Well, I’m ready to come home. I think. Not really, but for some things. I miss my washing machine, as the ones here are jokes. I miss my hot-water heater. And I miss my friends, dog and daughter. Otherwise, I could easily stay here indefinitely.
Last night we met an American couple who’s been here for three years. Older than us, but not by much. They’d gone from retirement in Florida to France, and seem set on staying. They explained how they sold everything they owned, transported the bare minimum to Paris, where they rented a storage unit and have apartment-hopped in several-month stints since. Trying to find just the right neighborhood, they said. They’re both on the French health system. “And if you’re over 65, they don’t even require you to speak French,” the man said. They’re going for permanent residency, and likely will get it.
This was one of several conversations with English-speaking people we have had in the past month. A British father/son pair in Segueret (the place we found the wine) explained the idiocy of Brexit, and I told them that if we switched just a few names around, they could be explaining Trumpism. One of the other people on the Paris bike tour was a feisty lady from South Dakota, who referred to Kristy Noem as “Governor Barbie.” She said she didn’t worry about offending anyone who might overhear, because no one who’d be offended would be in Europe in the first place.
So hey, the resistance lives.
But sooner or later, we have to leave the land of two-button toilet flushes behind, and for us, it’s this weekend. It’s been a great trip. We got our exit Covid tests today (both negative), so that was a relief. We’ve stood on packed subway/tram cars, walked through densely populated outdoor spaces, masked indoors, unmasked (mostly) outdoors, and have been fine. Vaccination rate here now tops 85 percent, yet mask compliance is pretty thorough. If you like, there’s a New York Times op-ed about the European mask situation that I more or less agree with.
What else do you want to know? How about the topless-beach thing, maybe? It’s been warm enough that on sunny days, there are a fair number of sunbathers on the beach, even in October. But topless women? Only a very few. When I was here as a young person, it was reversed. (Or so I was told, by my resident friend.) What changed? I blame camera phones. It’s one thing to sun your boobs if you are among friends, but if you know some creep can put you in a “Best Titties on the Riviera” loop on Pornhub without you even knowing, that’s a deal-breaker. I did notice that women will change out of their wet bathing suits into street clothes without excess modesty, and no one seems to look.
In our final days, Alan has turned into Jimmy Stewart in “Rear Window,” sitting on the terrace watching the square five walk-up floors below. There’s a strange woman who seems to be juggling, but doesn’t — she throws a ball from hand to hand and another up in the air. Two guys messed around with a drone this morning. There are domino games on the tables. And we watched an influencer with a full video crew walk and pose by the fountain through several takes. If there’s a murder down there before we leave, he’ll be a star witness.
Tomorrow, we take the train first to Marseille, then the TGV to Paris again. Maybe a final update from there.