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  • Ashleigh Ogilvie-Lee

Blog 13- Versailles , Maryse and beyond.

Versailles is very different from Josette’s house, but in its opulence, it is just as unfriendly. It is a good example of what infinite money could buy in the 17th century, and our modern-day equivalent is probably Elon Musk going to the moon, Mars, and beyond. Now, I don’t want to be critical of the Sun King’s legacy, but I’m sure he didn’t share his place with an extra 'a' with 500 busloads of tourists who look at every tapestry, vestibule, painting, bed, statue, mirror as possible backgrounds for their selfies.


The most interesting thing I learned was that the aristocrats competed for the privilege of watching the Sun King wake up, eat his meals, and get ready for bed, so the need to follow people is nothing new, and the more outrageous they are, the more some people admire them. The madding crowds definitely destroyed the magnificence of the experience for me. I felt like "Where is Wally?" looking for myself in the hall of mirrors, private chapel, the king’s room, the queen’s room, the ballroom, the opera room, the Africa room, the Italian room, etc.


The gardens made me feel sad. All forms of life, except ticket-wielding tourists, crows, and one forlorn fish, have been extinguished. I was a rare solitary tourist sitting perched on the end of a stone bench staring at statues of Apollo, making sure he, like Louis, controlled the cosmos.


From Versailles, I caught a train to the town of Chaville, which is 15 minutes from the palace of Versailles. My friend Patricia picked me up from the railway station. I haven’t seen Pat since my birthday, which was the day after the fete. Pat had picked me up from school and marched me in the rain to the Bonne Marche, the most expensive shop in Paris, where the great fashion houses like Dior and Chanel sit comfortably like birds in their own nest. After that, we had a galette with an egg in it and shared a salty caramel one as my birthday cake. My feet were sore, and I was quite wet. Pat had a cider, and I ordered a 50 cl pichet of red wine to celebrate my birthday, but I couldn’t drink it all. Pat dropped me home afterwards and shook her head a little at my 12th arrondissement, saying "pas très agréable."


Anyway, I was very happy to be with my one friend again in Chaville, and she drove me to her sister’s house, which was once her mother’s house and has been in the family for 100 years. I walked into the typically French house where everything is modest but pleasing, and televisions are hidden. All Pat’s family were there to meet her great friend from the other side of the world. There was her sister Catherine and her husband Olivier, a pediatrician, their daughter Sophie, son Nicolas, Pat’s mother Michele, and Pat’s daughter Nana, who lived with me in NZ for three months. They were all sitting around a table, and there were empty plates and wine glasses, and I just wish I had been at the vivant party, not alone in a cold bench in a forlorn garden. I think they were quite hoping I’d be gay and entertaining, but I missed my own family, and I felt very tired from battling the madding crowds at Versailles and my life here in general that I drank some water and fell asleep.


When I woke up, the family was profiting from the sun and sitting on little rickety chairs in the long grass sprinkled with a million daisies. Nicolas was fast asleep on an old tin lounger. There are eggs hanging from branches in the trees to stop them from getting sick. Sophie is part of the extraordinary transformation of Paris for the Olympic games, whereby it has been decreed that all of Paris must take a bath, and the dirt that has happily sullied Paris for hundreds of years has been banished. Sophie and 199 others have the sole job of making sure the Olympic flag doesn’t go out as it travels first class from Greece to Paris.


After sitting in the sun for an hour or so, I walked with Pat and Nana and Michele through the petit village to Michele’s little house, which is just like one might imagine Red Riding Hood living in. I found Pat’s mother to be extremely charming, but Pat says she complains a lot, and I tell Pat my mother never complains, and then I feel I am showing off a bit. We wave goodbye to Pat’s mother and her little ginger cat and drive to Paris with Nana in the back seat, and we go down the Champs Elysée in Pat’s mother’s little car, and for a moment, I feel like I am a real French person, and I look down my nose at all the tourists.


We arrive in the quartier of Belle Ville at Francoise’ house, and there is Maryse waiting to see if she likes me. Francoise takes in students from another school, and she says she has to provide locks on their doors and a comfortable chair for them to sit on in a room other than their bedroom. In that funny way of the French, we all mill about for ages, and then once we’ve stood for a good 20 minutes or so, not quite knowing what to do, we sit down. Francoise squats behind a small trolley and offers us a drink, which I am hoping is a strong aperitif, but she passes it to me and assures me it is non-alcoholic. I eat some very crunchy pretzels before Maryse eats them all. Eventually, we open the bottle of red wine, which we have with slices of turnips. Maryse talks about Jane Campion in a very intelligent way, and she has a laugh like a tinkly bell and looks like a glamorous aging film star. She beckons to me to come out on the balcony with her, and we stand looking at the sunset over Montmartre. I say, by way of pleasing her, that Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, and Maryse says, "I wouldn’t know; I haven’t traveled enough," and she blows smoke all over me. We eat warm soup and a dish with Haricot beans and carrots as Francoise has decided potatoes are not good for you. Francoise has very short black hair and is quite stern, and all these women are teachers, and I feel like I am the only pupil for them to teach. Finally, Maryse says yes, I can come and stay with her.


While I am very pleased to hear this, I am longing for a little place all of my own where I can think my thoughts and just be with me. Being in your own den is an addictive state. Again, I am ashamed of my spoiled self, and I know it will be a job telling Josette I’m leaving or sneaking out when she’s not looking, getting all my stuff out of her house, telling the school what has happened, and moving in with a stranger. It all seems overwhelming, and there is one other little nagging doubt in my head. Maryse is charming and speaks excellent French, but she has told me three times that she fell on the trottoir (pavement) and broke her leg, and that this meant she couldn’t get out on the balcony to water her plants, and they all died. I am alerted to her loneliness. Françoise asks if we can drop her home, and we all climb into Pat’s little car and drive to my future arrondissement called the Republique. Maryse doesn’t seem too keen to get out of the car as she seems a bit confused. I sit in the back seat and feel like an orphan been relocated to another foster home. We agree I will go to her house tomorrow and finalize arrangements for me to move in, but I have a sneaking suspicion she will have completely forgotten what we arranged before she has got out of the car. I feel an affection for my new flatmate, and I suspect she has a lot of love to give, and it’s all going to be coming my way.


Enjoy the photos:


Where is Ashy?


How I imagined my bed would be at Josettes.


Bienvenue.


Imagining it's my Maman.


La famille de Patrica.


Eggs in the tree pourquoi pas?


Au jardin.


The French kitchen.


Francoise and her trolly.




A vision of loveliness.


Maryse, Françoise and Pat.


La soupe.




La cuisine française.




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5 comentarios


Invitado
07 jun 2023

The adventure continues 🤗

Well done finding the new digs 👏 Loving your blog 🥰

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Invitado
05 jun 2023

Answer to the Wordle today was ENNUI, and of course I thought of Parisiene you. Aimee and Sam were indignant as they've 'never heard the word' which is either an indictment or testimony to my parenting. (We all did it in 4 attempts, however) WG

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Invitado
05 jun 2023

The next adventure.... sounds a paln, plans may change too :) Joxo

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Invitado
03 jun 2023

Sadly,you are tiring of l'adventure des menage, l'ecole and appointments Francez, but your piquant humour, accuracy of observation, detachment and bathos happily pervades your wonderful accounts. Bravo mon brave!

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Invitado
03 jun 2023
Contestando a

Dear Guest , just as I tire, as you so so aptly perceive, in typical French fashion they throw the best of themselves at me. You will see in my next blog or two that I move to stay with the most charming French woman one could ever know , except for my mother of course. Maryse is 80 years old and has nothing to do but occupy herself with me. Now this is tiring but I am learning to say, Maryse I must have some time to herself and she sits outside my bedroom and reads the newspaper until I come out.

in all honesty c'est un peu fatiguant! merci for your lovely message....

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