Living the dream in Paris

You’re free do something really different with your life. Don’t lose your get-up-and-go.” My daughter was taking me in hand, because, at the age of 60, I’d just ended a relationship with a musician who’d turned out to be more prodigal son than partner.

Anne, my visiting British friend, chimed in: “What happened to your Paris dream? We British do it all the time.”

An ad on the internet – “My London for your Paris. Wanted: a month-long flat swap” – brought a response from Chloe, a photographer commissioned to document London life. She moved in with a promise to water my plants; I would look after her cat, Joe.

Chloe’s bedsit (on Avenue Parmentier in the 11th arrondissement) had a shared bathroom on the landing. Café Plein Soleil, the neighbourhood bar, served as the living room. A simple late supper and small carafe of wine was a nightly pleasure. On my first visit, a pair of regulars – septuagenarians Hermine and Claudine, lap dogs in tow – befriended me. They preferred the cafe to evenings in their apartments. “We’d love to practise our English with you, and we can help with your French.”

Paris-Plages was a nice surprise. For a month, the roads along the Seine are transformed into a beach resort with palm trees, cafe-bars, a swimming pool and even a library. All free of charge. Most days I went early, in time to nab a sunlounger.

With my Paris adventure drawing to its end I invited bonnes vivantesHermine and Claudine to the beach guingette (open-air dance hall) for a farewell aperitif. Tipsy on joie de vivre, we danced the night away. Later, Hermine suggested that I return and use her spare room for a while, to see if I’d like to live in Paris permanently.

Thrilled by her offer, I’ve decided to go back in spring with a view, just maybe, to selling up and starting anew. My daughter and my friend Anne were most impressed and, they had to admit, just a wee bit envious too.

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