21 June, 2011

Small World, Tiny Paris

 I have been so busy filling my time in Paris with amazing experiences to share with you that I haven’t had time to share them with you! 
A week ago Friday I joined a bunch of strangers for an organized meet-up at Les Halles RER metro stop.  We were meeting to take the train out to Chantilly for the Prix de Longines horse races.  I recognized my group on the platform by the extravagant hats they were all wearing.  The hats were over the top in every way, long flowing sashes or little faux hats pined to the side of the head.  My simple hat and I felt out of place for a moment.

Taking the hour-long ride out to the country 8 international women got to know each other with the usual ex-patriot questions: Where are you from?  When did you move to Paris?  How long will you live here?  What kind of visa do you have?  We ought to just have a CV with the answers to save some time by just passing them around. 
We arrived in Chantilly, yes like the cream, the lace and the Chateau.  The group of us along with many other race goers squeezed into the fancy black bus that took us through the dense foliage of the French countryside.  Longines is a huge racetrack, bigger than any I have ever seen.  Most of the action took place on the infield where there was a large “red carpet” platform, a carousel, and multiple VIP areas with 200 Euro bottles of Moet.  

Circling these areas were countless picnics going on.  These aren’t your regular picnics; these have been planned to the most specific details.  The tables are covered with white linen and topped with crystal stemware to enjoy the champagne. The extravagant food is served from shiny silver dishes onto fine china.  No expense spared or detail overlooked.  Our party, being the first time any of us had attended, spread out our blankets and tossed our snacks to be shared in the middle of our intimate circle before passing around plastic cups and paper plates.  We will know better for next time.

Before we knew it the races began, the horses charging past on their quest to be a champion while the French announcer follows the progress in his quick almost auctioneer type voice. (Why does everything sound classier in French?)  Behind the starting point for the races is the Chateau of Chantilly reminding me that we are not anywhere but France.  I smile and soak it all in, even the random drops of rain that fall.  I lean back and enjoy it instead of run for cover like many of the other fans.

I bet on one race and lost one race.  That was enough for me. 
As we prepared to pack up and go back to our city I look up to see my friend Jeff standing not too far from where I sat.  Here I am an hour out of the city and I run into a friend…small world. 

A 30-minute train ride home and another long, eventful day is behind me.
I don’t get much down time though 
because Saturday has its plans for me already.  My dear friend Alison invites me to join her and her friend Luke for a typical Parisian lunch, and by that I mean a late one that will include a glass of wine.  Come 14,00h we start toward 

Rue Monorgruille – one of my favorite streets close to home that is always bustling with activity.  We walk on the broken cobblestones; get splashed by the fish market rinsing off their stoop.  We swerve in, out and around the constant pedestrian traffic and the occasional vespa that dares brave this Rue.  Stopping to look at “le cartes” along the way we finally decide on a little Café with Italian dishes.  The outdoor patio is full so we are forced to sit inside which is something a little different for me.  But the rustic interior has a welcoming feeling as though we are sitting in a café during the time of F. Scott Fitzgerald and not here in 21st Century Paris.
Following a long relaxing lunch we stop by a café and find a seat outside to enjoy some of the sun that has finally come out, who knows for how long.  
Not content with this being the only sun for our day Alison and I return to my house where we bring my little table to the terrace and play cards while getting in some much needed “girl talk”.  Sun then clouds again; Paris always keeping me guessing.  This perfect relaxing atmosphere is followed by a night out.
It is quiz night at The Highlander.  The pub sits tucked back off of the Seine on a narrow dimly lit pedestrian street. 

We join a group of girls that Alison teaches with and register our team.  The small confines of the pub quickly fill up with patrons and the quiz begins.  It doesn’t take much time for the crowd to get rowdy with excitement.  Then I feel a tap on my shoulder.  It is my friend Jaime.  She is there with a gentleman that we had met at the James Bond party the week before.  I walked to join her at the end of the bar where she stood and on my way ran into 4 other people I know stopping to give a “faire le bis”.  Paris...is tiny.

I lay down that night letting the wind come in off the terrace and I think about Paris.  I realize that I am running into people whenever I go out (these aren’t the first two occasions). The ex-pat community of Paris is a small one and we often end up at the same events.  The strangest part about our community is that it is a revolving door.  Some people are here for years, others months, some only weeks.  No matter the duration if you have gotten yourself active in events you are bound to start seeing the same faces - some that have come before you, some that have come after – some that you have asked advice from, others you have given advice to.  You share your experiences and say “au revoir” when another one moves on to their next adventure.  All the while knowing someone will be coming to take his or her place soon like someone will eventually come to take mine.
After all, only eternity and love last forever.