Bon jour! I have returned from abroad and at the risk of showing off my francais (parlez vous?) France was tres magnifique! This was my first time in the "city of lights" and Paris didn't disappoint. From the moment my sister and I landed at the Charles de Galle airport, we were off and running for the next seven days - and I suspect, so do the other 26 million people who visit Paris each year. Paris is the most popular tourist destination in the world and no wonder, it's tres jolie!
From Notre Dame, to the Musee d'Orsay, to the Jardins du Luxembourg, every stone edifice, every mansard roof and every marble statue is a stunning visual treat, or as one darling young couple we met on our night time Fat Tire Bike Tour succinctly put it, "In Paris, everything is a thing." Hey, it may not be Les Miserables, but Jill and I knew exactly what Avi meant. Great art surrounds you - everywhere. It's impossible not to appreciate the beauty and the history in all that you see. Renoir, Rodin, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Degas - they all passed this way and left their indelible mark. Ooh la, la!
With so much to experience and to see, we packed in as many churches, stained glass windows, historic monuments and artistic masterpieces as time allowed, ate gelato on demand, and made ourselves regulars at a quaint patisserie in the Marais District, where we rented a sophisticated apart-a-ment for the week. Accumulating dozens of miles and quickly mastering the Metro, we managed to navigate the city in fairly good form and yet, there is still so much we didn't make it to (not that we didn't try). Whew; I'm exhausted! (I could really use a vacation.)
Our last day there, we opted to spend the morning at the more intimate Puce de Vanves (to us Americans, that's a fancy way of saying "Flea Market") instead of the bigger, better known Porte de Clignancourt just outside the city borders. It was highly recommended in our well-thumbed Rick Steve's guide book (the bible for novice travelers) and I was anxious to go. While I admire a well-tailored garment and a designer handbag as much as the next gal, a great pile of cast-offs is truly more to my liking. With dreams and expectations of really old collectibles yet to be discovered, we rose early, hit the ATM one last time and set off with a LARGE empty shopping bag (which I had every intention of filling).
But with a few exceptions, what we found when we arrived was just a bit anticlimactic. With minature café latte finally in hand (French coffee is served in itty-bitty cups as opposed to Italy, where it is served in cereal bowls!) Jill turned to me and said "Wow, junk is junk the world over." (She gets a wee bit crabby if she doesn't have her morning caffeine.) To her credit, Jill was more game than I'm suggesting and a phenomenal travel guide to boot. Still, there were unusual trinkets of interest and a few real treasures among the booths if you looked closely and gave it some effort; like the original costume drawings for many of Paris' Opera and musical revues that we ran across in the last aisle, or the beautiful set of silver knife stands (yes, there is such a thing - who knew?) I spied halfway through, which provided mild successes.
Jill bought two drawings while I hunted for a small framed oil of Parisian life and some fanciful sconces for my upcoming remodel (neither of which I found) but eventually purchased some petite toy soldiers for my youngest son, a Legion of Honor medal for my husband and a compass for my eldest to ensure that he "never loses his way," (which I hope to present to him before he heads off to college this fall, knowing full well that he will prefer the miniature Ipod cubed speakers much more that I picked up at the SF airport before we even boarded the plane. Sigh! You can't blame a mother for trying.)
What's my point after this loooong travelogue and what's it got to do with Real Estate?
Un, how could I not talk about he amazing architecture in Paris? If you have been, you'll understand its well-deserved reputation as the most beautiful city in the world and if you haven't, take my advice and book a trip "immediamont" (ok, I might have made that word up). Deux, the listing prices for Paris apartments make the East Bay home prices look like a real bargains by comparison. Trois, sometimes in life, you have to negotiate the "junk" before you discover what's truly worthwhile. Quatre, negotiating is an art in any language, but often worth pursuing. (I saved 5 euros on those knife stands!) Et cinq, if you stay open to the possibilities, you are likely to come across treasures you hadn't considered previously or even knew existed . . .
Voila! (I took the scenic route but I finally got there.)
And I finally traveled to scenic gay Paree as well, which I have literally dreamed of visiting ever since Mr. McAllister's 7th grade French class. He'd met his very Parisian wife while based in Germany and she once made the class garlic bread and escargot. I didn't like the texture of the snails but I sure enjoyed the butter (my family ate margarine which was all our parents could afford at the time). It was my first real exposure to butter and garlic (heavenly) and to the concept of a different culture - and I felt tres chic! A whole world existed outside Sacramento! Better yet, I got to share this dream with my twin sister, Jill which made the trip memorable. Life is tres bon!
Sure, it took me another 37 years to finally make it to Paris but it was worth the wait, and the gifts I brought home (I'm not referring to the few sentimental trinkets and pretty caramels I squirreled away) should last a lifetime which is better than good - it's tres fantastic! N'est pas?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.