Sunday, I was invited to lunch chez [at the place of] two of my favorite Smith professors. I have had the pleasure of working with and taking classes taught by my advisor Nicolas as well as his wife Fabienne, both French profs at Smith. Although they work in Northampton, they have an adorable, sixth-floor apartment in the 18e à Paris, where they spend their breaks and summers. They had always insisted that we meet up while they were in Paris, and Fabienne kindly invited me to lunch. I was a bit nervous about the encounter. When you consider my lack of people skills and their endearingly awkward comportments, I knew we were in for a show.
It was actually less awkward than anticipated, and I had a lot of fun. They are so sweet and encouraging and were very excited to hear any and everything that I had to say about Paris. We had a lovely French lunch of saucisse [sausage], lentils and potatoes, made complete with a bit of wine. Tea and treats followed.
After lunch, Nicolas had some work to tend to, but Fabienne and I took a lovely walk around the quartier [neighborhood]. I am always thrilled to discover new corners of Paris, and this thriving, diverse neighborhood was a great place to explore. En outre [In addition], Fabienne showed me the surprising traces of littérature and history in her own backyard. We stopped at the apartment building where – as Patrick Modiano learned – Dora Bruder had lived and headed past the commissariat [police station] where her parents had posted a notice in search of her. Later, we came upon the one massive entryway that remains from the luxurious 19th-centurey department store that served as the basis for Emile Zola’s Au Bonheur des dames.
It is that capacity for histories of so many eras to overlap, cross and dialogue on the present-day streets of Paris that I love so much about the city. And these traces exist in n’importe quel [any] quartier. From the Lutécien amphitheater to the remnants of Philippe Auguste’s city walls to the Boulevards of Haussmann and the traces of the Occupation, it’s all here. Two-thousand years of history surimposés [overlapping] on one moderne ville [modern city], and what a lovely ville it is.
Overall, I was very pleased to have spent the afternoon with Fabienne and Nicolas. Seeing their love and passion for Paris made me rethink my own attitudes. Am I spending my time here wisely? Am I living the Parisian life to the fullest? Lately, there’s been a tiny part of me that has been counting down the days until I get to return to the states. I’ve idealized the moments of reconnecting with loved ones, eating at my favorite restaurants, relaxing in my own room and enjoying free soda refills. But I forget how quickly this Paris experience is passing me by. And as soon as I leave, I know I will regret it and wish that I could come back…