone promises to call each other for lunch, and rarely actually follow through. No time, no time, no time…..I am guilty of it too!!!
I usually give a beginning of summer party here and I did last week. Forty friends came over for a casual buffet dinner, perched on the arms of couches, or sat on the floor, lots of food, good friends, and some musicians and we danced to everything from Lady Gaga to Motown to some old favorites. A very young girl I know came over and sang (and Wow!!! What a voice!!). She is recording her first ‘single’ next week and is very excited about it. Her name is Marie Ophelie, and I think she’ll go far (and she’d like me to help her with some lyrics for songs, which would be really fun. I’ve never done that before, although my son Nick was a musician, singer and terrific lyricist. I’m not sure I have his talent for lyrics, but I might try.). Meanwhile, she’s happy to sing while we dance. The last guest left just before 2 am, on a week night, which is something I love here too. People stay up late, even if they have work the next day. Somehow they manage to do it, and I’m such a night owl that I love that. The musicians and Marie Ophelie hung around for another hour after the guests left, til 3am, and played and sang. I had a ball!!!
The sales began in Paris yesterday, which is a major event. Prices slashed by 40 to 70% in every store, and you can get some fabulous deals. It happens twice a year in January and July, and people come from all over France to check out the sales in the Paris stores. The city is mobbed, the traffic is awful, and the shopping is great!!!
What do I hate in France? Going to department stores, particularly the practical ones. There is a store in Paris where you can get everything imaginable for the home, from kitchen towels to hardware to make repairs, sheets, beds, rugs, you name it they have it. And all department stores work on the same system here. Items are not grouped by type of object: like all towels or bed linens in one location, or all cooking pots. They are grouped by brand, and each ‘brand’ has a ‘stand’ usually with one sales person to help you with that brand (and if that one sales person is out to lunch, and just left, you have to wait an hour to buying anything from that brand. grrrrrrr). What that means is that if you want a vacuum cleaner, you cant go to the vacuum cleaner section, you have to go to every ‘stand’ that sells vacuum cleaners. Or cooking pots. And if you buy 4 cooking pots from 4 manufacturers, you go to 4 stands, look for 4 sales people (whom you can never find), and go to the cash register 4 times. Okay, I will confess. I go nuts in stores like that. I become hysterical, homicidal, French is my first language so that’s not the problem, but having to run all over the store to find what I want, and stand in line at the cash register five to ten times just about drives me nuts. I went to one of those stores this week with a friend who laughed at how upset I got, how much I complained, and how much I hate that system here. I was steaming by the time I left with dish towels, 2 pillows, and a new tea kettle, all of which took me nearly 3 hours to find, and pay for. Department stores are a whole lot more organized in the States. But France has other charms. My idea of hell would be being trapped for eternity in one of those stores!!! I try to go as seldom as I can, and then complain about it for months!!!
I was on a radio show here, to publicize my latest book in France, and that was fun. I’m always very shy on radio or TV, it’s not something I do easily, and I find it stressful, but it went well.
And a week from now the Haute Couture fashion shows will begin. I will be going to the Chanel show with some of my daughters and will tell you about that.
And that’s about it for now. I’m off to have a picnic lunch in the garden of friends outside the city, and spend a lazy Sunday afternoon with them. And tomorrow a friend is taking me to her ‘Chocolate Club’, where people compare different chocolates to decide which one is best, the friend who is taking me owns a restaurant and it’s a fun event, I’ve been before. It’s a fantastic excuse to overdose on chocolate, an opportunity I cant resist. I hope that all is going well for all of you, and that your summer is off to a good start.