On Sunday, I left Barcelona early on a 10 journey by train to visit Louis and Jeanine in the Côte d'Azur. They're the couple who met back in the day in New York when they were both working for Air France. Anyway, when I crossed the border at Cerbère, somehow I felt like I was coming home. Hearing the language was like listening to poetry, even the most mundane signs and phrases: "Traversée strictement interdit au public." or "Contrôle de billets, s'il vous plaît!"
Hanging out with Louis and Jeanine for two days in Roquefort provided more than a few good laughs. Louis is against anything new and different. He's always been like that, and we share completely opposite opinions on everything from politics to the role of women in society to technology and the list goes on. But I think that's why we love talking to each other. He also is the authority on my family's history. He knows everything about everyone from my grandparents' generation back in New York. He has albums full of old photos from his hey-day in New York of the 1940's and 50's. He has stories that he loves telling over, and over, and over and over again. Jeanine told me a story about when she was a stewardess for Air France, and back then it was against company policy for stewardesses to get married. So she and Louis got married in secret and didn't tell the airline for about a year. She said as she walked up and down the aisle on the flights, the men would often whisper to her, "Faut pas vous marier, l'hotesse!"
Louis epitomizes the Frenchman in the way he says, "Il n'y a rien de meilleur que le fromage et le vin." Jeanine is like my French grandmother the way she pushes food on me.
Next year Louis and Jeanine will celebrate 60 years of marriage. They constantly make me laugh in the way they talk over one another, Jeanine always tells Louis he's fat and to stop eating bread and cheese. But they still seem perfect together after all these years. At one point, Jeanine mentioned something about how Louis must have had other loves before her, Louis quickly responded, "The only love of my life is standing right here in front of me."
Yesterday I left Antibes on a TGV for Paris. Five hours later, we passed through a tunnel, and at the other end, I glimpsed the Eiffel Tower. I think I must have lived here in a past life. My friend Anne Vallée met me at the Gare de Lyon, and we walked across the Seine to the metro station. She pointed out Notre Dame, and I felt like I had finally arrived.
Today, I write to you from a cafe on the Champs Elysées. The Arc de Triomphe looks splendid in the afternoon sunlight. I'm going to check out an expo at the Grand Palais on le Nouveau Réalisme. And later on tonight, Anne is apparently planning to take me to a very branché lesbian bar.