A few wonderful days in Paris…

November 15, 2019 at 4:48 pm 8 comments


Every once in a while I am lucky enough to spend a few days in Paris. And I’ve just gotten back from one of those times. I thought in this post I would capture some of the moments I enjoyed, in hopes that they will bring vicarious enjoyment to others as well. And perhaps give information that will lead to others more fully enjoying Paris the next time you’re there.

The first day I was there there was a man playing “Besame mucho” on his guitar in the Metro, accompanied by music coming from a speaker he was wheeling along with him. This man’s fingers were quite bent and disfigured, but it didn’t keep him from playing beautifully. That was a pretty nice welcome to Paris.

That night I went with my friend Adrian Leeds (and about 76 other people) to celebrate the 86th birthday of a much beloved American in Paris, Jim Haynes, who has been opening the doors to his home every Sunday night to anyone who is in town and who makes a reservation. It is a place to gather with people from around the world for a few hours, meet new people, and eat good food. Jim’s salon is a wonderful tradition that has led to countless new friendships being formed, and various other developments, including a recent documentary produced by several people who met at one of his soirées. It is called “Meeting Jim” and you can watch the trailer here.


Jim Haynes and Adrian Leeds at his 86th birthday party. They really should cheer up, don’t you think? (Photo by Patty Sadauskas)

The next morning, as I was working on the fourth floor of the building in the Marais where I was staying, I heard a man working his way down the street playing “I Did It My Way” on his trumpet. Looking out the window, I saw someone hurry over to him and reach into his pocket for change. The next tune the trumpeter played was very different, upbeat and folksy. But he stopped suddenly in the middle of that tune, and I heard a voice call out something from a window somewhere down the street. A request? In any case the trumpeter now went back to a more moody tune as he slowly worked his way away down the street, and out of my hearing. Another nice musical interlude…

That night I attended a meeting of the writers group I am able to join whenever I’m in Paris at the right time. It’s a very friendly, supportive group of writers, and the organizer is kind enough to allow me this privilege. It is always a convivial gathering, and there’s something very nice about being able to spend a couple of hours with a group of people who are all dealing with problems similar to the ones you are dealing with, whether they are literary problems or more practical ones. Writers are not always supportive of each other, but this group is, and in general I have found the American literary community in Paris to be very friendly and supportive. (Take note, writers elsewhere: it can be done, there’s nothing to lose in it, and it makes life so much more pleasant!)


Adrian Leeds and Edith de Belleville getting ready for Apres Midi.

The next day I was able to attend Adrian’s monthly “Apres Midi” meet-up at the Café de la Mairie on the rue de Bretagne. Whenever I am in Paris on the second Tuesday of the month, I attend this gathering: sometimes I even travel all the way from Champagne to come in just for the day to hear a friend speak, or to learn about something new that I just don’t want to miss.

This time I had lunch in the café before the meetup, and I must say, the pluma de cochon, accompanied with a purée of sweet potatoes and a glass of Côte du Rhone, was delicious.


Pluma de Cochon: Jamon Iberico with pureed potatoes (Cafe de la Mairie)

Then it was time to settle in and spend an enjoyable couple of hours visiting with the other attendees and listening to the very intelligent, witty, and vivacious Edith de Belleville, author of “Belles et Rebelles: a l’ombre des grandes parisiennes” tell us about her book. You can read more about her presentation here.

After Apres Midi, I crossed the river by bus, and stopped at the Red Wheelbarrow bookstore to say hello to one of the world’s most wonderful booksellers, Penelope Fletcher, who is doing a great job of selling my book (thank you, Penelope!!!)  Then I walked along the Blvd. St. Michel to Montparnasse, to have dinner with two dear friends I hadn’t seen in a while. One of them is Gary Lee Kraut, who is the editor of the online magazine, France Revisited, which has published some of the articles I’m most proud of. If you don’t know about this publication already, you should! It is a wonderful source of information for “the savvy traveler” who is interested in learning more about France. Here’s the link to one of my articles about Essoyes that was published there.


My fellow panelists, from left to right: Linda Brimm, Janaki Challa, Nicole Tamer, and myself.

Finally, on Wednesday, it was time for the main reason I was in Paris in the first place this month. I was invited to be a panelist at a discussion about expatriate life held at a wonderful institution, the American Library in Paris. The discussion was organized and moderated by Janaki Challa, whose experiences as a “third culture” kid were the main impetus for her creation of this event. The room was packed, and a lively Q&A session followed the panel discussion. An intellectually stimulating evening!

The next morning, after breakfast with my son and one of his best friends, who is visiting Paris, it was back to Essoyes, where the palette has changed from the bright colors of mid-autumn to the more somber pre-Thanksgiving tones of mid-November. And they are lovely too.

I was not able to go to the newly opened Museum of the Liberation during this visit, but I want to mention it for anyone who is reading this post and who may be in Paris sometime soon. I have heard that it is wonderful; it is free; and for anyone who wants to know more about this incredibly important moment in the history of Paris, I am quite sure it is a must-see.

I’ll be back in Paris next week, this time for a quick turnaround visit so that I can see a show curated by literally my “oldest” friend in the world. (We met in the hospital when we were born just two days apart from each other, and our mothers shared a hospital room 🙂 ) The show is called Frapper le Fer (“Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths”), and it is at the Musée Branly.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I give thanks, among so many other things, for the chance to spend time in Paris now and then; to have such good friends there; to have good friends to come back to here in Essoyes; and to have both of my sons currently in France.

Soon there will be Thanksgiving celebrations to report; it looks like several of them this year. Stay tuned…


Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, a literary memoir entitled “A Long Way from Iowa.” 

Entry filed under: About Paris.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kevin Sisson  |  November 15, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    Beautiful, as always. Wish I could have joined you on that healthy visit!

    • 2. Janet Hulstrand  |  November 15, 2019 at 6:50 pm

      Thanks, Kevin. Yeah, me too. But you’ll be back! 🙂

  • 3. Helen Mills  |  November 15, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    So nice to read about your time in France.

    • 4. Janet Hulstrand  |  November 15, 2019 at 6:25 pm

      Thank you, Helen! And so nice to hear from you! 🙂

  • 5. mariehelene56  |  November 15, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    I love reading about your life in Paris, Janet. It is warm and colorful, friendly and musical, stimulating and poignant, what life in a city should be. Really nice post. Keep them coming!

  • 7. Timothy Dunn  |  November 16, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Always such a pleasure to visit vicariously through these posts. Merci, madam, from Orange County, California, USA.

    • 8. Janet Hulstrand  |  November 17, 2019 at 10:16 am

      Thank you so much, Timothy Dunn from Orange County, California! Glad to know you are enjoying my posts 🙂


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