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“Le Soleil, Le Sol et Les Salons (Sun, Soil and Shows)”

It’s this way every year about mid March (or so it seems). One day winter, one day spring. We went from snow every day for more than a week to warm, sunny blue skies in a heartbeat. Turtlenecks got traded for V-necks and boots got traded for sandals.

Saturday pouring steamy soup into little plastic bowls suddenly seemed like a ridiculous idea as Parler Parlor conversationalists celebrated the group’s 7th anniversary lunch on the patio at Eurocentres. Basking in the rays, we bantered and reveled in the bright tones and warmer times promised ahead.

Like clockwork, a warm mid-March signaled geranium-planting time to which I scurried home after to a messy, but satisfying process. For you readers who have followed the Paris geranium saga for the last several years, you may be interested in knowing that this year, uncovered and still in their window boxes as always, they survived the icy weather, however pathetically puny and gasping for life they had become.

The day before, an excursion to the Ile de la Cité flower market provided 10 potted rich-red geraniums for 25 Euros, healthy and perky. The new babies awaited my tender hands as I unearthed the old ones, dumped out the decrepit old earth and re-dispersed them in the planters alternating new and old, burying them in fresh soil.

Imagine the mess in my white kitchen! — mounds of dusty soil mottled with old roots turned everything a dark gray. But how worth it! The window boxes are back to life and in a couple of weeks, I’ll proudly show you the results, as the old-rooted stems sprout new leaves and send up shoots of big rich-red flowers (I understand from the flower-seller that the older the roots, the bigger the flowers).

Sunday, another “sun day,” sent thousands off to the Parc des Expositions de la Porte de Versailles for the Salon Mondial du Tourisme and Salon du Livre, not to mention the thousands of high-schoolers at the Salon de l’Etudiant de Paris. Comprised of eight exhibition halls and a total area of 220,000 square meters, Paris Expo at Porte de Versailles is the 4th biggest complex in Europe. It hosts more than 200 exhibitions, congresses and events every year, attracting more than six million visitors. Yesterday I was one of them.

At the 30th edition of the Salon Mondial du Tourisme, among 600 exhibitors from all over the world and more than 100,000 visitors, I fell in love with the Dalmatian coast of Croatia for a July vacation. I happily left burdened with a large stack of brochures, great contacts and images of beaches, crystal clear blue waters and ancient ruins floating in my head.

On the other side of the exhibition center, the 25th Salon du Livre was in full swing. This special anniversary celebrates the literature of Russia over six days (through March 23rd, http://www.salondulivreparis.com/), with 2,000 authors and illustrators taking part in the fair’s numerous booksigning sessions, more than 1,200 publishers, plus every sort of book from poetry to comic strips, from detective stories to essays, and the list goes on.

While strolling through the miles of aisles of hardbacks, paperbacks, manuscripts, tomes and “mini livres,” I stumbled upon Lonely Planet’s stand and quickly scarfed up the last remaining Guide to Croatia. Nearby, at Dictionnaires Le Robert, authors and editors of “La Langue Française et du Grand Robert” were at debate, the subject being “La Littérature, Illustration de la Vie de la Langue.” The French, as we know, are madly in love with “la langue Française,” and could debate this question for hours. The team of experts had drawn quite a large crowd!

Ruth Mastron and Gilles Asselin, authors of “Au Contraire: Figuring Out the French,” posed smiling for passers-by behind their stacks of English, French and Chinese (just out!) versions of their book. Just before the fair closed, they headed straight for Paris Soirées where as the featured guests they spoke about the cultural differences, focusing on the gap between how the French build romantic relationships compared to us Anglo-Saxons.

It was then we realized that American dating is like shopping for romance — each dinner date is like another trip to the boutique. For the French, if you’re having dinner alone with the other person, the conclusion is already much further along…so be prepared that after dinner, one of you will be “dessert.”

Ruth is planning on being back in Paris this coming May to speak at the Working and Living in France Conference (May 20 – 22, 2005), where she will talk at greater length about the meaning of French “desserts.”

Dessert for me will be the 10 days in the islands off the coast of Croatia, alone with my daughter, where we hope to have lots of fun in the sun and surf.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. My Marais apartment will be available for rent while I’m pretending to be a lizard on the Dalmatian Coast July 22 – August 1! Visit /parlerparis/apartments/rentals/leeds.html for more details.

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