17 January 2019

A French Lunch With Old Friends

On this visit, I've ridden more than 20 kilometers on only two of the seven days I've been here.  But cycling lots of kilometers (or miles) wasn't the point of coming to Paris, though I didn't want to go without pedaling the pave (cobblestones) as well as the paths and paved streets.

Yesterday I didn't ride at all.  I did, however, visit two more old friends who had me to their house for one of those wonderful and inimitable French lunches.  In many ways, it was the best of all worlds:  the lunch was both civilized and leisurely, and they live in a house full of sunlight in a town that feels like the country even though it's only 15 kilometers from the center of Paris.

I met Michele about 15 years ago through my late friend Janine, who lived nearby.  Since then, she re-connected with Alec, whom she met when they met in Spain.  At the time, they've explained, they were living as hippies and hitchiking around Europe--much to the dismay of both of their parents.

Neither of their parents approved and each of them eventually married people their parents approved.  From the way I'm telling you this story, you've probably guessed that their unions didn't work out.  Well, Michele's didn't, anyway, and Alec's wife died.  So, nearly four decades after first meeting, they reunited and married four years ago.

Our lunch started around noon, when I arrived and lasted well into the afternoon.  I, of course, am on holiday, and they are retired, so we don't really know--or care--when the lunch ended. (Does it end when you stop eating or after you take a walk and come back for more cidre rose and coffee?) 

The food was uncomplicated but exquisitely prepared:  a starter of sliced sausage, followed by three different kinds of salad:  one of shredded red cabbage, another of carrots and onions, and still another of creamy cucumbers.

What followed was a rare steak and some wonderful roasted sliced potatoes.  Of course, it was accompanied by bread.  Alec had bought some before we met, but in following an old French custom, I brought a baguette which we ate.  (I also brought a box of fancy chocolates.) And, after all of that, chocolate and cafe creme eclairs, with espresso coffee.

Don't believe for a minute that the French--even Parisians--are not friendly. When I toured the countryside by bicycle, I experienced all sorts of kindness.  And here in the Paris region, people have treated me well. They simply don't make friends with people immediately, as Americans and other people often do.  They have to get to know you, or meet you through someone they know well. 

Somehow, though, I suspect that I might've befriended Michele even if I hadn't met her from Janine, just as I would've been friends with Isabelle if she hadn't been married to Jay.  

He did more bike riding than I did today!

It was also fun to spend some time with Michele's grandson, who was spending the day with him.  Now, you probably think a prototypical (or stereotypical) name for a French boy is Jean or Jacques or Yves.  But this three-year-old boy has a name only a French person--or someone who loves impressionist paintings--could have given him.  Are you ready for this?  Matisse.  At first, I thought it was a French pronunciation of Matthis or Matthew.  But I learned that he is indeed named for the Picasso's friend and rival.

Don't you just love this water pump in the local park?  It actually works!

I would love to see what he becomes when he "grows up."  Will he rebel against it and become an accountant or lawyer, or even a physicist?  Or will he live up to the connotations of his name?

Of course, that is not the only reason why I want to visit Michele and Alec again, or have them visit me, some time soon!


  1. The French really know how to entertain with relaxed style. It does not entail 300 hamburgers!

    Your trip is making me feel envious...

  2. Coline--One French anything is worth more than 300 (or any number) of hamburgers! I feel privileged.