Helllooo my baguettes! I’m feeling a little French and forlorn. Just off the phone with my sister, who lives in Paris. At least she tries to. She moves around a fair bit: her husband, from whom she is amicably separated, is in Amsterdam. Her boyfriend lives in Rotterdam, where she’s been stranded since Covid struck. Her permanent address is in Paris, where she returned last week as soon as France opened up its borders. It all sounds very glamorous, and maybe it is, but it’s really just the way things turned out. Actually, Louise IS very glamorous. Here’s a picture I took of her in front of the Louvre:


Always so chic


Louise decamped to France 31 years ago, almost to the day. She had just broken up with her boyfriend and quit her job in advertising, and, having nothing on the go in Canada, she decided to take a huge leap and buy a one way ticket to Paris, where she had once spent a happy semester back in art school. Our brother Andrew had also fled to Paris, for different reasons. We all have EU citizenship through our Irish father, so there was nothing stopping her, except she had no job, no place to live, her French was shaky, and she knew no one there other than Andrew. When you think about it, it was a brave and crazy move. As she recalls, our Dad drove her to the airport, bought her a Bloody Mary at the bar, and told her she had a parachute if she needed it. A Paris-chute. She might had needed it a few times, but she never pulled the pin. She arrived in Paris where our brother met her at the airport. It was his 22nd birthday. She stayed with him for a while, then got her own, tiny place on the Rue du Bac. Seven stories up, no elevator, no kitchen, no private bathroom. She met some people, got a job, met a boy (a French one), learned to speak French better than the French, got married at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, bought an apartment in Montmartre, got a better job, and, finally, became a French citizen (she kept her Canadian and Irish passports as well, of course). Louise is an international woman of mystery, but her heart belongs to Paris.


“Sledge,” she told me (we call each other Sister Sledge), “you would not believe how different things are”. I believe it. Paris in June without the tourists? It sounds heavenly, but, after a while, a bit melancholy. The Louvre and the Eiffel Tower remain closed, the river boats are not running. Notre Dame, of course, still stands, but charred and damaged. Louise had lunch with a friend yesterday, outside, at a bistro. The food, as usual, was wonderful, and the waiters were even friendly, but the tables were set far apart, the patrons masked, the interior empty. “The days of the crowded Parisian bistro are over”, she said, adding, for good measure, “c’est fini maintenant” because she’s French that way.


But Paris has been through worse, and it will one day return to its former glory. So will London, and Rome, and Madrid and Hong Kong. They will be there when we are ready and able to visit, whenever that might be. In the mean time, these beautiful cities are just like ours, waiting, patiently and carefully, for the sun to come out and the world to be well again.


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