Hi there. Oui, it’s been awhile. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are feeling as grateful as I am for life’s gifts big and small. I know that I have more than my fair share. Living in Paris is part of it, but really that’s just the geography. Life’s greatest treasures have nothing to do with an address and everything to do with gratitude and perspective. Not always easy to remember but so important. Don’t you agree?
On that note, I have a little story to share. It reminded me again why living in Paris is indeed special, not because I can skip over to the Louvre in minutes (which admittedly is pretty great) or because fresh croissants are within my grasp each morning. It was a couple of encounters that for me sum up what’s special about France.
So I’ve been on the hunt for a new couch, one that we can sink into to watch movies or read but still look chic without taking over our living room. I found what looked like the perfect canape for sale on LeBonCoin, France’s expanded answer to Craigslist. (But more like an online brocante.) I called the seller and made a rendezvous to come take a look.
I arrived at the seller’s address in an ancient part of the 5th arrondissement, not far from the market street rue Mouffetard and tucked behind the Pantheon. His apartment was warm and fabulously decorated in that very Parisian way — a combination of contemporary pieces, time worn objects, art and family heirlooms. It had a lived-in yet modern feel; the kind of space where you want to linger and wrap your hands around a warm mug of something or enjoy a glass of red wine. Turns out, the seller, a man in his 60s, was a writer and photographer who specialized in art and design. There was a melancholy air about him as he described his career (now mostly behind him) and expressed a longing for the days when his children were young. With impeccable manners and in typically French style, he inquired discreetly about me, my work and family. I loved the couch and committed to buying it, saying I would find someone to move it and be in touch very soon.
I met the movers there the next day and was again welcomed warmly by the seller. He had found some of my writing online and was anxious to hear more about my impressions of life in France and my plans for our future here. With my new couch now loaded into the moving truck, I had little time to linger so I bid him a grateful farewell. He kindly offered me a new copy of his most recent work, a hard cover book of photos for the “Biennale 2012” at Galerie Vallois on rue de Seine. It sits on my coffee table and reminds me of the unexpected generosity I sometimes encounter here in Paris.
Then it was time to get my new couch home. The movers offered me a ride in the front seat of their van and so I traversed the city from a new perspective, above ground and seated high in a camion, sandwiched between two large movers. Having been in the moving business for more than a dozen years, the driver avoided the mid-day traffic on the city’s busy boulevards in favor of little back streets and crooked alleyways. We chatted away about the city, its history and its beauty, his love for Paris becoming more apparent as we drove. As we got closer to my neighborhood, he brought up the Musee Rodin and asked if I had been. He was pleased to hear that it’s one of my favorite spots and he went on to regale me with facts about Rodin, his life, his loves and of course his work.
As we bumped through the streets in the well-used van, stopping and starting with the whims of traffic, darting pedestrians and fearless scooters, I couldn’t help but feel touched by this second very Parisian encounter and my incredible good fortune at being able to experience it. An aging writer and photographer tucked away in the shadow of the Pantheon, an art-loving moving man with the soul of a poet. It was one of those only-in-Paris kinds of afternoons.
Ever have days like this you’d care to share? I’d love to hear about it. Also, if you haven’t been over on HipParis lately, here’s a post I wrote recently about living and working in France. Bonne journée et à bientôt!