Happy New Year from Paris

France is the only country that I know of that does not send Christmas cards as a rule but instead sends New Year’s cards.  We have the whole month of January to get the cards out.  Ergo, I feel just fine wishing you all a Happy New Year fourteen days into 2018!

I took quite a bit of time off from this blog–I spent two wonderful weeks in London.  I’d heard for many years about the lights and store windows of Harrods, Fortum and Mason, Selfridges and was looking forward to a festive time. I exchanged homes with a wonderful family from Finchley, North London.  They stayed in my home in Oakland, Calif and I stayed in their home 25 minutes by underground from the centre of London.  For the Christmas season, it felt like the best of two worlds.  London centre was alive with tourists, shoppers, lights, thousands of people swarming the sidewalks while Finchley was quiet and peaceful.

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Arriving at St Pancras station

The first week was very cold.  My friend, Meg, from Antibes joined me.  A Brit by birth, I had the luxury of just hanging on to her coattails and following her as she led me all over the place and we never got lost!  On Saturday, Dec. 23rd, we had tickets to hear the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Westminster Abbey.  It seems that a tourist must pay 22 pounds to visit Westminster.  However, with this ticket, I entered for free and heard the beautiful Westminster Boys Choir.

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Westminster Abbey

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The next evening, Christmas Eve, Meg took me to dinner at a long time friend’s home.  The family couldn’t have been more welcoming.  They gave me presents and thanked me so much for joining them for dinner.  Hello, shouldn’t I be thanking you??  The Brits are quite a people.

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Christmas Eve dinner with our paper crowns from the crackers

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Meg told me that for Christmas Day, every good Brit stays in their pjs and watches TV all day long.  It must be true because most of the channels had movies – of which we watched quite a few.

Meg took off on Wednesday to stay with her brother in southwest London and I prepared for my Paris friend, Barbara, to join me for the second week.  One of Meg’s friends introduced me to Todaytix.com which sells tickets to West End shows for a discount.  We got excellent seats for An American in Paris for 20 pounds each.  Barbara struck up a conversation with the couple next to her and found out about two more sites Lovetheatre.com and Amazontickets.com, that sell discounted tickets.  Through Lovetheatre.com, we bought terrific seats for a new West End production Girl from the North Country, a show based around Bob Dylan songs and Kinky Boots which I’d heard wonderful things about and Barbara was willing to go along with.

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Sara
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Barbara at Kinky Boots

 

Twenty years ago, coming to London to go to the Theatre was probably the best deal in the world.  Prices were extremely low and even more so if you were willing to stand in line at the HalfpriceTix stand in Leicester Square.  No longer true.  I saw the prices in black and white but had a hard time adjusting to the extraordinary fees for tickets.  The Book of Mormon ran 200 pounds a person and were only slightly discounted on the good sites.  So I was so happy with Rush prices and discounted prices.

New Year’s Eve, we had planned to go to a movie and watch the Fireworks on the Thames on the TV from the comfort of our couch.  As it turned out, we picked a movie that was playing at Piccadilly Circle.: Call Me By Your Name.  We both wanted to see it as it was receiving nominations already and there were (still aren’t) no signs of it coming to Paris in the near future.  As far as I’m concerned, it deserves all the rave reviews it is receiving.  Reviewing it will be another blog!  We left the theatre at 11:15pm and were told that all the underground stations nearby were closed for the Fireworks show.  So we walked to Oxford Circle.  Regent Street was closed off to car traffic and we, and thousands of others, were walking in the middle of the street.  There is something so freeing and lighthearted about walking on a main street in a busy large city and there is no traffic.

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Regent Street close to midnight New Year’s Eve
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Sara with wings!

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I found myself on January 4, not wanting to leave London.  That is what a good vacation is supposed to be.  One leaves wanting more instead of dying to get home  What was especially wonderful and surprising for me was that I hadn’t really wanted to go.  I thought it was far too soon to travel when I’d just returned from California a month before.  So to have the two weeks be so relaxing, so entertaining, so Holidayish if you will, was really a wonderful Xmas present.

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Fifth floor tea shop at Fortum and Mason
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The famous Fortnum and Mason baskets

I will close by telling those of you who don’t already know about the Charity Shops in the UK.  I love them.  I’ve been going to Newmarket every October for five years and discovered a Charity Shop every 100 yards or so.  Whenever I am in London now, I look for the Charity shops first.  I always walk away with something that I fall in love with.  This time, I found a wonderful sweater, a pair of gloves (mine weren’t warm enough) and a little wallet for my Oyster card and UK money.  These aren’t consignment shops that are almost too expensive for someone like me.  I like a good bargain but also something I can use.  I bought some Christmas tree balls just for a lark and got home to Paris to find that Bijou, the cat, had managed to bring down my little Christmas tree and I had less than half of the decorations I started with.  The joys of cat ownership!!!!

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near London Post Office–Regent Street

I hope your New Year is starting off well.  And may 2018 see some change toward the better for the world.  With so many body blows on a daily basis, it is often hard to stay open to the hard work and action required to make this world a better place but if not us who?

A bientôt,

Sara

 

Happy New Year—-from Oakland, Ca.

In France, one has the entire month of January to send out New Year’s greetings.  Sending cards for the new year is popular, sending Christmas cards is not.

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So I’m wishing every one of you a wonderful 2017.  What I wish for us all is an ability to navigate our world, our politics (or their politics as the case may be) and to be the best citizen of this world that we can possibly muster without bringing in more anger, more hatred and bitterness than already exists.  It’s not a new concept but imagine if we did one good, kind deed a day and it spread like “The hundredth Monkey Phenomenon”.  Well, I’d like to imagine it!!!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundredth_monkey_effect

Yesterday, I got on a United flight to San Francisco to return to my California home for 4 months.  I was taken by surprise in mid-December when I was told that I needed hip replacement surgery.  Actually, I was given a choice.  It seems that doctors today cannot actually say “you must have…..” without fear of litigation.  One of my choices was surgery.  I went to all my friends who have had hip or knee replacement surgery and asked them one question: “In retrospect, if you had had the surgery done when you were first told that you might need it, would you have done it?”  Without exception, they all said yes.  When I was talking to the orthopedist and he was telling me the pros and cons of cortisone shots, I asked him straight out “is there any reason to delay it?”

The answer, not so surprisingly, was “No”

So I’m scheduled for surgery in mid-February.  The curious fact about me is that I have never been in a hospital since I was born.  My father used to joke “Sara, you were born in Garfield Hospital in Washington, D.C and they immediately tore it down”.  Yes, of course, I’ve been in many doctor’s offices and had two one-hour procedures (that I can remember) but to have a serious surgery and spend the night, that has been my sister’s realm.  And to say I’m a bit anxious would be an understatement.

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View from my bedroom window

Now, the window I get to look out of is my westward-looking windows here in Oakland.  I can see the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge that spans from Oakland to downtown San Francisco (4 miles) and the Golden Gate bridge.  Many evenings, there is a sunset that cannot be rivaled.

California has been suffering a terrible drought for going on six years.  There has been rain, quite a bit of rain, in the last couple of weeks.  As my Uber drove me up my street from the San Francisco airport, the landscape looked strange.  It hit me that everything was Green.  Really Green!  And because it rained on and off yesterday evening, the green was sparkling like itty bitty diamonds jumping around on leaves, on new grass. Now sixteen hours later, it is pouring cats and dogs, as we like to say in English, or I’d go outside and inspect the gardens and see all the changes.

My cat, Bijou, stayed in Paris.  She is living with a friend who has a larger apartment than I did and also has children who love cats.  When I said good bye to her on Thursday evening, everyone had a bit of a hesitant smile.  Bijou was moving around carefully, looking around each corner before she let herself into a room.  W and E looked excited but not sure how to react to her.  I taught them to clap their hands very loudly when Bijou jumps up on a counter or somewhere she shouldn’t be. As if by direction, she immediately jumped up on a kitchen counter.  I clapped very loudly, she jumped down and scampered back to the laundry room which is her temporary quarters.  Then I left and felt my heart thudding with sadness.  It didn’t seem right to make her fly two long plane flights just because I have to have surgery.

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Bijou (photo by Fatiha Antar)

Banya, on the other hand, who grew up in Oakland and moved to Paris with me is in kitty heaven.  She was an indoor/outdoor cat, became an indoor cat in Paris and never seemed to adjust.  Now she is home after a long plane ride.  She must have known she was coming home because she stayed calm and hasn’t stopped purring.

 

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I wish I had a smart closing line like Garrison Keeler and could say “and that’s the news from Oakland where all …..”  If anyone can dream up a really punchy line for me to close with, there is a small Thank You coming your way.  Until then,

A bientôt,

Sara