In the 80s, turning Japanese seemed a popular theme. But somewhere the last decade or two, I turned European.
I don’t always get it right. The cheek kissing is always fraught with awkwardness and I am constantly confused as to how many cheeks to kiss – and if I should be leaving lipstick marks or just air kissing.
But – as the bartender on my last night in Paris noted – and confirmed by his behaviour – one of the big attributes of Europeans is hospitality. And I would also add – charm. A big part of hospitality. Without European hospitality, I would never have married a European man. But that is a whole other story…
In a world where I increasingly worry about the loss of manners and civility, the Europeans are there trying to prove charm is still alive and well. That sometimes you need to take time to perform a task properly, not just efficiently. I have seen it across three countries in the very recent past. The French are likely the most charming, performing tasks with both reserve and aplomb, but I have been impressed by all the Europeans I have encountered on my trip.
My final cultural adventures were two-fold.
First, I stood in the bitter cold waiting to buy a ticket to the Helmut Newton exhibition. But I was at the Grand Palais so that provided some wonderful photographic opportunities and Helmut Newton is worth freezing off your fingers. What is more gratifying was to see how packed it is! I wasn’t quite sure what the four year olds were making of the shots of women wearing saddles but this is how they grow up to be European with a sophisticated world view and an ability to discuss art as readily as sport.
The second cultural adventure was more unique. I wanted to mail a birthday present purchased in Paris before I left France. How often do you walk past the Louvre to find the post office? Seulement en Paris! A beautiful, fascinating city that I would encourage everyone to visit. No matter where you stay or what you do, Paris is certain to weave its magic.
One of my favourite Paris adventures was done on a budget. To even out our restaurant spending, we decided to go to Monoprix and buy bread, cheese, some of those transcendent cold cuts, a mini bottle of champagne and some red wine. It was a beautiful summer evening so we would indulge in all our treats on the breakfast terrace of our small hotel near the Eiffel Tower (we had a picnic on the lawn there one night as well). We couldn’t find our corkscrew. Things looked complicated. But we were in Paris – so not only was a corkscrew produced, they opened our wine for us! And then we had that “only in Paris” moment. It was hot so the windows were open in the building opposite us. And someone was practicing her cello. So our dinner was accompanied by live classical music.
Leaving Paris is hard. Having a memorable experience in Paris is a piece of cake. Just ask my mom. She told me she didn’t need to go to Paris. It wasn’t on her bucket list. Just by accident she turned 65 on the plane. So this trip I suggested we should return for 75 as an anniversary celebration. She said she’d make sure she had good walking shoes. I’m a little worried that once she has the macarons at Pierre Hermé, I may not be able to convince her to leave…
Speaking of great walking shoes, I need to extend a shout out to Browns. Just before I embarked on this adventure, I bought a pair of black patent driving moccasins. Possibly one of the world’s most perfect travel shoes! The Browns version are insanely comfortable. I have been wearing them every day as I trundle over the cobblestones. By the time I get home, I will have already gotten my money’s worth 🙂 I would highly recommend a pair of Brown’s loafers. Even though my friends all seem to think that I spend all my time in showstopping 4 inch heels, the real truth is that a large majority of my life is spent wearing Browns loafers – because they combine such a great mix of style, comfort and value. And they are now on-line… check them out 🙂