Andie and Georges blew kisses as the cab drove us away towards Charles de Gaulle Airport, where we would pick up our car and begin our trip to Italy. A bag of our dirty linens sagged beside them on the little cul-de-sac’s sidewalk – remnants of our extraordinary month in Paris. The two own the one-bedroom apartment where we stayed, and their friendship made our time in Paris feel more like a homecoming than a visit.
Tim and I have found that although we are stimulated by living in different cities and delighted by the sights we see, it is the people whose lives intersect with ours that give dimension to our journey. That being said, we understand that while we are just passing through a city or town for a few weeks, the people we meet are living fully developed lives with all the obligations and responsibilities that implies. We have learned to respect the difference between visitors and locals and we try hard not to demand too much time and attention from new friends. Andie and Georges made it seem as if they had all the time in the world for us!
We were crazy about ebullient Andie the minute she opened the door for us, and when we met Georges over cocktails at their apartment next door, we knew that we had found true companions. They are entertaining, wise, charming and energetic. Andie, a lovely pint-sized Brooklynite who owns an English language school, and Georges, a handsome and thoroughly, authentically, emphatically French man, who retired from an engineering career, have been married for twenty-five years. They are clearly still mad about each other and that makes being in their company even more pleasant. They have done some amazing things, too. They climbed Mount Kilimanjaro on their honeymoon, and they bike, hike, ride motorcycles and run marathons, all of which we two couch potatoes find wildly exotic and impressive. They’re still very active and although we are not tempted to join them in their exertions, we certainly like hearing about their adventures. Their charming apartment, which was at one time conjoined with our tiny one-bedroom, is a spacious, inviting home full of light, art and interesting mementos brought home from their travels around the world.
We had a terrific time palling around with them, sharing memorable meals, talking, walking and laughing together. They gave us insights into living in France that we could never have gained without their generous guidance. We talked about all things French: history, politics, architecture, language, and especially about food, as any sane people do when they are in Paris. One evening, a discussion of the national personality and the extraordinary relationship French people have with food prompted Georges to share examples of everyday French expressions which are taken from the culinary world. We thought they were hilarious, and he wrote them down for me:
“Il y a du pain sur la planche,” means “there is bread on the breadboard,” or we have our work cut out for us.
“On a mange notre pain bland,” means “we ate our white bread,” or we did the easy stuff first.
“Ce n’est pas de la tarte,” means “it is not a pie,” or it’s a tough go.
“Ca va mettre du buerre dans les epinards,” means “this will put butter in the spinach,” or this will help make ends meet.
“Il pedale dans la chocroute,” means “he is pedaling in the sauerkraut,” or he’s at a total loss.
“Il s’est fait rouler dans la farine,” means “he got rolled in the flour,” or he was had.
“Ca ne mange pas de pain,” means “it doesn’t eat any bread,” or it’s not a big deal.
The last time we said goodbye, Tim and I were the ones on the pavement blowing kisses to Andie and Georges as they drove away from a bistro near the Luxembourg Gardens. We had taken a train into Paris from La Charité-sur-Loire, where we rented an apartment for a few days in late August to escape Italy’s heat. A chance to have one more encounter with our pals before leaving the continent for England and Ireland certainly influenced that decision! As usual, we had a wonderful time and started making plans for our return next summer. We’ve taken an apartment in Paris for May, June and July of 2013, and although their popular apartment was already booked for that time, I know that picking up where we left off will not eat any bread!