Sunday, 1 November 2009

My Love Affair with France

How did it all start, this love affair with Quimper faïence? I suppose to begin at the beginning, I have to transport you all back to when I was a young college girl and spent a whole summer living in France. I had saved my money from baby sitting and birthday and Christmas gifts, and every way I could think of for four years to make this trip. At last, off I went with one of my college roommates on a Grayhound bus from Washington University in St. Louis to New York City. We traveled aboard the Liberté, the classic French Line ship renowned for excellent food and beautiful decor by Lurçat and other fine artists, (in First Class anyhow which we sneaked up to see).
It was a wonderful trip, full of fun and other students, both French and American. The food, I must say, even in Tourist class was all that was expected of French chefs. We docked at le Havre, and boarded the boat train to Paris. In those days, the windows slid open, and we hung out devouring the scenery as we headed for Gare St. Lazare in Paris and our promising summer adventure. When we arrived, I was woefully ignorant and did not even have the phone number of my French friend who had found us a room we could rent. It was an interesting experience searching the phone books trying to decipher the system. and somehow I finally found the address, but not her name. I called, and not speaking more than a few words of French.. I just asked for her by name, please. I later found that the phone was located in a student restaurant on the street level of the building, and my friend lived a couple of flights up..but someone went up and told her she had a phone call. Amazing!
My friend then called Mme, Pigny, the lady with whom we were to stay, and a bit later we were in a taxi with MUCH luggage..seems hard to believe that we used to travel that way. The taxi driver had a difficult time with my proud statement of the address. " Une sept sept rue Jeanne d'arc" I pronounced it well, too, as I had worked on THAT. Still, he was mystified. (Oh dear) Finally he said, "Oooh..Cent soixente-dix sept rue Jeanne d'arc" My turn to say "Oooh..." Then he took us along the loveliest route, and proudly showed us the illuminated Opera, and other beautiful buildings, even that soon after the end of the War, lighted and glorious in the early evening dusk, a magical sight.

We drove past a handsome statue of Jeanne d'arc to number 177, and were welcomed in by the concierge and Mme Pigny, who spoke less English than we French, but so friendly and enthusiastic that we had come. Up three stories, yes, you KNOW that is really the elevator, a lovely wrought iron encased relic, was not in use. (Nor was it to be all summer) Somehow we got Jane's trunk, and my hat box, and all our other luggage upstairs, and after some happy hand signal conversations, crashed into bed. In Paris, at last!!
That first morning, I was already enchanted with Paris!
We had a tiny balcony and I stepped out and took photos in both directions down our street. There on my left, was the statue of Joan of Arc, welcoming us all. The air was cool and fresh and smelled like we were out in the country!
I still have a vivid memory of that wonderful freshness.

I turned and took my own photo in the mirror of the armoire that was across the room.

I treasure that moment in time, when I was first in Paris, and already knew that I was in love with France, a country I have since come to know quite well.

To be continued...

(Thanks to Adela M. for the current photos of rue Jeanne d'arc)

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