I arrived in Paris early on June 13th, last year. Silke collected me at the airport and then we took the metro to her house, we had tea and delicious strawberries and yoghurt and some rusks that I brought from South Africa. The sun started to come out properly and by 8.30 we were ready for the day.
Silke's room was small but lovely - with a view over rooftops with chimney pots and TV antennas...yes! one still sees them. It looked down on a huge chestnut tree and across from her window was someone's kitchen. It was a quiet place surrounded by walls and a courtyard and only from the distance one could hear the hum of the cars.
Silke knew of a scenic bus route that would give us a nice view of the city....she asked a few times for direction - I was so impressed with her French - but after walking in circles that led us past the same shops three times we took the Metro.
Over the next few days we looked at a few of the 'must see' attractions, like Notre Dame, the Sacre Ceur, the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou, and others...We ate Galettes and Croque Monsieur's and wonderful little pastries sitting at tiny pavement coffee tables...it was all wonderful...I liked everything!
On my list of things that I wanted to do was a visit to a flee market...searching out Hemingway's old writing spots... and to stand once somewhere close to the Eiffel Tower. Silke googled flee markets and we went to one that was described as 'small but special'. Looking through yesteryears treasures, old washed out chintzes and household linens, white embroidered camisoles, little girls smoked dresses...unaffordable old indigo dyed workers clothes - which I would have really liked one of - I was in collectors heaven...!
I bought some small bits and pieces, always keeping my suitcase in mind, that has to bring it all back...and this was only the beginning of my three week trip which would still take me to Austria and Italy, so I tried to be sensible. But, there is a moment which happens rarely, I am glad to say, when logic gets pushed aside to make way for pure indulgence! After strolling in a stop and go fashion for hours, picking up, touching, talking, soaking it all in...I came to a stall that sold a few old household things, some garden tools, small furniture, antique crockery...and one red Provençal quilt. As I unfolded it...looking for its weaknesses, which would help me to put it back...Marcel Pagnol's countryside opened up right before my mind...Jean de Florette...the hills...the cicadas...the heat...and the wild herbs...with every little mended patched I discovered I longed more to have it.
But how would I get it back to South Africa? It would not even fit in my suitcase! Silke, practical and ever the true friend suggested she ask her brother who was coming to Paris in a week and he could bring an extra suitcase and take it back with him...which he did, and for that I am ever grateful.
That was the beginning of the journey of my French quilt. Luckily I had bought a very large linen bag the day before and so I carried this massive double bed quilt around with me, to all the sights, to the Montparnasse cemetery in search of famous dead people, to coffee shops, book shops, boutiques...for the rest of the day. It might not have been very chic lumbering this huge bag around with me... but I was very happy! I slept under the quilt during my stay in Paris...wondering where it had been before, or as Silke suggested , "who has died under it"...which bothered me a bit for a moment...but a good wash was all it really needed.
After a complicated journey that involved the good will of a few people, different collection points and an almost missed flight, the quilt finally arrived in Cape Town on a rainy day four months later. Until I find the right bed to put it on, it has pride of place in my living room, draped over a chair where it reminds me of how I found it and my wonderful week with Silke in Paris.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!