Friday, June 29, 2012
I woke at up 11am. My eyes are watery and I sound like a frog. I have a cold — I hate that!
With me asleep, my HD had the netbook all to himself — he likes that!
I don’t want to walk much. I don’t want to lug around a heavy backpack all day either. So what do we do? We decide that all we really need to do today is to buy the tickets for the train on Sunday and to visit my DH’s cousin around 4pm. This is all I am willing to commit to.
Around noon, we find a SNCF office and we buy our train tickets to Dinan. Lucky for me, there is a cafe right next door. We plant ourselves at a table with the goal that I drink enough coffee to get me through the day! I order one coffee.
We spent almost two hours watching people and their children and dogs go by. French men and women are thin, the children are cute, and the dogs are well-trained (for the most part). Lucky again — there is a Metro stop right outside the cafe! We take the metro to visit Berthe, my DH’s cousin. We buy her flowers — it is the French thing to do!
We visit Berthe whenever we are in Paris. This will be the third time I have met her. Berthe was a good friend of my DH’s mother. They spent much time together as girls in Paris before WWII.
Berthe is in her mid-80’s but seems to be as spry and alive as ever! Like my DH’s mother, she is very french in that she is small and slim in stature, dresses fashionably, and keeps her honey-ash hair in a short pixie cut. She has amber eyes, a wide smile, and speaks English very well (she takes lessons she tells us with pride).
Berthe has a large apartment on the fringe of Paris. It is on the fourth floor of a building with lovely black wrought-iron window guards. The living/dining room, where we are asked to sit, has tall exterior windows that reach from the floor to the ceiling with gauzy curtains. Two set of interior french doors separate the living/dining room from the rest of the apartment (one office, two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a single bath). The furniture is wood, the upholstery is french floral and leather, the Persian carpets are red and blue, and mirrors are hung on both ends of the room to make the best use of the light (at 4pm, there is still a lot of daylight in Paris).
FYI — I didn’t ask to take pictures of her apartment because Berthe is a private women and her home is not a tourist attraction. Beside, I think that would be tacky!
She is so happy to see us! She gives us both three kisses on the cheek each (the common French way to greet family). We give her the flowers, she says pink is her favorite color, and puts them into a vase. She offers us water (plain and fizzy) and cookies with thick coating of dark chocolate. Chocolate is good for a cold, yes?
For the next five of hours, we talked of DH’s family. I know the basic history of WWII and what happened to the Jews, but she lived it. Her own family fled Paris for the south of France. She had family members who were active in “The Resistance” against the Nazis. Her brother died in a concentration camp for his part in the resistance, they never knew he was a Jew. I am amazed that she and her family lived through the uncertainties and horrors of that war — she knows real fear and real suffering, I feel like a real wuss with my little cold and all! Many of her generation fear it will happen again and she speaks lovingly of Israel.
She also tells us that the French are thin because (1) they eat small portions as a rule, and (2) they don’t eat all day like Americans do. She chastised my DH for not eating cheese. She feels that the French are becoming workaholics just like the Americans (she states her son as an example). She believes the children of this generation are spoiled beyond belief. She wonders if all the Arabs flooding into France is a good thing.
Berthe is a special lady!
We left Berthe at 9pm (she was tired) and made our way back to our apartment. By 10:30 we were in a local restaurant eating omelets and salad — a very French thing to do.
In spite of my cold, we had a good day — I like that!