We had not been in France for 3 hours when it all came crashing back; in the very nicest way; France has perfected life as an art form. Details, time to talk, to eat, to care. Every person we have spent time with this past week has been generous in this way; naturally and not once glancing at their watch or time on their phone. First story:
The family we had never met; a long-lost aunt, Chantal (not my story to tell, though some day...it would make a great novel) and her husband, Zvonco, who came here as a refuge from Croatia 45 years ago, has us immediately drop our suitcases in their gorgeous foyer so they could serve us refreshment. They've built a beautiful life in beautiful Paris and welcomed us ready to share it all.
Cate, doing the American teen thing. Anywhere. Everywhere. (Please lift your head and look around you for five minutes.) Here in her Great Aunt and Uncle's Parisian home:
They sat with us, sipping champagne and refilling the kids' juice glasses, as though there was nothing else in the world that needed doing. As we chatted and then began to fall asleep around the table, Uncle Zvonco decided it would be good to feed us all now and let us go to bed...at 5:30 in the afternoon, which would be like feeding 9 people a 4-course meal at 3pm in the States!
There was a fish course; shrimp and two terrines; one of scallops, one salmon. Next was the meat and vegetable course; but I think I might have slept through that one. Then the cheese platter, an excellent one, salad and dessert; a big square of chocolate deliciousness; light, airy, creamy and dark all at the same time. We got the kids settled in their beds and sleeping arrangements, and sat up and talked for a while before hitting, oh-so-gratefully, the pillow.
The next evening's meal was young goat; an entire young goat on a spit over the outdoor kitchen fireplace. A couple more uncles were invited, and the weather was balmy. We sat outside for hours chatting while the goat roasted, poor beast. With apologies to vegetarians everywhere and to the goat, I have to say that was the best meat I've ever tasted.
I've often felt sort of sorry for people who had to live in Paris; that reverse snobism of someone who loves the country and wilderness and space. How did they ever enjoy fresh air, or build up a decent supply of wine like any self-respecting French person? Oh; so wrong! 1) Everyone walks everywhere in Paris. 2) Take a look at the secret lives of true Parisians...an honest-to-goodness wine cellar in a tiny house in the city:
Uncle Zvonco choosing a bottle:
Our hosts at home: