pay it forward

In mid-October, I had a very special visitor come to see me in Paris – my Nana Gwen and her husband Joe – who know Paris well. Since it was relatively soon in my stay, it was nice to have someone to show me around and give me many recommendations, which I am slowly but surely working through !

It was so nice to see a familiar face and spend time with her. We talked about how interesting it is when you see someone you have many memories with, but in a new context. I was reminded of my similar experience in London, and reading back on this article, I’m proud of how much I’ve grown in the past year. And remembering the feeling of “worlds colliding,” I almost feel that it can fortify relationships as you create new memories.

Nana Gwen was staying at the lovely hotel Pavillon de la Reine in the Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris. It was originally called Palace Royale and was built by Henri IV. In modern times it houses many boutiques and art galleries amidst its tunnels and arches. It’s quite a sweet place!!


We went on to the Picasso Museum which was right around the corner, where the exhibit was all about the year 1932 – a very prominent year in the artist’s life, and evidently a time when he made many pieces.

It was a well laid-out museum, in a beautiful historic mansion. The exhibit was arranged first by months of the year, and then by days – each with a location. It was like a glimpse into the life of Picasso as he lived each day, what he was doing, who we was talking to, being inspired by, etc. Among the artwork there were also newspaper clippings and pieces of personal correspondance. I always like to read people’s letters because I think their handwriting tells a lot about their personality. Picasso’s was long and messy, but I could make out most of the French.

« Quand j’étais enfant, je dessinais comme Raphaël, mais il m’a fallu toute une vie pour apprendre à dessiner comme un enfant »

“When I was a child, I used to draw like Raphael, but it look me a whole lifetime to learn how to draw like a child.” – Pablo Picasso

We meandered along the historic streets of le Marais, and went into some beautiful stores. This quarter is known for its lovely (and often pricey) boutiques, but some of the things you can find are just marvelous!!

Nana Gwen introduced me to two of her favorite stores, Leon & Harper, and Claudie Pierlot, both filled with treasures. At both boutiques we had similar experiences, where a young woman a few years older than I came to help us, and really engaged with us! At Leon and Harper she was from the southwest of France near the Spanish border, and she spoke about 6/7 languages. She discovered fashion by chance, after she had tried her hand at a few careers, and found she loved it, and loved that brand (it’s easy to see why) ! She made us feel so welcome, and I’ll not forget that experience. In France, it’s custom to say bonjour to the people as soon as you walk in the door, to acknowledge their presence and announce your own, or vice versa. It’s different from the US, where the shopper almost wants to be invisible and independently go about their business, only seeking out the employee if they need them. So at Claudie Pierlot, a young woman dressed very smartly came up and introduced herself and offered her assistance. When I responded, she immediately said laughingly, “Where are you from? I notice you have an accent because I too have an accent.” She is Italian, and at the end of our visit, she offered her name and phone number to keep in touch, because “It never hurts to make new friends, and I remember when I came here I didn’t know anybody so now maybe we can be friends!” Evidently these experiences left an impression with me, and I like to think of them as ‘paying it forward.’ The next time I am in a position to be someone that someone might look up to, or want to be friends with, I will pay the kindness that I received that day forward to others. It never hurts to smile and be kind, and even a small gesture can make an impact in someone’s day. With that to think about,

xx, R.

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