17 June 2013

We'll Always Have Paris

We had emptied the refrigerator, packed our bags, hugged all our friends, said our good-byes. I had announced to my blog readers that I was taking a hiatus. We were more than ready to get on the plane to Paris, grab a car and drive south in the direction of Provence. You see, before we’d ever met each other, Mark and I had separately had intense relationships with France. I had spent years helping defend France’s honor against Amoco in the legal aftermath of the AMOCO CADIZ oil spill disaster. Mark worked in Paris for a French publisher. We were determined to see if France was still France, and if there was anything for us there anymore.

Then the French air traffic controllers went on strike to protest EU plans to create a single, unified European air space. Our Tuesday late evening flight was canceled, but, given the option between full refund and rescheduling for Sunday, we took Sunday. Actually, we got off easy. We had not been on our way to a congress or a seminar that was not going to wait for us. We were not on our way to a wedding or a funeral that was also not going to wait for us. We were not stuck in a city we barely knew with nothing but the dirty clothes accumulated in the course of a lengthy trip and no prospects except to mark time for days in a hotel that the airline might pay for and then again might not. We were comfortably at home. We spent a few hours rearranging car rentals and hotel reservations. (Thank goodness for the Internet . . . how did we ever manage before?) But then the clock started ticking more sluggishly than usual. Nothing on the calendar. Nothing on the agenda.

Françoise Forton and Aloísio de Abreu
But again we were lucky. Wednesday, the day after we were to leave, was Santo Antônio, the Dia dos Namorados, the Brazilian equivalent of the American St. Valentine’s Day, and Búzios’s tourism department had organized a first-time-ever four-day series of events called (most unfortunately) Búzios Love. Thursday’s schedule promised a show that has been playing in Rio for eight months called Nós Sempre Teremos París (you got it: We’ll Always Have Paris). Was someone telling us something? What an incredible thing to pop up in Búzios, just when we were supposed to be in the Lubéron!

"We'll always have Paris . . ."
The show, a typical boy-meets/loses/finds-girl musical, was actually much more than that. It was the story of a Brazilian Boy who breaks away from his tour group to go sit in a café in Montparnasse on his last night in Paris. At the next table is a Brazilian Girl who is spending her last night in Paris as well. Their eyes meet, they recognize that they’re both Brazilians in love with Paris, and in a flash they fall in love with each other. Paris will do that to you. But they each go their separate ways until twenty years later, when . . . well, you can write the rest. The story unfolded through the lyrics of all the great French classic songs, from Jean Sablon to Charles Trenet to Edith Piaf to Charles Aznavour to Yves Montand — all those songs I learned by heart when I was a kid, because back then I wanted like crazy to be French myself. Here in Búzios we were being reminded of the universal nostalgia for France. We were completely charmed. We sang along, we laughed, we choked up. So did everyone else. It was one of those magical evenings that don’t come around that often anymore, and it reminded us of what we love about France, and what we love about Brazil. Rick and Ilsa might think that they’ll always have Paris, but the truth is that we all will and we all do. And with any luck, Mark and I should be in la douce France as you read this . . . so now I’m really going on a hiatus. À bientôt!

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