I am not good at goodbye's. I studiously avoid them. I run out the door or drop at the airport with an over-the-shoulder quick "call you soon, e-mail me!" My feelings run deep for the people that matter to me and to let my welling feelings show as I take leave of someone I love risks some epic emotion so instead I do my best to suppress those feelings until alone. My friends and family know this about me...the more quiet or removed I get, the more they know something is amiss.
This past weekend, my oldest friend in the world, Sheila, and I met in Paris for a 48-hour meeting of our minds and hearts in an effort to minimize that inevitable goodbye. We have been so blessed in the last five years to have seen each other as often as we have and for our children to have bonded. For the previous 18 years, we had lived oceans apart, so these last few years have felt like we were 14 all over again. With our move to Australia, however, the oceans will separate us once more.
I took a morning TGV from Geneva and Sheila a morning Eurostar from London, and we met at a small hotel in the Latin Quarter on the left bank. We spent the rest of that day wandering St. Germain and stopping on boulevard Mouffetard for a coupe de Champagne before discovering a charming little resto behind St-Germain-des-Prés, the oldest church in Paris for dinner.
After dinner, Sheila indulged my desire to sit at the nearby Café de Flore which like its' neighbour the Café des Deux Magots, was the favorite haunt of intellectuals and ecrivains like Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Ernest Hemingway immediately after World War II. Being intoxicated on friendship, laughter, and the kinds of conversations that only people who have know each other for 30 years can have, we barely blinked at the 32euro charge for two coffees and two glasses of warm grog (warmed rum sweetened with sugar and lemon).
The next day, we explored the alleys and charming squares of the Le Marais district pausing for steaming cups of café au lait whenever we felt like it; perched on straw chairs at round tables at typical Parisian cafés watching the impeccable Parisian world wander by. We later followed some locals into a small Brasserie for a wonderful late lunch of an omelette and a glass of chilled Pouilly-Fume.
After our meal, we strolled through the grounds of the Louvre to the Musee d'Orsay, home of the bulk of impressionist art in Paris. I had been before but had wanted to revisit many of the Monets after just completing the beautiful novel Claude and Camille. Unfortunately, most were on loan to the Grand Palais for a special Monet exhibit, and I had been unable to secure tickets.
We ventured out late in the evening for a wander around the circuitous alleys of busy and boisterous St. Germain, stopping for a glass of wine before finally settling on a charming Brasserie for dinner where I indulged in a perfect entrecôte à point, and we shared a bottle of Nouveau Beaujolais whose season is currently being celebrated in Paris.
Sunday dawned grey and wet, so we opened our umbrellas and wandered to the Pantheon, final resting place of great and honoured French, such as Pierre and Marie Curie, Louis Braille, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Voltaire, and Rousseau. We made our way into the Luxembourg gardens, and around it's great palace before again stopping for hot fragrant coffee and croissants to warm our chilled bodies.
All too soon, came the time I had been dreading. On Friday afternoon, I had tried to cling to the anticipation of two delicious days ahead to swap enough stories, share enough soul, and store enough memories to last until our families meet again. You know what, it wasn't enough, it never would be, but I'll take what I got and feel blessed for it.