I am fully aware that I have resisted writing in my blog since the tragedy of July 14 in Nice.
If I look at that it is possibly because I felt my "flip, breezy" style might be offensive after such an event. I was one of the least affected by the tragedy.... although I know I was shocked by it. We all were. A tribute was held yesterday.
Instead of writing though, I suddenly became obsessed with making art and since that time I have returned to my studio with a passion for learning new techniques with new materials. I don't know quite how to explain this because it has been a good many years since I painted anything.
Today though, at the suggestion of a friend, I realized that I really wanted to go out and celebrate something ( the full moon ..why not) in the only existing Parisian style cafe in Nice: Le Grand Cafe de Lyon on Av Jean Médecin.
As a tribute to the Parisian vibe I even thought about getting "dolled up", putting on a saucy dress or heels, but in the end I put on cropped yellow jeans and turquoise ballerina flats which is probably more Parisian nowadays anyway.
Besides, I am "frileuse" a wonderful French word which can mean "sensitive to cold"( frileux masc.) This morning there was a distinct Autumn chill when I emerged so I put on several layers.
Certainly the food at Cafe de Lyon is mediocre, we all know that, and that it is over-priced. But that is not why one goes there.
Our quiche Lorainne was perfectly acceptable. But one goes there to sit on the sidewalk and behold, witness, survey, comment, and opine....in short to watch the world unfurl before one.
And we go there as Americans for the ideas that we have in our heads...probably from every French film we have ever seen..... to re-live every visit we have ever made to Paris and to attempt to capture those iconic film images for ourselves.
Here we go.
...A man sits at a tiny round table ( ditto Cafe de Lyon) with his minuscule generic white cup and his pack of Galoise....and he gazes, discreetly ogles and smokes ....seemingly for an hour or more.
....two old girls with mashed flowered hats whose tiny dogs lie resignedly under the table, sit and sip their pastis or "citron presse" . They come every day. Sometimes they say little.
....the artists and intellectuals are there arguing over some point or they are just pouting and smoking and seemingly never leaving to get any work done. How many coffees have they had?
....the waiter never stops moving with his brief white apron and he has the sulky "attitude" we have come to expect. (although at Cafe de Lyon this is not on display.)
So we possibly go to Cafe de Lyon to create for ourselves what we missed....
1)because we were not born
2) or weren't living in Paris
3) or it was the war or just after and we were babies
4) or because we can't possibly "get" what it is that we are missing.
But it seems we are missing something.
And that last one is the enigmatic strangeness. We don't even necessarily like the Parisians but we want something of what they are.
Maybe we want to just be able to toss on a scarf and make it look effortless instead of fiddling with it for 10 minutes and then taking it off altogether.
Or maybe we want to be content with just some white shirts and perfectly fit blue jeans that the wearer makes look like a perfect outfit every time somehow. What is that?
Today I saw several bike clubs pass by as I waited for the bus. If I were a guy I would want to be in that clan of attractive guys 40, 50, 60, and 70 years old who go on these long rides every Sunday ending in a long French feast , jokes , laughter and songs. This is so sexy. How do the French manage to make a thing like that look like normal, easy, un-calculated fun?
I wouldn't say that The Cafe de Lyon is sexy but you can bring the sexy "Cafe Les Deux Magot" attitude with you. You have to take your time there...get a meal and a couple of drinks, three hours minimum and go with someone who really "gets" it. Own the place. Take it all in and be in Paris.
Perhaps Paris has some edge but they don't have our southern clime.... A perfect 20 degrees, 68 F. today. As time wore on, I took off all of my layers down to the last one, my chartreuse short sleeve top and my turquoise necklace.
Then I threw my scarf over my shoulder... "just so", sipped my "Aperol spritz" and watched the crowd with the proper "insouciance". ... that being the perfect French word for the occasion.
It takes a certain attitude to enjoy the Cafe de Lyon but I will miss it when its gone... as surely it will be one day.