Winning Photo and Final “Au Revoir” from Paris, 2019

Bonjour mes amis,

Here it is…the winner of our 2019 Light Photo contest. Thanks to all 51 of you who voted. Yes, it was a tough decision; we agree!

Here’s the top layer of voting:

#1 Bernie in the mirror image                      25 votes

#5 Champs Elysées red Christmas lights   19 votes

#23 Eiffel Tower                                              19 votes

#2 Shadow of Charles de Gaulle                   17 votes

#34 Night shot at Cafe Marly                         14 votes

# 13 Night Bridge                                              13 votes

#25 Yellow lights at Saint Sulpice                 11 votes

There were a dozen photos which received no votes at all: 4, 7, 10, 18, 31, 37, 38, 39, 40, 44, 45, 47. You can look them up for fun.

The winning photo of Bernie was obviously not taken by him. It was just a casual, quick snap on my iPhone which caught my eye as we were sitting at a favorite cafe on Place Victor Hugo. There is fate in this selection as the location is just a block away from where Bernie lived and played and slept under the water heater as a young boy. How amazingly ironic is that?

If you’ve been following our Paris soirées for years, you know that I always write a sentimental final blog to sum up our trip. Superlatives are always in order for Paris so they will be the theme for 2019: the best, the most, the worst, the…well, you get the picture.

The best new shop for us is right here in Le Marais, La Mouette Rieuse. It’s the delightful bookstore with the café in the back which I blogged about. Such a treasure of unique gift items and books and located on rue Pavée. The best old shop, reopened in another area, is The Red Wheelbarrow, another bookstore which used to be a block down the street from us. It was nice to reunite with the owner.

The biggest relief has been the freedom from the vitriol of American politics. Our television has not worked properly during our entire visit. The stress level has gone down tremendously. A piece of me dreads going back to the division.

The biggest surprises are several…How much faster the food comes now in restaurants, how public restrooms get cleaner and cleaner with each passing year, and to our delight, how successful our light theme photos were! Merci beaucoup for embracing them. We also continue to be surprised and pleased at seeing fewer cigarette butts throughout the city.

What I will miss the most is all the walking which puts our bodies in such great shape. Never better than when in Paris. Also the wonderful fresh spinach that I’ve had almost every day from the Monoprix. This one is strange, I know, but I could purchase a huge plastic container that would cost $3.59 at home for about $1.00! Also I have loved the fresh blueberries and strawberries which were in the fruit markets right up until departure day. I never dreamed I would have fresh fruit for such a long time. I will also miss all the sounds of Paris…the church bells, the bus bells, the subway buzzers, the daunting sirens, the clopping horses’ hooves, the café chatter. And of course, I will miss the daily trips to the market on foot which becomes a part of our routine.

I asked Bernie what he will miss the most… his evening soirées with his buddies over an aperitif. He will also miss speaking French, reading French, and hearing French. He would stay full time without a doubt.

Not surprisingly, what I will miss the least is…the laundry. Laugh out loud if you must, but it’s a pain and especially this year with our lavamatic still out of service. Hauling wet clothes four long blocks up the street in all kinds of weather is not what you dream of when you plan your trip to Paris. Oh, well. We did it and it didn’t kill us.

What I covet the most while I’m here is my icemaker, my washing machine, my shower, and my disposal. All the conveniences of American life, indulgent as they are!!

Our saddest disappointment was in losing two of our patrons or shop owners who had become friends…the couple who ran Le Bouquet St. Paul for three years and beloved Patrick right under us at his tiny café. We have run into him several times, and he’s loving his retirement!

The most challenging experiences this year were the huge crowds of people everywhere, the scooters and bikes which are death traps if you’re not careful, and the cell-phone walkers who don’t look up. The other challenge is maintaining your stamina day-to-day, keeping your energy up to press forward. It’s hard work having so much fun, mais oui?

The scariest moment for me…getting my hair cut and colored. It is truly a commitment to trust, and I hold my breath each time.

The best meal we had this year was at Le Grand Colbert with Cindi and Bob until Thanksgiving night when we decided to take our visiting friends, Charla and Darren, to a new spot and call it our holiday meal. The restaurant was L’Avenue on Avenue Montaigne. It was a fabulous setting, great service, delicious food. The worst meal was at Benoit, a starred Michelin restaurant. Lesson learned to be careful what you order!

My worst memory was sitting in the tiny hotel where Bernie’s brothers stayed, trying to find a taxi on the rainy, cold night of the birthday dinner. I had to excuse myself and go into the tiny restroom to cry. After all the planning and anticipation, I just knew we were going to miss the 80th birthday party that we were hosting! Of course, we did not as you know, and the evening produced the very best memory of the trip!!

Would I chose to come again during this time of the year?  No!! I’m a sunshine gal from Alabama and I much prefer the warm months. Jostling with coats, scarves, hats, gloves and umbrellas has been tough, but the reward was those gorgeous Christmas lights. We’re very glad we had the chance once in our lives to see them. My best Christmas moment was this past Sunday when we attended worship at the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. It was the first Sunday in Advent. To sit in that magnificent church and sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” was something I will always cherish. I’d like to share the message from the church bulletin that morning as my wish for you over the month of December, wherever you are.

Catch your breath. Cast away the works of darkness. Kindle a flame to lighten the dark. Wait for the Lord; prepare with joy. Wait for Christmas. Expect the unexpected; keep awake!”

Bernie would always come to Paris, regardless of weather, time of year, length of stay. His heart is here! His lost childhood is here; his best memories are here. Our visits heal a deep wound for him at losing his country and his father.

Words fall short in thanking each of you for all the support, love, friendship and encouragement we have felt from you. It’s been our pleasure to share the City of Light with so many. And to Bernie who is an amazing guy…who massages my poor arthritic feet every Wednesday night, who buys me surprise cookies from Miss Manon, who always empties the garbage and fills the ice trays and does the vacuuming without complaint, who loves me on my grouchiest of laundry days. I owe him my joy and gratitude in this late stage of my life!!

God willing, we’ll see you next year in warmer weather!!

Much love and au revoir from Paris,

L & B