It is now end of September (yes, we are a month behind in our blogs) and after 2 and a half months in Europe, it is time to say our goodbyes to our family. My plan had been to create new memories, especially for my parents whom we had not seen in over two and half years. The more we age, the more realise that the most precious thing in life is time with our loved ones, family especially but friends too.
It was our choice to move to Australia all those decades ago for our careers, so we always felt it only normal to return to visit family every year. We have tried different “formulas” over the years. The quick visits while we worked were exhausting emotionally with successive highs and lows every few days – the high of the reunion, quickly followed by a heart-wrenching goodbye until next year. Then another time we hired a farmhouse where everyone came to visit. Us being retired, my parents not travelling so much these days, and our not having seen family for so long, we decided this year to have a prolonged stay in Europe, making several visits, to see my parents, one lives in the UK and the other in France, to make several new memories. Covid has a lot to answer for as the pain of being separated for so long weighed heavily with each visit as if we hadn’t seen each other for years. What is the best way to handle family visits when they are so far away (one could probably say we’re the ones who are far away), split and scattered? We had originally thought of renting a place for an extended period both in the UK and France. Maybe that is the best option for next time? Any ideas are gratefully accepted.
Don’t get me wrong, we had a wonderful trip, we were constantly and thoroughly spoilt by everyone and loved every minute.
We saw both my parents and our sisters one last time before leaving Europe end of September and a few more friends we hadn’t managed to connect with yet. We sincerely apologise to those we missed on this trip. An unplanned and spontaneous bonus was my spending our last week end in Paris, just my sister Diane and me while Anthony got to see his sister Tansy again too, together nieces and nephew.
Although I spent my childhood in Northern France, my roots are in Paris, where I was born. It is visceral and undeniable. When Anthony suggested I spend those days in Paris, I immediately thought of asking my sister to join me. Just the two of us. Being an avid art enthusiast and keen walker, I had a few “serving suggestions” that would see us visit museums and exhibitions and walk the streets of Paris and try a numer of restaurants. It is easy to walk 13 kms in a day in Paris when you keep stopping to admire the buildings, architecture, sculptures and chat non stop. We start our Paris experience with champagne, of course, at La Coupole – a stunning art deco brasserie near the gare Montparnasse followed by the most delicious crêpe either of us have ever eaten at Le Petit Josselin nearby. This was a great start to our sisters week end! Diane picked a superb restaurant for our first night: Pouliche. They have a set menu but gladly amended it to cater for my lactose intolerance. Add this restaurant to your next visit – you won’t be disappointed!
The next day, going from the Musee Guimet for a pottery exhibition and admire the building’s art deco architecture, walking up to Alma Marceau along the Seine, up to the magnificient Pont Alexandre III, then onto the quirkiest place: 59 rue de Rivoli. It houses an ecclectic group of artists, each in their own open studio, over 6 floors!
Neither of us could pass up the opportunity of walking to St Germain des Près and enter its beautiful abbey.
The Musée Maillol had a hyperrealism exhibition. What made this exhibition particularly interesting is that they intersperced hyperealism sculptures amongst their “traditional” art.
This was followed by a visit to the Jardins du Luxembourg before lunch at Dammann Frères in the collorful and vibrant Rue Mouffetard. Sweet tea followed at the Grande Mosque of Paris before dinner at the Coupole.
Diane’s serving suggestion took us to the Ateliers des Lumières where they were showing Cezanne and Kadinsky – a fabulous show, presenting classic pieces in immersive music and video. A final meal near the Place des Voges before returning to the UK and making my 5th and final visit to my mother the next day.
Thank goodness for whatsapp video or skype! Goodbyes are hard but we can at least easily stay in touch even if we can’t physically hug. We have had an amazing time in Europe but it’s time for us to make our slow way home, via the US. Until next time…