Bonjour mes amis,
It is my tradition to write a final summary blog every year before we depart for home. It’s always a challenge to come up with a new idea. Thus this closing post is generated painstakingly over multiple days, not a few quick hours in the early morning. It needs time to simmer.
In 2004, when I agreed to join Bernie for my first trip to Paris, I hardly knew him and certainly knew nothing about the French language, French food, French culture or French history. What was the big deal, I wondered? I had traveled significantly abroad but never been to Paris.
Now after so many years of visiting here, exploring, and growing an affection for this city and its people, I understand what all the fuss is about!
Why does Paris have such an effect on people? It’s loud and dusty and filled with cigarette smoke and the stinky hint of sewer. It has screaming sirens that drive you nutso, bicycles that almost run you down, motorcycles that need mufflers, doggie poop on the sidewalks, and steps. Oh, God, the steps!
What is the “je ne sais quoi” — that Indefinable Something that Paris has? Is it the glorious, piercing light that floods Paris in the morning and just before twilight? Is it the melodic flux of the river? Is it the buttery aroma of croissants emanating onto the streets? Is it the toll of multiple church bells still programmed to call people to mass that few now attend? Is it that incessant chatter of laughter, clinking glasses, shouting, car horns, delivery trucks, or crying children that mingle together into a “joie de vivre” that is irresistible? Or perhaps it’s the memories and the relationships that have brought such joy to your life as you’ve meandered here?
The answer will be different for each of us. But perhaps the universal answer is not so much what Paris is as who we become while under its spell, especially in this year of 2021–the year of darkness and pandemic, of economic strife and turmoil, of political division.
Paris takes over our souls and gives us permission to relax, to breath, to relish, to soak up the sun, to walk our stress away by the river, to people-watch, to indulge, to laugh, even to slog through the rain puddles. Obligations, calendars and meetings are forgotten for a while; phone calls are few; and venturing forth with nowhere in particular to go is suddenly pure joy. Can you imagine? What freedom! Bernie is prone to say, “Let’s just wander today and see where it takes us.”
So much has changed in Paris this year because of COVID which I have shared along the way. So another poignant question is not so much how Paris has changed but how have WE changed, especially from those early years of visiting?
For one thing, we’re 17 years older and that is definitely different. We’re still pretty good but not quite as feisty as we once were. We used to race each other up the subway steps all the time; not so much anymore! We sneak naps in the afternoon and shy away from too many late nights. Bernie’s hearing loss has caused him much frustration and has been a struggle for me. Somehow, we’ve made it without killing each other. Between my arthritic feet, a broken back, and a year of serious health issues before we came, I’ve pushed through because Paris has lured me every day to soak up all it offers. Bernie has rheumatoid arthritis but has never complained because he’s at his very best while he’s here in his hometown, with friends, neighbors, images from childhood, and now the memories we two have made together.
We’ve made a deliberate effort to conjure up past memories (many with some of you) as we have moved through the city this year. They kept us sane as we’ve dealt with the darn masks everywhere, the hand sanitizer, the vaccine pass, the social distancing…all of it. We made it through, still happy to be here. We wonder if this will be our last trip? Hopefully not, but one never knows.
Paris brings out the love in our hearts for ourselves, for each other, for the world, for people we know and don’t know and makes us want to be better people. Paris reminds us that art, architecture, history, and freedom of thought matter desperately to our society. Paris widens our circle and confirms that there are good people all over the world, not just in America.
Since our theme has been lovers, I must talk a bit about Bernard Louis Joseph Verdier, the love of my life. He is the kindest, gentlest man I know; understated in most things until it comes to defending either his French heritage or the US Constitution which he pledged to defend and fought to preserve in Viet Nam. He rarely judges, is as open-minded as anyone I know and can usually reach around anyone’s warts to bestow acceptance, great warmth, and kindness. He is without question the best person I know.
I’m just so blessed to be with him; to have shared Paris with him; to have soaked up all the richness that traveling with him has afforded me. As we grow older now, we can truly say that “We’ll always have Paris,” or that “Paris is always a good idea.” Whatever the quote, we have lived it…together.
Merci mille fois! A thousand thanks for being faithful readers of our blog and for your friendship. With a tear and a sigh but with hope for one more year, we say
Linda & Bernie