My Birthday Surprise (Chapter Two) - Going Through the Mirror Down to My Past

Is it wise to go back to places where you have been very happy during some part of your past?

I have already written a post about my birthday surprise. We went down south to Carcassonne, a place I hadn’t been to for at least 30 years. A place that was part of my family history but not a place where I had lived.

My roots go back to the “Montagne Noire” and Arfons, my family’s birthplace on my mother’s side.

In 1989, we settled down in Brittany. I have told the story again and again. Sometimes, I would feel a twinge of sorrow whenever I started going down memory lane.

Arfons was still so much part of my life that from time to time I even toyed with the idea of buying a house there. The family home had long been lost due to family problems. But I still owned my Bonne-Maman’s garden in a lovely place, close enough to the village square. It was big enough to  have a house built there.

Then Les Tertres became our family home and Arfons slowly faded away.

Until this summer.

I loved going back to Carcassonne but I knew I had to confront my past sooner than later. We were so close to Arfons after all.

I was worried sick when Popeye started the car and we were on our way to Arfons, going through the same villages I used to go through 50 years ago.

Nothing much had changed. The roads still were narrow and in need of repair. The villages looked the same. Almost the same... A few houses looked really dilapidated.

We still were on the southern slope of the Montagne Noire. The sun was shining. Why should I worry about a few deserted houses?

Pretty soon we got close to Saissac. This is where my parents had a house built after my grandmother’s death because the climate is much warmer there than in Arfons.

Saissac is a very pleasant village with a castle from the early Middle Ages. This castle was one of the key places during the Albigensian Crusade. When I was a teenager, a family from Arfons decided to retire in Saissac.

As a family project, they decided to restore the castle which was falling in ruins. Pretty soon the whole village joined their effort... then they started getting funds from the department of Culture.

It was worth it.

But Saissac does not belong to my family history. I come from Arfons, from the heart of an extinct volcano, from the heart of the Montagne Noire.

So Popeye kept on driving. I got very excited all of a sudden. It still was sunny but pretty cool and humid outside. And then there were the smells and the sounds.

Brooks. I had forgotten. All over the place. Running through the forest which was getting thicker and thicker.

This one is the birthplace of the Canal du Midi, carried through in the XVIIth century.

From there, you keep on driving and you arrive to the Lampy which was the first reservoir for the Canal. 

For us, when we were children and later on, teenagers, it was our “sea”. We used to walk there from Arfons and back every day during the summer. No adults with us. It was very safe.

We had our favorite places there... besides walking round it. (I can’t believe how much we used to walk! Some days from 6 to 8 miles...) 

There was “La tortue” (the tortoise), our favorite spot to spend the whole day on its small rocky beach. We could sit on the rocks and read and talk... So many pictures taken (and lost, I imagine) of the girls playing at being the “The Little Mermaid”. (We had very childish occupations, seems like but we had so much fun.)

And then we’d go swimming. It was fun to swim across the Lampy... from one side to the other... except that you had to walk back where you had left your stuff. But since we never swam alone, it was fun going back because we were together, always together.

Hard to imagine such a simple and free way of living nowadays... and so much walking!

When the Canal did not need any extra water, the water level was quite high and the small beaches disappeared.

The Lampy belonged to us.

I was surprised by its deserted look, so many years later. In July!

The day we were there, it turned cold and greyish. All of a sudden. I had warned Popeye. There is a curve close to a farm called “Le Fajal”. After this curve, you start going down... You have left the southern and sunnier slope.

Bad weather and cold always start there. 

Popeye did not believe me. At first. Then he started feeling some insidious coolness creeping into our car. And he checked the thermometer. In less than one mile, we had lost 6°C - From 68°F down to 57°F...

“How could you stand it...?”

Well, I was much younger and second, we did not care about the weather. I guess we were tougher.

The milestone was still up. Quite worn out. But they have kept it. How many times did we stand on this imaginary border between two “départements” - Tarn and Aude? From one département to the other, the road itself changed its name. One foot in Tarn and the other one in Aude. Our whole world! Imagine!

I started laughing when I noticed the first signpost... Bends for 4.3 miles. You have to know that when you see such a signpost, you are in for quite a ride! Hairpin bends. S-curves. Banked corners. On a very narrow road.

No signpost on the road still means bends because you are going down from 2.000 ft to 1.400 ft. But nicer bends! But signposts... Just imagine!

One thing was missing though. I was unable to find the spring that we called “The Love Spring” (La fontaine de l'Amour). I’m pretty sure the ritual went back to aeons of time. Whenever you really were in love with someone (which happened almost once every summer to each one of us), you had to go to the Love Spring, get a few drops in your hand and drink them while thinking about the loved one.

And our love was supposed to last forever and ever... And we went back to the spring every year... or worse, every month...

Which definitely shows that our world was not the world we are living in right now. We did believe in the miracle of love that was flowing from the spring.

I guess I no longer need to drink from the spring. With Popeye in my life for so many years, I’m sure I no longer need it.

It was fun though to believe in miracles before our lives became tougher and tougher in a world we were totally unprepared to face.

We faced it though. We grew up and we all survived. We all have children. Some of us have grandchildren. But nowadays, who would believe in the “Spring of Love”?


 (To be continued)

*Good Luck, and Good Night*


The day I met Jean-Marie Baudic in Brittany and totally fell for his "cuisine"... (and the chef)

Life is always filled with surprises. Some are bad. Some are good. It’s so nice to remember the good ones.

In 2003, I was diagnosed with cancer. In August 2004, I was barely beginning to recover from surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Since I was not feeling too good in July, at least not good enough to celebrate my birthday properly, we decided to wait until August which we would spend in Brittany as usual.

Someone told us about a young chef who was working in Saint-Brieuc, not too far away from our place. Everybody was singing his praises. A young chef on his way to ‘stardom’.

Popeye invited a few friends and we went to the restaurant where he was working. I was feeling awfully tired and not really up to eating.

As soon as the meal started, I started feeling better and better and better.

Do not ask me what we ate. All I remember is that everything turned out to be delightful. Delightful? Magical is a better word to describe what turned out in our plates.

The chef, Jean-Marie Baudic, had been told about me and he was very eager to make me happy. To tell the truth, while I was eating my first ‘real’ meal in many months, I started feeling like the Danish villagers in “Babette’s Feast”. Delighted and so happy.

Months went by. Every time we were in Brittany, we’d go back to the restaurant where he was officiating. And we’d leave so happy, so delighted again and again. Never disappointed. Not once.

Then Cancer #2 struck... I kind of put Jean-Marie away in a small box called “If”... My life was too tough then to even think about eating.

When I surfaced from this nightmare, I found out that Jean-Marie had opened his own restaurant: “Le Youpala Bistrot” in Saint-Brieuc.

We went there of course, the very minute I started feeling better. Quite a pleasant surprise. Not a big restaurant but a small place amazingly very cheerful and comfy.

There was no menu. The waiter smiled at us and told us that we had to trust the chef who had prepared quite a few surprises for our dinner.

 This meant that every morning, Jean-Marie improvised a new menu from his daily trip to the market or from what his local suppliers (fishermen and truck farmers) brought him.

You’d think this is an awful lot of work, not knowing exactly what you’ll be fixing the following day when you own a restaurant. Not having a menu, the same one more or less every day for a couple of months at least. Not working with static recipes.

No daily routine at the Youpala.

Actually Jean-Marie loves having fun and for him, cooking has to be playful... He is a little bit like a child when he opens his toy box after waking up.

Old toys become brand new once they are discovered again in the morning. New games can be made up from scratch.

Well, this is the way Jean-Marie works.

And the result is pure magic.

From the beginning to the end of the meal.

Eating at the Youpala is a lot like taking a trip to Wonderland.

Don’t misunderstand me. The guy and his team are likeable and fun but they work hard, really hard to renew this magical feast day after day.

For us, a gourmet meal is a work of art. Really. A little bit more fleeting than a painting but still a work of art.

Do you remember the movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding”? Julie Roberts aka Julianne Potter is a restaurant critic. The beginning takes place in a posh restaurant.

Chefs do appreciate their customers’ feedback. “Please, tell the chef this course is awesome. The blend of those flavors is wonderful, etc., etc.”

End of digression. Back to Jean-Marie.

Every time we go to the Youpala, we know we are in for a wonderful meal. An incredible experience. Something to talk about all the way home.

This summer was very frustrating because his restaurant was full every night.

We managed to make reservations for the night before we were leaving Les Tertres.

Actually I am not complaining. It’s always better to wait for such a  gorgeous experience...

Of course, the minute we sat down, Jean-Marie came out of his kitchen with a smile and a cheerful wave to let us know that he was happy to see us. Then back to his kitchen.

“Babette/Jean-Marie’s Feast” was about to start.

I won’t be able to tell you exactly what we ate because every course is a fabulous blend of many products and spices.

Here are a few (not very good) pictures though...

Gilted bream, langoustine, striped mullet, razor clams either in tempura or carpaccio. Ceps, all kinds of tomatoes, peas, fennel, salicornia, black radish, beans, etc. 

All this slightly cooked in delicious herb bouillons or lightly fried in tempura. One wonderful blend of flavors and aromas, sweetness and spices, tender morsels and crunchy bites. And extremely yummy desserts.

One unforgettable meal again... because of the excellent ingredients which Jean-Marie cooks so well but also because of the memories we took home... Those moments of pure happiness and delectation.

We are going back to the Youpala on Saturday night. I can hardly wait. 

Isn’t it wonderful that there are people like Jean-Marie Baudic? People filled with passion and inventiveness. True artists who know how to make you happy, really happy even when life is not this much fun sometimes.

(To my readers who will go through Northern Brittany and stop at Saint-Brieuc, do not forget to make reservations at the Youpala. It is quite famous now and it boasts one star in the Michelin Guide. Reservations are a must... As I said before, Jean-Marie is on his way to stardom. He deserves it.)

*Good Luck, and Good Night*


Our 48 hours in Quebec after 'The Wedding'

We did not stay up very late after the wedding dinner.

We had socialized a lot in between courses. It was so amazing to see how people who probably had never met before mingled very easily.

In France, a wedding can be the stuffiest thing ever. Not in Montreal. At least, not at Marc-Antoine and Marie-Claude’s wedding reception which was very warm and cheerful.

We were exhausted and jet-lagged. We left the reception as soon as the dance started. 

Wrong. We watched while the newlyweds danced a rumba. A very beautiful ballroom dance. (I may be wrong about the rumba. I definitely had trouble staying awake.) Well, anyway. It was graceful and beautiful.

The following morning (quite late), there was a brunch where we kept on meeting people and renewing our acquaintance with whoever we had met the night before.

I could not get over the jet-lag and I made quite a few hilarious mistakes.

People were kind enough to tell me I was adressing the wrong person with the name I thought I remembered so well from the night before. Well, it was fun anyway.

We were supposed to go spend the rest of the day and the night at Marc-Antoine’s parents’place. Our dear friends, J. and L.

After they left France to go back to Quebec, we had always managed to stay in touch. Popeye would go see them whenever he’d be working in Montreal. We’d meet in Paris whenever J. and L. were there because of J.’s job.

Marc-Antoine was a good link between the families since he was travelling back and forth between Montreal and Paris. So we did keep in touch. A lot but maybe not enough.

When Marc-Antoine told us on the phone that we’d all be staying at his parents’ after the wedding, I was quite shocked. Had I been in my dear friend

L.’s shoes, no way I could have done something like this. Too exhausting.

I was quite reluctant to impose. But Marc-Antoine was adamant. Weren’t we all ready to help his parents, just the way it had been a long time ago?

A long time ago is a long time ago, isn’t it?

Besides, L. is a such a perfect housewife that I had a hard time remembering helping her whenever we were at their place.

And then, the very minute we drove into their wonderful garden, everything became allright.

L. and J. were delighted to show us their new home, right by the Saint Lawrence River.

We immediately fell under the spell of their place.

An extremely charming and elegant house in a beautiful and peaceful garden. A wonderful gazebo by the river. (My dream... a gazebo at Les Tertres.) Their own pontoon... just like in a Hollywood movie... where you can sit, your legs dangling in the water, and read and talk and eventually launch a boat. (They do have a boat!)

And the magnificent Saint Lawrence River, 40 miles wide. (At least.)

J. is not reading over my shoulder right now otherwise he’d start laughing and say: «Aren’t you forgetting something?»

Sorry, my dear J. I almost did.

A hunting trophy: a very handsome roebuck head. In Brittany, I would have been real mad. But there, it was so totally in harmony with the wild immensity around their home...

Hunting a roebuck in Canada is totally different from hunting pheasants just out of the farm in Brittany. Isn’t it?

The newlyweds arrived, looking quite tired but still very happy...

The boys including Popeye, of course, started playing ball. They went swimming. They ran around like puppies... so much like the way they were a long time ago.

The bride and the older and wiser people (including me) sat talking while enjoying the breeze in the gazebo.

Before I keep on rambling as usual, I’ll have to show you a picture of the boys and even two! Our poor JC! We should have left him to the care of J. and L. more often. (Well, JC is 6 ft tall... I think!)

Try to find JC!

You’ll probably think that right out from a very exhausting event, we ate very quickly and went to bed.

Wrong. We had a lot of fun. We talked and laughed and talked and laughed and laughed and talked again but not until the wee hours of the morning... because we all were tired after all.

The three of us (remember, one father, one mother and one son) were feeling so happy, so comfy... A storm was raging outside... and the home was filled with happiness.

Ten years ago (maybe less), Popeye brought a bottle of wine from France and gave it to our friends to thank them for a heavenly meal at their old house. They did not drink it that night.

Before we started eating, J. asked Popeye to follow him into his wine cellar. The bottle was still there... Our name was written on it. They had decided to keep it until the three of us would come to their place. This is what I call having faith in an everlasting friendship.

What a wonderful night. Friendship and bonding even more strongly than ever before.

We finally went to bed and I’m sure we all fell asleep quite quickly.

We got up early because Popeye needed to work.

I wanted to get my eyes, my mind, my heart filled with the scenery. The Saint-Laurent is  a very powerful magnet for someone like me who loves wild expanses of water and peacefulness.

And guess what? Well, look at who was waiting for me to get up?

Yes, I know, there are grey herons in Paris. I’ve seen one, once and only once, by the Grand Palais.

But try to imagine. Opening my very tired eyes and seeing a beautiful grey heron right on the pontoon in front of me.

It stayed there all morning long. Until we started eating brunch. 

By then the wonderful meal was enough to claim all my attention. And once more we were laughing and talking and talking and laughing. As if we had never lived apart for so many years.

I guess this is what true friendship is all about. Bonding right away again without a single moment of embarrassed silence.

We tried to restore the house to its peaceful state before our invasion. A little bit hard but L. kept saying that it did not matter at all...

By then we were in a hurry to get back to Montreal (a 2 hours drive from their place) since Marc-Antoine and Marie-Claude had postponed their honeymoon (to the Galapagos) not only to spend some time with us at his parents’ home but also to show us their own home in the city.

So we kissed J. and L. goodbye. It was almost tearful... Except that they will come back to Les Tertres pretty soon we hope and we’ll be back to Montreal.

I have fallen in love with the Saint-Laurent and the wilderness there. Maybe this is not the real reason after all!

We spent a few hours with Marc-Antoine, Marie-Claude and their cats in their beautiful condo they have renovated not too long ago. A lot of work  but a very pleasant place to live in.

They even have a vegetable garden and a compost. Their tomatoes were delicious. So was the corn on the cob they cooked for us. (They had bought the corn from a stall on our way back.) Fingers licking good!

Why do moments like those have to end? So that we’ll feel like coming back? Probably.

We will come back.

As soon as Popeye gets a few days off from work even though he still works when he’s away from work. So why doesn’t he work more away from work? Does it make sense?

Those three days in the Montreal area have truly made a difference in my life. A huge difference even if I still have the hardest time to recover from jet-lag. A huge difference even if as soon as we hit the tarmac in Roissy, our phones started ringing. Some good news and some bad ones. Usual business.

A huge difference. Within those three very short days in Montreal, there came the realization that friendship truly endures through time, separation, hardships. Well I already knew this.

But in Montreal, it became so true and real.

This experience gave me strength again and a renewed sense of well-being.

It was not a dream and I do not want to let it become a vague memory.


I know I won’t.

*Good Luck, and Good Night*

The Perfect Wedding - So much love and happiness

When they entered the small church in Bedford, Quebec, I could not help it. Tears started flowing down my face.

Popeye nudged me sweetly and whispered to me:

«This is a wedding, honey. Not a funeral... for a change.»

How right he was. We had been to three funerals in less than eighteen months. Our dear Yvonne and Henri and then Jean, our closest neighbor, a mere three weeks before.

I kept crying... I was bursting with joy. Only tears could relieve this emotional outburst. Impossible to start waltzing or clapping or singing in the church! So I cried.

I was not sobbing. I just let the tears flow down freely from my joyful heart.

Yes, tears can flow from one’s heart. At least this is what happened then and there.

Marc-Antoine and Marie-Claude looked so happy. Pure bliss.

Marc-Antoine walked down the aisle, holding hands with his parents. The three of them were beaming. Our sweet and dear friends ever since the early 1990s.

Marie-Claude followed a few minutes later, holding her parents’ hands. They too looked so radiant.

The bride was so beautiful, standing as she did in the ray of sun while someone opened the church door to let her come in.

I felt so, oh so happy to be there, in Bedford, while this perfect couple was getting married... holding hands with my two men, my husband and my son, ‘Popeye’ and JC (aka Swee’ Pea in so many posts).

Now I have to tell you the whole story. I have to explain why we were in Quebec in September 2011, attending such a perfect wedding. Well, not the complete story which would take several posts, I’m sure.

One day in 1990, a long time ago, a young boy from Quebec entered our life. He was to become our «Canadian son», JC’s lifelong best friend and «brother». When the story started, they were almost 11 years old.

In April 2007 (17 years later), Marc-Antoine called us from Montreal. He had met the most wonderful girl in the world and he wanted us to meet her but not in Paris, not in Brussels. No. He wanted us to meet her in Brittany where he had spent so many happy times with us throughout the years. Partly for the memories and mostly because he wanted to show her Les Tertres, our family place.

What can you say? We made plans. I sort of remember that Popeye cancelled a trip. Wow! And JC decided to come over even though he was in the throes of writing his PhD dissertation - last mile. Wow again!

Marc-Antoine and Marie-Claude arrived in Brittany in May 2007 to spend a few days with us.

We fell in love with «the» girl as soon as we met. She was so charming. Happy. Cheerful. Beautiful and bright. And very much in love with our Marc-Antoine.

Marc-Antoine was beaming all the time, very much in love and quite different already. Quieter, I’d say. More level-headed, if I may say so. Probably from a feeling of deep fulfillment.

The few days we spent with them were delightful. We were sad to say goodbye but we knew that we’d see both of them again. She was so obviously «the one» for our dear Canadian boy.

Life went on. They were making plans. Moving in together. Getting settled. Getting jobs. Travelling. Still very happy and very much in love.

Later on, they told us about their engagement. We were so happy.

Sounds like everything they have been doing since we met Marie-Claude made us very happy. Well, happiness begets happiness, doesn’t it?

This April, they flew to Paris to visit with us. On their way back from Thailand to Montreal. There was something they wanted to tell us about.

They were getting married in September in Montreal and they wanted to make sure we’d be there... the three of us.

At first, I felt a little bit worried, not because of their wedding of course. Their wedding was wonderful news. I was worried because I was not really feeling up to travelling so far yet.

We started to make serious plans in June though. JC would be arriving from LA and we’d meet in Montreal a few hours before the wedding.

I went and bought my 'wedding finery' and started planning the trip... I mean, planning the trip in my head. This is a process anybody else would call 'getting ready'.

In August, I had a few minor health problems and I really wondered whether or not I’d be able to make it after all.

But I did have to go to their wedding. JC and Popeye used a very convincing point: Marc-Antoine and Marie-Claude were really expecting us to be there. Period.

They were so right.

Had I not been there...

I would have missed being reunited as a family again during three wonderful days... Two parents from France and their son from California...

I would have missed all the text messages Marc-Antoine left on JC’s phone as soon as he heard we were getting closer and closer. Questions upon questions. Until JC called him: «We are really here and on our way. We’ll be arriving very shortly in Bedford. Quit worrying.»

I would have missed all the hugs and kisses we got from Marc-Antoine’s family as soon as we got to the hotel prior to going to the church where he was already waiting for his love to arrive.

I would have missed his broad smile and the way he engulfed the three of us in his arms as soon as he saw us. (He’s a huge guy as you may have noticed.)

I would have missed crying while they walked into the church (and through the whole wedding. Almost!)

I would have missed their so radiant and obvious love while they promised each other love and fidelity. 

I would have missed her beauty and sweetness and joy.

I would have missed meeting so many sweet people who welcomed us so warmly...

I would have missed... I would have missed... so many things, so many sweet moments. Moments I still treasure in my heart and will treasure for a long time.

Their wedding truly was the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever been to. The most enchanting one. So simple and so moving. A wedding filled with so much love and happiness that we all came out of it feeling so much happier, more hopeful and serene about life.

This was their gift to all of us. I don’t think they realize how wondrous this gift has been and will be for many years to come.

Thank you, Marc-Antoine and Marie-Claude for getting married (and inviting us to the wedding).

Thank you, Popeye and JC, for putting me on the plane to Montreal!

*Good Luck, and Good Night*


Life is so much like a wakeboard ride...

Wakeboarding became part of our summer fun times quite early after we bought our first boat.

At first, boating was a ‘relaxing’ experience, getting to know places around from the sea which become totally different.

But pretty soon our rowdy bunch of teenagers wanted something more exciting to do. This is how we discovered wakeboarding.

At the time, all our kids were totally into snowboarding. I’m talking about winter experience there of course.

When Popeye discovered a very weird contraption in a watersports store, he bought it. The store owner did not even know what it was except that its name was a ‘Woody’ (i.e. one of the oldest wakeboards ever). It looked like a snowboard but boasted a wood grain deck, removable fins and much lighter boots. And it was to be used on the water and only on the water of course.

Perfect summer activity. A little bit hard to pratice on the rough Channel but half of the fun was to discover the perfect spot. Nice, smooth water since wakeboarding is all about riding the wake... the boat’s wake of course and not the waves.

Those of you who know me well by now are aware of my deep dislike of boating... at least in the beginnings of our life in Brittany.

Boating is not my favorite activity. The first summer of wakeboarding aroused my curiosity though. I discovered pretty soon that watching the children trying hard to wakeboard was fun except that the boat would go at full speed, most of the time.

The wakeboarder would end his ride sometimes quite roughly. Popeye had to go back where he had splashed down as fast as possible.

The sharp U-bend usually drove me crazy. Then one day someone suggested I should take movies or pictures to help them progress in that crazy sport nobody knew much about. Remember, those were the early 90’s and France, not Lake Tahoe.

Taking pictures on a wild ride. They had to be kidding. They were not kidding. Pretty soon, I found myself engrossed in taking pictures without even noticing how fast we were going. It even became kind of fun.

It took me quite a while though to feel when the «moment of truth» was about to happen... I missed a lot of athletic feasts. In the beginning. After a while I became a seasoned wakeboard  photographer and groupie.

It became easier to anticipate every amazing moment of the ride.

Well, yes, it was fun. Still is fun. Except that nowadays, wakeboarding days are getting fewer. Our teenagers are all grown up. They are working now. Most of them live away, far away. They have their own family life.

Popeye and I, we go boating on our own until Swee’ Pea comes home for a few days... and it’s wakeboarding time all over again.

This summer wakeboarding season was quite short. Lots of waves. Hard to find good spots. But I managed to shoot a few pictures. Swee’ Pea was a little bit out of shape... Wakeboarding is not like riding a bicycle. You’ve got to work at it quite hard to be at your best.

But I took pictures as usual.

Tonight I started looking at our summer pictures. Too many of them. Not enough time until tonight.

While I was looking at Swee' Pea riding the wake, an idea went through my mind. Yes. It was so obvious.

Life is so much like a wakeboard ride after all.

Everybody looks for calm and quiet spots. Life is supposed to be filled with peace and happiness, isn’t it.

But you need to move on. That’s when you start hitting the wake... Finding ideas... trying out all sort of things. Living.

And then hopefully, you’ll hit the wake exactly the right way, which will send you up in the air. You know, this bubble of happiness when you’ve finally got it right. You are on your way to happiness, fullfilment in your work, stardom - whatever. There you are. And you deserve being where you are. It’s not this easy to ride the wake.

Right up into the air, in a perfect bubble of contentment.

Right up into the air. While there, who can think that falling down from this bubble may happen and may be painful?

Life is not perfect. It’s easy, oh so easy to meet with pain and disaster.

Have you ever felt like you are drowning? Too many problems. Too many hardships. Sickness. Unhappiness. Everyday life unsolved problems. Whatever again.

Whenever things look bleak, think about the wakeboarder. A few minutes after his spectacular fall, he’ll start a new ride again and again. He’ll pull himself out of the water and he’ll start riding the wake again.

The following day, even though he feels very tired and aches from the strain on the rope and one fall after the other, he’ll pack his wakeboard into the car and he'll start riding the wake again until he jumps even higher than the first time. And he’ll ride again and again.

Isn't it what life is all about after all?

*Good Luck, and Good Night*


My "9/11"

In France, ever since the beginning of last week, we are asked one question over and over. On the radio. In newspapers. (And probably on tv... but I no longer have tv.)

“What were you doing on ‘9/11’?” - “ Que faisiez-vous le 11 septembre?” No need to add the year.

Then the new issue of Time magazine came out.

(Thanx to Swee’ Pea, I was able to subscribe to the American digital edition for iPad.)

This issue is all about 9/11 of course with incredible pictures and interviews. It was not easy to go back into such a painful past. What can I say? I only was a witness, million of miles away.

Million of miles away and yet so close.

“What was I doing on 9/11?”

I was in Brussels, resting after a couple of hours spent trying to practice my reading skills (after this dreadful onset of Wet MD).

So there I was, feeling very tired but hopeful because I was making progress.

The phone started ringing.

Swee’ Pea.

At the time, he was an exchange student enrolled in a master’s program in fundamental physics at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Mom, turn the tv on. CNN. Hurry. Please hurry. Something horrible just happened. Mom, please, don’t hang up.”

The tv room being right across the hall from my bedroom, it took me a few seconds to get tuned to CNN.

The top of the WTC north tower was on fire. Huge billowing red flames. Well, you have seen the pictures a million times.

I stifled a scream.

Then Swee’ Pea and his two roommates started screaming to the top of their lungs a few seconds later, right in my ear... from Austin, Texas.

A plane had just crashed into the south tower.

I am still wondering whether or not I  really saw this plane. I think I did because I remember starting to sob. So incredible. So unbearable.

We are French and we were living very close to Paris when there were all those deadly bomb attacks in 1995. I remember having to face daily life in Paris no knowing whether or not we’d still be alive at the end of the day. I remember calling friends. "Where are you? Are you ok?"

Life went on though... for most of us.

But what was taking place in New York was way too different and so horrifying that I was speechless. No words to describe what was happening before my eyes.

I called Popeye who was at work. He already knew because people had called him from Montreal to let him know. He was appalled. He had not called me because he wanted to protect me, I guess.

I stayed glued to CNN. From time to time, Swee’ Pea would call me. One of his roommate’s mother was working very close to the WTC and he couldn’t get in touch with her. (Much later, we learnt that she was safe.)

They were getting frantic of course.

Then the unbelievable happened. We watched the towers collapsing while on the phone.

I remember feeling suffocated by so much horror and dread.

On the other side of the phone line, the boys were going out of their minds.

By then the news about the Pentagon and the ‘lost’ plane had been broadcasted.

Day of dread, sorrow and grief.

At the time, we had strong links with the States. On 9/11, our family felt very American. 

I have always been in love with New York. If I were to pick another city where to spend the rest of my life besides Paris, it would be New York. Feelings shared with my men.

When Swee’ Pea was 13, we spent a few hours on the Top of the WTC Observatories.  Seeing New York from up there was so amazing.

In 2000, we spent a nice evening in ‘Windows on the World’ with our son and friends. I remember it was a rainy and foggy evening but inside, we felt so happy and secure. I still remember the smiles of the people in the lifts and of the waiters and waitresses there.

In March 2001, we were in the Lounge at Kennedy Airport waiting for our flight to Paris.

I sighed.
Our stay in New York had been more than extraordinary.
We had managed to go to the Metropolitan Opera every night despite a blizzard that had hit the city on the day after our arrival.

We had enjoyed our stay at the Plaza - an old dream made true.
I was coming back to Paris with a lot of pictures which I knew would make it to galleries and art exhibits.

I sighed.
“You know what?” I said to Popeye. “This year, we have not been to the Twin Towers.”
“Not enough time,” he answered. “But don’t worry. We’ll be back next year.”

Who could have imagined that on 9/11, 2001, our world would turn out to be so tragically different?

My heart is still crying for this forever lost world. Crying over the greed and the hatred that rule our new world.

Crying even more for all the people who died on 9/11 and for all those who keep dying because of 9/11... ten years later.

*Good Luck, and Good Night*