It was a crisp, October evening in 2003. Staring down at my flaky piece of flounder, I was silently praying Bernie would just take me home with no pressure to make love. Not tonight, please . . . I wasn’t ready, not by a long shot. What would I say? So awkward, so out of practice. I wanted to sit there in the safety of 801, an intimate, upscale nook of an eatery in our Southern city of Huntsville, Alabama.
I had only been dating Bernie a few months, and I was still waiting on a burst of fireworks, a flurry of titillating chemistry. So far, nothing doing . . . no butterflies, no breathless anticipation, no racing pulse—at least not for me. Just plenty of those damnable red flags where we’re supposed to scream “Fire!” and run away. Red flags like parenting, pets, and politics.
But—there was an undeniably solid presence about him which kept me from bolting.
After dinner, Bernie lifted his long-stemmed glass of cherry-red pinot noir, leaned in across the white linen tablecloth, laid his hand tenderly over mine, and said, “Hey, would you come with me to Paris for a couple of weeks? I’d love to show you my hometown.”
I was stunned and speechless, not because I didn’t know that he was French, but because a long, intimate trip with him was not anywhere in my sights. Talk about being on different wavelengths! I was worried about having sex, and he was suddenly asking me to go to Paris! He was moving much too quickly, and I pummeled him with questions,
“When would we go? For how long? How much would it cost? Where would we stay?”
Swirling the wine in his glass, Bernie calmly replied with a convincing grin, “Leave everything to me. I’ve got several hundred thousand free miles with Delta so we’ll fly first class! I’ll find us a great little hotel; we’ll stay a week in Paris, then rent a car and drive through some of the countryside.”
He was like a little boy—wide-eyed, breathlessly hopeful, and tapping his fingers in anticipation of my answer.
After some considerable, inane babbling, I eventually just said “yes” since I couldn’t think of a really good reason to turn down such a fabulous offer.
That was almost twelve years ago, and my life has not been the same since then. That’s what this book is about—how a surprising love developed and grew through my time in Bernie’s Paris. Our book is not meant to be a travel guide, at least not officially, but kind of—enough to ignite a love for Paris in you, make you want to look up a particular story or suggestion, and perhaps even tuck the book inside your suitcase for easy reference. We hope you find Bernie’s Paris a breezy read—practical, smart, and intimate—bubbling over with a zest for Paris that will resurrect your wanderlust. It doesn’t matter your age. Find someone you love, and plan a Paris fling. As with our situation, it’s never too late!
But first, our saga—who are we and how did we meet?
Local Author Spotlight: Linda Spalla
Featured on Goodreads | Huntsville-Madison County Library
From broadcasting to books: Linda Spalla enjoying retirement
Featured on WHNT News 19
‘Bernie’s Paris’: Alabama author’s tales from the City of Love
Featured on al.com
What People Are Saying
Oh, I can’t wait!
– Pam Rhodes
For years Paris has been one of my most favorite places on earth, and only recently did I realize one of the main reasons. Over the course of nine years I read blogs describing daily experiences, adventures and misadventures in this magical city from my friend and her charming Frenchman, Bernie. Through her writings and his photography I was there experiencing everything with them – tasting, smelling and feeling it all! As I was after each installment, I am now in great anticipation of Linda’s book that will enable me to own and relive it all again. What a treat for everyone who reads this book to experience Linda and Bernie’s true love of life!
– Terry Lewis
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Beginning
Chapter 2 The Early Years and Trust
“Les Ans Tôt et la Confiance”
Chapter 3 Finding an Apartment in Paris
“Trouver un Apartement à Paris”
Chapter 4 Making your Apartment Work in Paris
“L’Appartement ça marche; ça ne marche pas”
Chapter 5 Daily Living in Paris
“Les Jours, les Temps, les Gens, la baguette, les Café”
Chapter 6 Arguing in Paris
“Se Disputer dans Paris”
Chapter 7 Oh My Goodness!
Chapter 8 Only in Paris—Incredible
“Soulement a Paris—Formidable!”
Chapter 9 Strolling in Paris
“Le Fait de se Promener à Paris”
Chapter 10 Shopping in Paris
“Faire les Courses ou Faire du Shopping”
Chapter 11 Eating in Paris
“Diner dans Paris”
Chapter 12 Rainy Days
Chapter 13 Summer Days
Chapter 14 Summer or Autumn?
“L’Ete au L’Automne?”
Chapter 15 Happy Birthday, Bernie!
“Bon Anniversaire, Bernard”
Chapter 16 Miscellaneous Delight
Chapter 17 The Worst Trip Ever
“Le Voyage de l’Enfer”
Chapter 18 The Annual Goodbye at Pont Marie
“Au Revoir Annuel à Pont Marie”
Chapter 19 Reflections on Personal Change
“Les Réflexions ”
You know you're in Paris...
- When a 10-year old child sitting next to you orders escargot or steak tartar!
- If the subways are packed like sardines on July 14th.
- If the weather is suddenly the opposite of what it was only two minutes ago.
- If the horses from Le Garde Republicaine go clomping by your window.
- If there is Café Gourmand on the menu. (Bite-sized desserts with coffee)
- If the waiters are shouting, “J’arrive!” (I’m coming)
- If you’re the only people in the restaurant at 7:30 in the evening.
- If you can sit at a café for hours for the price of an espresso.
- If no one but you offers a coin to a violin player on the subway.
- If all the church bells are ringing on Sunday morning at 10:45 calling people to mass.
- If the beautiful green grapes are surprisingly full of seeds!
- If you must bring your own bags to the grocery store or pay for “les sacs.”
- When it seems that all the young people under 30 are smoking.
- When all the grocery store shelves are empty by 8pm…truly.
- If elementary children are listening intently to a teacher or grandmother explain some great work of art at a museum.
- When the Pompiers (firemen) are the most handsome young men around.
- If 30 people are in line to buy a cone of Berthillion ice cream in 50 degree weather.
- If the street cleaners spray you down along with the sidewalk.
- If the street toilets look very good after a long walk!
- If the restaurant toilettes are down or up 25 steps!
- When no one pays any attention to the stop lights and crosses the streets
- If a Parisian on the street comes up to you and says, “Do you need some help?”
- If the clerks in the store playfully try to determine if you’re French or Anglais?
- If there is no driver on your subway train!
- If the same two homeless ladies are arguing out on the street. They have been here for years!
- If there’s a dog sitting next to you at dinner.
- If the sun is still dancing on the Seine at 9:30 in the evening.
- If people are still eating lunch at 4pm and dinner at 10.
- When the expressway along the river is closed for La Paris Plages.