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Triple Play: “Flâner,” Cracking-Up and Overseas Americans

Photo of Linden trees in Place des Vosges Paris France
Picnic at Place des Vosges

OH, TO BE A “FLANEUSE”

I’m back in Paris and must admit, the weather has been glorious, rivaling that of Nice. I picnicked for lunch twice over the weekend at Place des Vosges, where the Linden trees are sprouting bright green leaves (from the bottom up), and are about a week or two away from being in full bloom.

Linden trees at Place des Vosges Paris France

We’re still in confinement—no shops are open, except those considered “essential;” no cafés or restaurants are open, except for some take-away. So there’s not much to do other than “flâner” (meaning “stroll” or “saunter”), pick up something to eat and picnic wherever you can.

During one stroll down rue de Turenne, I noticed a storefront clearly in the midst of a facelift, looking very “raw” indeed with the blue paint very distressed and the glass windows brushed with whitewash. Then I noticed the sign on the shop—”Raw” is all that was written there. I do believe that this spot once housed a little café specializing in raw foods, but it didn’t look this raw when it was in business. How apropos it all was.

Odd looking storefront for Raw in Paris France

I don’t normally have time to notice such detail, but realized that it’s really pathetic that I don’t. That’s what real life can get you…forgetting to stop and smell the proverbial roses. Paris has so many little details such as this to ogle and contemplate when one takes the time to “flâner.”

The word originates from the Old Norse “flana,” meaning to get into something heedlessly. While there are dozens of English words that might describe the action, such as wander, amble, meander, the French word simply explains it all in a way that the English words cannot. It was defined in the 19th-century by the literary crowd of Paris as the art of leisurely strolling the streets without any particular goal or destination other than to admire and wonder, soaking up the beauty of the city. These aimless Parisians are known as flâneurs. This weekend, I, too, was a “flâneuse.”

THE CRACKS KEEP COMING BACK

When I got back to Paris from Nice a few weeks ago, I noticed that the cracks in the 17th-century walls of my apartment (that just keep coming back) had gotten much worse in a very short period of time. That seriously became worrisome, considering this is a wood-framed building about 350 years old. I don’t think it’s going to collapse, but it is made of wood and structural issues do happen.

Using a method I call “blasting,” I sent an email return receipt to every person for which I had an email associated with our “Syndic,” or homeowner association, with photos attached of the cracks…lots of cracks, and to about 10 people. That got an immediate response. Soon after, the building’s architect phoned to make an appointment to see the cracks, for which I was very pleased.

The architect came Friday morning, accompanied by an assistant. Immediately, I fell in love with the architect. A small elderly man, who spoke some English (and who enjoyed showing it off) with a very friendly nature, introduced himself and his tall, young, good-looking colleague. He visited the entire apartment and made note of all the fissures, explaining to me as he went along by what the problems might be caused. Yes, it seems that there may be pressure on the ceiling and walls from the supporting beams, he said.

Cracks in the ceiling of Adrian Leeds' apartment in Paris France

The next steps are to do a study—and that means making holes in the ceiling and walls to see what’s going on inside them. Yikes! That means making a big mess…but the good news is that the building’s insurance will cover most of the work, including the renovation…so that’s a big help.

As he was starting to leave, I asked him to confirm his name. He told me, then gave me the name as it had been before it had been shortened…clearly a Jewish name. I asked him, “Are you Jewish?,” to which he replied, “Of course!”

“Moi aussi!” I said (“Me, too!”). He then went on to say he had “sensed” as much…he had a “feeling” he said…and this led to even more discussion about how we can just tell, whether it’s from a physical appearance, or hand gestures, or just someone’s demeanor, that they have Jewish lineage. Even people who weren’t raised Jewish have some characteristics that can be tiny clues, without knowing it or being aware of it at all.

Immediately I had a certain camaraderie with Monsieur l’Architecte…an “MOT,” or Member of the Tribe. That’s when I fell even more in love with this sweet little man who I know will now take care of me like I’m part of the family. That certainly won’t hurt to get this project moving along and well.

OVERSEAS AMERICANS ARE CITIZENS, TOO

Mark your calendars now for May 11th when retired U.S. diplomat, William Jordan, speaks at our monthly gathering, Après-Midi, about what the real issues Americans face living overseas and how and why they (we) are treated unfairly (or not) from the U.S. government’s point of view. The two-hour session on Zoom, titled “Overseas Americans are Citizens, Too: Why Changing Washington’s Opinion of Overseas Americans Matters,” promises to be enlightening and informative.

A lively crowd with Adrian Leeds at Après Midi

Poster for the Association of Americans Resident OverseasAccording to the Association of Americans Resident Overseas, over 8 million non-military Americans are living overseas. This number has steadily grown over the past decade, as more people have become interested in living abroad, exploring another language and culture, or finding an overseas job. Not surprisingly, Europe remains the most popular destination thanks to its diverse culture and history, lively cities, beautiful countryside, great traditional and innovative food, and ancestral links that continue to attract people of all ages to travel, study, work and live in Europe.

William Jordan is a retired U.S. diplomat who has lived outside of the U.S. for 27 of the past 39 years. He was in the Foreign Service for 30 years (1981-2011) as a political officer specializing in the Arab world and France. His overseas assignments included Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Syria, Jordan and Algeria, and his responsibilities included reporting and analyzing foreign policy trends (especially as they related to the United States), as well as internal politics, including the rise of radical Islamist forces.

William Jordan retired U.S. Foreign Service officer

If you watch France24, the national news channel that broadcasts in French, English and Arabic, then you may have seen him comment on these issues. He’s also the ‘man in the know’ for BBC Radio, Radio France International and lectures on foreign affairs at the French Ecole Militaire and the Paris campus of New York University. Since May 2020, William has been president of the Association of Americans Resident Overseas. In addition to that, he has joined the board of the St. Petersburg (Florida, not Russia) Conference on World Affairs. He’s one of those Americans in Paris who has made important contributions to our lives and of whom we, as Americans, are unduly proud.

To learn more and to register for our free Zoom event, visit our website page for this event.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds' shadow, a FlaneuseAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

Adrian the flâneuse

P.S. Artist Richard Ewen paints landscapes and street scenes of France as well as wonderful, intricate depictions of the reflections of Paris streets as seen through shop windows. These delicate yet colorful, masterful paintings are available to purchase from the WOA Gallery. Images can be purchased in the US and France.

Alexis Paris artwork by Richard Ewen

P.P.S. We are seeking workers for two different projects:

1) Someone to assist with administrative tasks, such as light bookkeeping, filing and other clerical duties to work a few hours a week (10 to 20 hours per month) in Paris on site at the director’s home/office. This is a great way to earn a few extra bucks while getting to know our business from the ground floor. French proficiency not necessary. If you are qualified (prolific on computer in Word, Excel, Gmail, Internet browsing, etc.), please email us.

2) Three-day conference in Nice seeks coordinator to:

– Confirm the line-up of speakers and coordinate with them and their presentations
– Develop speaker’s schedule
– Produce conference materials: handouts, name tags, etc.
– Coordinate and fine-tune (route previously established) full-day coach tour route and itinerary of the Riviera
– Organize and coordinate open house tour with at least 10 properties

All contacts and resources provided by conference organizers. Past conference materials available to use as a foundation. Will have close supervision and guidance by Adrian Leeds and staff.

Must be in Nice or vicinity. Helps to be bilingual (English and French). Project fee based on 25€ an hour.

If you are qualified (prolific on computer in Word, Excel, Gmail, Internet browsing, etc.), please email us.

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1 Comment

  1. Stephanie Wolkin on April 26, 2021 at 12:48 pm

    Great column! I always thought the writer Janet Flanner had a perfect last name!

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