I have had the most incredible privilege, for over 10 years, of having lived and loved in the “City of Lights”. I first set foot on Parisian soil in 1990, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to experience a new life. Fascinated and enthralled after walking around for a few hours, I made up my mind and decided that this was where I wanted to stay. Not being able to speak the language, nor knowing a single soul and with only a few Rands in my pocket, I was determined to make a start. After all, I had lived here in a 'previous life' and this would be perfect for now.
I found a job working for the Dowager Duchess of Argyle as her companion and cook. We were based in the Rue de Tournon that leads up to the Sénat and the Luxembourg Gardens – with the Rothchilds as our neighbours. As a gourmet and a gourmand, Mathilda Mortimer of Argyle taught me more about food (the quality of local and, already then, seasonal produce) in the short while that I accompanied her than anyone else. I had to prepare dishes that I had never even heard the names of, and this amused her endlessly. I had to accompany her to divine tables (restaurants) all over Paris – such a hard task! So from being a total novice concerning food, I became a foodie!
This lasted until I met my first French boyfriend and was invited for the summer to an estate near St Tropez. In short: lovely time, lovely people and here I met my fab Danish friend, Berit - still a wonderful friend today! (Do go and have a peep at what she does in Bordeaux .
During the first few years, I moved more times in Paris, than at any other time in my life. Thank heavens it was always with just a few bags in tow – although admittedly, the number of bags increased as the years moved on, but what a wonderful way to get to know the different “quartiers” of Paris. The hidden Paris, not just skimming over the tourist areas. I met amazing people and enjoyed myself thoroughly (my first night out in Paris was a fun evening at the celebrity club, Castel). I was poor, but so rich!
I started looking after South Africans in Paris rather early on – one of them a divine Judge in his later years. When his daughter asked me to take care of him in Paris, I thought taking an elderly gentleman on walkabouts in Paris would be a daunting task. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to discover not only was he as fit as a fiddle and walked me into a stupor, but what an interesting person to boot. And so I took him along to all my parties! RIP Oom Jan!
There is much more I can mention: organising a cocktail party for Denel (the aerospace and military technology conglomerate) on a boat at the foot of Notre Dame; wine tastings for South African vintners; exhibitions for artist friends; press conferences at, amongst others, the Crillon Hotel. The list is endless.
It is in Paris at a mundane Sunday brunch that I met my very talented ex-husband chaulieu.net. Together we journeyed through the city - by bicycle, on foot and in our 4x4 SUV. Yes, in those days we were not overly conscious of our impact on the ecology – that is until we decided to search for greener pastures in the diamond heart of France, the Auvergne. But, that will be shared in my next post!