If you follow my blog, you know that last year we tried to go to Paris for the April school vacation, but a pesky volcano in Iceland canceled our trip. This year we made it. I rented an apartment in the Marais, an area with a rich Jewish history and a thriving Jewish community. It turns out that it is also a hub for the gay community of Paris, and a favorite with tourists. The eclectic mix of residents and visitors made it a wonderful neighborhood for people watching, one of my favorite things to do.
Oh, we did all sorts of tourist activities as well. We admired Notre Dame, went to the Louvre, climbed up to Sacré-Cœur and drifted down the Seine in a boat. Everywhere we went we were joined by vast numbers of people. Even so, we were not prepared for the literal crush of tourists we encountered at Versailles. I’d been looking forward to showing Hannah the inside of the palace ever since we watched Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, but once inside all we wanted to do was get out. People were so tightly packed together that my small-in-stature daughter didn’t even realize she’d shuffled through the hall of mirrors. All was not lost, though: the fountains were flowing that day and the grounds were beautiful. There was even a fountain that danced in time to music piped from hidden speakers.
(Let me digress for a moment. In a much earlier post, I explained how my blog got its name. This might be a good time to refresh your memory, but come right back, I wouldn’t want you to miss anything.)
After Versailles, my mother-in-law observed, “You really need to enjoy the other tourists as part of the experience.” A sensible coping mechanism she employs to great effect, and one I usually embrace. For instance, the morning we arrived, we had breakfast in a lovely little boulangerie on the corner of our street. We shared our table with an Israeli woman and her two teenage daughters. They had been in Paris for a week and were on their way home. We chatted away like old friends until a voice behind me said, “I know this will seem odd, but…”
I turned around and looked up at the woman who had spoken. It was Andrew’s cousin’s ex-wife’s sister, whom I had not seen for several years. I jumped up and gave her a hug while exclaiming what an incredible coincidence it was. She was there on vacation with three of her friends, a last hurrah before the arrival of her first baby. When she rejoined her companions, our new Israeli friends said they’d been wondering when they would run into someone they knew, but it hadn’t happened. They were delighted to witness our small world encounter. And I was thrilled to learn that while I see people I know everywhere I go, they are not all ignoring me.