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Anais Vionet Jul 25
It was a cool, overcast and windy Sunday morning in March 2014. We were about 50 miles from Paris, at my Grandmère’s (grandmother’s) farm. She lives in Paris, but she owns a Château and surrounding 1,100-hectare farm that she calls her “fall retreat.”

Between three and five hundred people work on the farm, the Château and its surrounding shops (some work is seasonal). The shops sell wool, cheese, wine and ice cream produced on the farm, as well as touristy things. Many of the employees live on the farm, rent free. Their homes, owned by the farm, form a hameau (village). I didn’t understand much of this at the time, I was 10 years old.

My Grandmère was dedicating a new store just off the village green. The green wasn’t square, like those in the UK and it didn’t have swings or a slide, as I’d hoped. You’d think I’d know a hamlet my Grandmère owned but this place was alien to me. I’d arrived as part of her entourage but as the presentation ground on, I got bored. So, I took Charles by the hand and off we went.

We (my little nuclear family) were living in the UK then and we were visiting Paris for the Easter holiday. The fall before, as the school year had started, a girl in my grade (4th grade or year 5 in the UK) had been kidnapped and murdered on her way home from school. My Grandmère was “having none of it,” and hired Charles, a burly, red-headed, just retired, ex-NYC cop, as my security, escort and practical nanny. He’d been with me for about half a year, at that point, and we’d become fast friends.

It was the height of the pre-summer, Easter season. In addition to the villagers, there were tourists everywhere, picnicking on the grass, visiting the shops and playing football (soccer). Most of the tourists seemed to have small children that ran around. The townspeople sat on benches, eating ice creams and playing dominoes or quoits, a horseshoes-like game, played on a sand pitch.

You couldn’t mistake the two groups - the natives and the tourists. The towns folk were plainly dressed, the women in simple smocks and sweaters, the men wearing slacks, tweed jackets, berets or tag hats. The tourists spoke other languages - there were Italians, Britts, Germans and even Americans - who wore sports logoed t-shirts, shorts, sneakers and baseball caps.

As Charles and I wandered around the village, I asked, “Can we get a sirop?” One of the most popular drinks, in France, is a grenadine sirop (soda). We stopped and as Charles bought us drinks, I wandered a way off. He found me, moments later, hanging from a tree limb, upside down, my hair sweeping the grass like a broom.

“Stop that,” he’d said, swooping me up and off the branch with his soda free hand and setting me alright. As he picked leaves out of my hair, he said, “Don’t wander away from me like that, you know better.” “Yes sir” I agreed. A moment later, he picked me up and placed me atop a low, four-foot parapet wall that ran around the village. I could feel sharp, rough stone edges through my cotton dress but I drank my sirop and didn’t complain.

“You saved me from the dragon,” I said, after my first few sips.
“What dragon?” he said.
“The dragon that had me in its teeth, over there.” I pointed at the tree where I’d been upside down.
“I saved you from yourself,” he said, as he looked around the square.
“That’s silly,” I announced, “how can someone need saving from themselves?”
“Oh, It happens all the time,” he said.

The event ended and as people began leaving, they filed by us on the sidewalk. The village men doffed their hats and the women nodded a quick curtsey as they passed. “Why are they doing THAT?” I asked Charles, “am I a princess?”
“No,” he snorted, “you’re no kind of princess. They’re doing it out of respect for your illustrious grandmother.” “Oh,” I said disappointedly.

A moment later our car pulled up and we were headed back to the city. “Did you have fun?” my Grandmère asked, “yes mam,” I answered. “Did you behave yourself?” She followed up. “Mostly,” I admitted. She nodded, pronouncing, “That’s how it should be,” as the limo turned onto the autoroute (expressway) and accelerated for lunch in Paris.
BLT Marriam Webster word of the day challenge: Illustrious: a person that’s highly admired and respected.
Anais Vionet Jun 3
An occasional gust of wind will lift the translucent white voile curtains and then drop them like a child losing interest. The effect is like flash photography, a burst of sudden sunlight that paints our irises, then quickly fades.

It’s a cool Paris morning. In the low 50s. The windows are open and we forgot to turn on the heat. It’s perfect ‘under the covers’ weather. We’ve succumbed to laziness, refusing to get out of bed. Lazing-in is new enough to us that we’re defining it with a gamut of synonyms.

“Listlessness, torpor,” Peter says, his index finger tracking the slow twirl of the ceiling fan.  
“Stupor, slumberous, supineness, ” I updog.
“Ooh! total submissiveness,” Peter said, drawing the last word out like it’s *****.
“Every man’s dream,” I confirm.
“Inertia,” he says, triumphant in finding an engineering word.
“Good one,” I compliment. “Lifeless, loafing laggard,” I add.

There’s a knock at the door.
We look at each other guiltily, like we’ve been caught.
“We ordered breakfast last night,” Peter remembers.
“Oh, yeah,” I said, “you get it,” I suggested.
“Why me?” he whined.
“Because you can wear less and because what if it’s an ax murderer?”
“These people work for your grandmother, she employs ax murderers?”
“It could be a revolution - this is France - it happens.”

There’s another knock.
“Get it!,” I bleated, like a helpless goat.
“Am I expendable?” he asked, as a man might plead to a lynch mob.
“Women and children first,” I remind him.

There’s a third knock.
“Ok,” he says resignedly, as he rises, draws on shorts and heads for the door.
“You’re my hero,” I assure him, before I pull the sheet up over my head in case it IS an ax murderer.
BLT Marriam Webster word of the day challenge: Gamut: “a series of related things.”
Anais Vionet May 17
Grandmère = Grandmother

Peter and I are in Paris, we arrived this morning. We’re staying at my Grandmère’s Champs de Mars residence - near the Eiffel Tower.

One of my Grandmère’s oldest and dearest friends is a Catholic Bishop. When I was little, he was ‘Monsignor Jean-Marc’ but now he’s ‘Bishop Jean-Marc.’ He’s been around so much of my life, he’s almost part of the family. I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that he has his own apartment somewhere in each of her houses.

Jean-Marc is old. I think that’s fair to say. He’s white haired and the kind of short that comes on slowly, with age. He’s a disciplined kind of thin and his deep wrinkles are tanned from years of gardening. His teeth, always visible in his salesmen’s smile, are as white as altar candles.

When I first glimpsed Jean-Marc from the hallway, he was sitting on a cream satin settee, in conversation with my Grandmère. I knew something was up because he was wearing his red trimmed cassock and red sash, instead of his usual black suit.

What I couldn’t see from the hall, was that the room was packed with matronly ladies, dressed in matronly dresses of glittering white, glittering beige, glittering yellow and glittering gold. Argh! I was wearing a white Polo tennis dress, Keds mini canvas sneakers and my hair was ponytailed. I wasn’t dressed for a social. I swiveled to give my Grandmère a sharp look, but she took that moment to be interested in the drapes.

As I’d come into the room, Jean-Marc stood and greeted me cordially saying, “AnnAAAas!” raising both hands up over his head as if he were channeling the pope. Ok, I thought to myself, this is happening. I offered my most innocent smile. “Bishop Jean-Marc,” I said, while performing an involuntary curtsy, conjured from somewhere deep in childhood reflex-memory.

I don’t like priests. Slam me, sue me, **** me. When I’m around a priest, I’m reminded that I’m a sinner and I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. It’s the worst kind of guilt for a Catholic, because we don’t earn any credit for it.

Opp! I just thought of Peter, so there’s lust, right on queue - that’s a sin. Unfortunately, Peter’s not here. He and Charles went on a chauffeured driving tour of Paris. Envy - there, another sin, I’m on the road to hell but I can’t seem to stop, one thought just follows the next. Where’s a priest when I need one? (to confess) Just kidding, there’s one right in front of me.

The bishop began asking me a string of unimaginative questions, like an old friend catching up. “How’ve you been? How's university? As he grilled me, slowly, like a steak in a smoker, the herd of matrons ambled slowly our way, closing in to listen in. It was a scene straight out of the walking dead. I wanted to escape but my Grandmère held me in place, with the full wattage of her proud smile.

Ordinary boredom is an un-experience and all you need to free yourself is a phone. High society boredom is one of Dante’s circles of hell, because you have to interact with strangers when you could be doing something fun instead. The gathering finally broke up about 7pm and I was free to go. I was starving, my throat hurt from talking (about myself) and I hadn’t heard from Peter. When I checked “find my,” it showed him there, somewhere. So I went in search.

Peter was in his (our) room, on his back near the edge of the bed, one shoe off and one shoe on. He was as still as a corpse but a soft snoring suggested he wasn’t dead. I leaned over him, his black hair was somehow more disheveled than usual and his lips, moist and slightly parted, looked invitingly ready to kiss. I didn’t do it though, that would have been asking for trouble. Instead, I smelled his breath, slowly and deeply. Cognac. Charles had gotten him drunk. How helpful.

Once I tucked Peter in, I went looking for Charles, only to find him shooting billiards with Jean-Marc. He looked none the worse for wear and the gleam in his eyes told me he knew what he was doing - avoiding me with the bishop.

As I prowled the room, trying to decide what to do, while picking up objects and weighing them as objects to be thrown, a server brought in a tray with three bowls of cassoulet,* which smelled incredible, my stomach growled, and I remembered I was starving.

Charles, sensing a shift in the mood, said, “He (Peter) needed to reset his body clock. He’s young, he’ll be as good as new in the morning.” I just laughed. Charles knew I’d come looking for him and he’d ordered me dinner. I can’t stay mad at Charles; he knows me too well.

The cassoulet was to die for.
We’ll start our vacation, for reals, in the morning.
BLT Marriam Webster word of the day challenge: Cordial: “in a politely pleasant and friendly way.”

Champs de Mars = “The field if Mars” It’s the name of the Park (the ‘Central Park’ of Paris) where the Eiffel Tower is (my grandmothers house is across from it).

*cassoulet = a gumbo made of white beans, pork, bacon, duck, goose and toulouse sausage in a tomato stock of garlic, onions, herbs, and goose fat. A dreamy French comfort food I haven’t had since last summer.
Anais Vionet Feb 6
It was Monday, June 20th, 2022. My roommates and I are in Paris to see Olivia Rodrigo (in two days). But tonight, I was doing a favor for my great uncle Remy. Taking my elderly great-aunt Yvonne to the airport.

In RL this all happened in French but I wouldn’t do that to you - but just so you know.

“I’ve always thought of Anais as a granddaughter,” Yvonne said too loudly into my phone, which she had picked up and I was afraid she’d drop. She kept trying to hold it to her ear.

She smiled at me with her old lady dimples. “That’s sweet of you to say,” I lied. She doesn’t fool me. She’s not innocuous. She’s as mean as a snake and she doesn’t like ME at all. How did I end up doing this? I asked myself.

“No Aunt Yvonne,” I said as I gently moved the phone away from her ear. “This is a CAMERA call. Hold it out so they can SEE you.” She’s saying a final goodbye to Remy and letting a cousin know her arrival time. As the Facetime call ends, I pocket my phone with relief.

Lisa’s with us (I told her not to come) and she doesn’t speak French. So for her, this whole task is an awkward pantomime. Charles, our escort, drove us to Orly airport and he’s circling in wait to pick us up.

Yvonne walks at a glacial pace, and it took forever to clear security. Lisa and I have special tags allowing us to escort Yvonne to her gate. I offered to get her a wheelchair, but NOOOOO.
“We need to hurry –,” I began, but she interrupted me.
“Why are you wearing that skintight nothing?” she barked loudly, irritatedly, “if I had YOUR figure, I’d hide those tiny *******” (“minuscules seins,” in French, loudly). Heads turned. As I flushed with irritation, she cackled like a witch.

It’s 8pm in Paris and 30.5°C (87°F). I’m wearing a sports bra and two tank tops. Sue me. I wasn’t planning on doing this at all. We were staggering slowly through the terminal when, like a gift from God, an Air France courtesy tram pulled up next to us.
“Get on,” I demanded, “or we’ll miss your flight.” She did - as slowly as humanly possible.

When we finally got seated at the gate, she sent me for bottled water, a sleep mask, a neck pillow, sugarless lemon drops and a Paris Match magazine. “Thank you, my dear,” she said upon my return, baring her teeth at me in what I suppose was meant to be a smile.

“You should come and visit me (in Libreville, Gabon, Africa),” she suggested, “I think there are things I could teach you.” This is like that gingerbread-house invitation we read about as children.

“I can’t,” I said, with feigned regret, "I'm in school,” (I wouldn’t go there if she lived with Timothée Chalamet).

I heard a familiar voice, and I looked up to see my Grandmèr arriving with her usual entourage of 7 or 8 lackeys, a couple of frazzled Air France employees and two gendarmes.
“Yvonne,” she said, pointing to the two Air France employees, “these people will see to you. Say goodbye to Anais.”

“Goodbye dear,” Yvonne said in a fake, fragile voice. I gave Yvonne a half-hearted Paris bises (two kisses on each side) and my Grandmèr shooed me away with a hand gesture and an impatient, “Go, GO.” I’m afraid uncle Remy’s in trouble.

Yvonne and her branch of the family are the slimiest people you could ever meet. They’re billion-heirs (not billionaires - billion-heirs) who (theoretically) stand to inherit handsomely when my Grandmèr dies (I am NOT in that grubby lineup). They’re liars, cheaters and scoundrels who’d stab you in the face for an olive to put in their martinis. They're legal reasons my Grandmèr has to put up with them from time to time - but every interaction is fraught with phoniness.

About fifteen minutes later, Lisa and I are in the car with Charles racing back to Paris for dinner with our roommates. As I texted them to expect us in 20 minutes, Lisa said, “I got bad vibes from that old lady - the way she LOOKED at you when you weren’t watching..”

“YOU,” I said with a chuckle, “are very perceptive!”
BLT Marriam Webster word of the day challenge: Fraught: “causing emotional stress or something bad.”
sgail Aug 2022
Heads up
at gilded cielos and ceilings
a time when extravagance was bilious
and public.

relics and
the coronation of Napoleon
sublime impositions and plaster,
some marble. Gobs of it.

Oils and linens
of faces, faces.
How could we remember it all
in hallways and corners
and monstrous great rooms?
Kind of overrated, tbh
Zywa Apr 2022
Only in Paris

waltzes a fly like flies are --

twirling in Paris.
"Kevadine kärbes" ("Spring fly", for violin and piano, by Lepo Sumera, from the film "Naerata ometi" ("Still smiling" / "Spiele für Schulkinder", 1986, Estonia), performed by Mari-Liis Uibo (violin) and Andres Uibo (*****) in the Organpark, on April 9th, 2022

Collection "org anp ark" #203
Kewayne Wadley Dec 2021
While the world is asleep
I lie awake in a dream that feels real
because I am with you.
They'll lie still and we won't disturb
It's you that I only get this feeling
I accept that I am awake because you
are here
There is no other fact.
While the world is asleep
I want to explore everything that I can.
Without interruption.
Without the triple bypass of work.
More than enjoying your company for
what it is.
Like croissants in Paris
After climbing the Eiffel tower with you
on my back.
Or counting how long it'll take to bend
the curvature of the tower into the
shape of your heart.
While the world is asleep
They'll lie still and we won't disturb
& When they awake,
They'll think it was all a dream
By the time we finish explaining what
took us so long to get back
Close your eyes,
I whisper in your ear,
when you think of forever,
what do you see my dear,
or rather who do you see,
right through your tears,
through the uncertainty of time,
and the path you will take,
who is your partner,
your guide as you are theirs,
I asked you this question once before,
a rainy day on the second floor,
tell me your answer once again.
The last time I said I love you.
JV Beaupre Nov 2021
Artists and models,
pimps and prostitutes,
writers and muses,
the noted and the nameless,
in stark black and white.

Under the street lamp,
A stout woman with a dangling cigarette,
her shadow trailing into the dark.
I need a warm place to stay tonight.

On the banks of the Seine,
The lamplighter, making his rounds,
creates the mystery of night

Stairs leading down the hill,
into the fog, into the night.
Gas lamps lighting the way,
for someone who is yet to come.

Lovers in a brightly lit cafe,
sharing a drink and a kiss,
a stolen moment,
oblivious to all else.

Rain and the street glistens
adorned by umbrella blossoms.
Long shadows cast by a rainy city garden.

Matisse and his models.
The Four Arts Ball,
Henry Miller, Picasso,
The Follies-Bergere,

The master himself,
eye to camera,
cigarette dangling,
snap-brim in place,
calf length overcoat on a Parisian street,
recording life as it passes by
A time machine, a graphic history,
all is there for us.

The Paris of our dreams.
Brassai was the nom d'plume of a Hungarian immigrant (Gyula Halász) who documented the seamier and avant garde side of Paris with his camera in the first half of the 20th century. His most famous collection of photographs was published as  "Paris at Night".
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