Late night in Paris, and I am meditatively chewing on the the remnants of a marvelously grainy loaf that served as our daily bread. The apartments across the courtyard are unusually black for this hour, which I attribute to the ski vacation...er...I mean "study week" that students (and teachers) all over France will enjoy this coming week. It's quite still.
All of this quiet has got me thinking again about home. What does it mean? One of our good friends decided this week to leave France and go home four months earlier than planned. In the same evening, another friend talks about never having connected with the backward ways of his hometown, and talks about finding a home in Paris. I can relate. Facebook asked for my "hometown", and in a fit of cuteness, I put "Paris". (That was five years ago.) I do a double-take every time the word flies out of my mouth and wonder. When we went to the cinema a couple of weeks ago to see the film Juno, we supposedly saw home. Is this really a place?
Another odd sentence I heard issuing from my over-eager mouth was that "home had recently come to visit". Of course, I was referring to Karl's mom and dad - Pam and Jerry - who spent a week with us exploring our...er...the city in which we live. They brought affection, news, photos, greetings, a computer, face lotion, tortillas, ad generousitum* - a real slice of Minnesota. In grateful turn, we whispered to Paris to spread her faithful table of good food and beauty for our guests. A reverent s'il vous plait always helps in these matters. She responded favorably.
We wandered through the oldest quartier of Paris, the Marais, and ducked in and out of fancy specialty shops, a famous Jewish restaurant and deli called Marianne's, poked our heads into the courtyards of former mansions. Someone once called these places home. Victor Hugo, for example - Karl and Jerry are nonchalantly strolling past his former digs in the Place des Vosges.
We didn't always have to go too far afield, either, to experience new little wonders. Walking home from the Sunday market, we discovered a tea house right in the neighborhood. "L'oisive de the" means "the idle woman of tea", which sounded promising, given the sunny, lazy afternoon. We basked in the warm circle of sunlight, partook of excellent tea, and some top-notch goodies from the kitchen. The atmosphere was generous and homey.They actually served the tart with a little sorbet. (Is this breakfast or dessert - I've lost track...)
In Paris, the bateaux mouches cruise up and downstream day and night, giving tourists a unique perspective on the city. Residents tolerate them, sometimes politely, sometimes not (I once saw a French high school student moon an entire boatful). Karl and I had never ventured aboard, but we figured it was about time when his folks proposed it. The city layout comes into sharp focus, and we only wished we had gone earlier during our stay! We we were treated to the City of Lights by daylight and bridge light, since our tour straddled the sunset.
I've proposed this before, I think, but I'm starting to believe that home is not necessarily where your hat but rather where heart hangs. In that case, we've got quite a few home ports to pull into.
* Please do not take my Latin seriously.