This, My Dear, is the New Normal
Now that the parks have been reopened, author Janet Hulstrand (Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, And Make Them Love You), and I took the beautiful Sunday afternoon to venture over to the Jardin du Luxembourg just to hang out with the rest of the “flâneurs” (strollers) and take a few moments to stop at the Red Wheelbarrow English-Language Bookstore.
The garden was not its usual busy self as there were plenty of chairs to be had. That’s a sign that the city lacks the tourists who would normally be taking in the splendor of the 17th-century park, created by Marie de’ Medici, just like the rest of us. She constructed the palatial residence, now the home to the French Senate, and filled the 23 hectares with lawns, tree-lined promenades, flowerbeds, model sailboats on its circular basin, and my favorite spot, the picturesque Fontaine Médicis.
Penelope Fletcher, the bookstore’s proprietor, was masked and ready for business behind stacks and stacks of new books. “What’s new and what’s great, Penelope?” I asked. She didn’t hesitate to hand over Cara Black‘s newest book, Three Hours in Paris and Harriet Welty Rochefort‘s latest Final Transgression.
“Perfect. I’ll take them both,” I grinned, knowing well both of these women — authors who have become good friends over the years — and that both of them will be speaking this coming year at “Après Midi,” our monthly coffee gathering.*
*Après Midi will be held this coming July 7th on Zoom at 6 p.m. Paris Time, 9 a.m. Pacific Time with author, Ella Dyer of “Nice in Nice: Is a Lifetime Enough?” See adrianleeds.com/apresmidi for more information. Then, join us in September here in Paris at the usual spot, Le Café de la Mairie.
Both authors have taken a real turn from their usual theme this time around with each of their new books. The story on the streets of seasoned readers is that they’ve done a great job pumping out serious page-turners, so I’m jazzed to read them both, too.
“In Three Hours in Paris, Cara Black brings her masterful knowledge of the city and its people to the Second World War and an imagined failed attempt on the life of Adolf Hitler by a female, American sniper that leaves her fate and that of the war effort very much hanging in the balance. The result is a taut, smart, heart-in-throat page turner worthy of the most discerning reader of John le Carre, Daniel Silva or Alan Furst—brava!” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris
“In this gripping, beautifully written novel about love and betrayal, Harriet Welty Rochefort vividly portrays the ambiguity and complexity of trying to survive in Nazi-occupied France, where things are never quite what they seem. The story of Séverine Sevanot, a beautiful, headstrong young woman who returns to her hometown in southwest France only to be swept up in the violent score-settling of resistance fighters there, will grab your attention and keep you thinking for a long time to come.” –Lynne Olson, New York Times bestselling author of Madame Fourcade’s Secret War
I always buy the books of the authors I know — whether I get time to read their books or not — with the sole effort of supporting the American literary community in France. And I try to buy them at a local English-language bookstore for the same reason. In today’s world, authors are struggling, as are the independent booksellers, so we should all make this small effort if we want to keep the power of the word alive along with our treasured authors.
Neither Janet nor I have the ability to vote, so we were not distracted by the municipal elections that took place Sunday. Covid-19 interfered with the second round, which was originally scheduled to be held on March 22nd, and postponed till yesterday. In the 2014 Paris municipal election, Anne Hidalgo of the Socialist Party was elected mayor of Paris, becoming the first woman to hold that position. This year, three candidates remained in contention: incumbent Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who led the first round with 29.3 percent of the vote, former minister Rachida Dati for Les Républicains close behind with 22.7 percent and the LREM candidate Agnès Buzyn with 17.3 percent.
What’s so amazing is that all three candidates are women! Paris is pretty progressive (pun intended), with the previous mayor, Bertrand Delanoë who was openly Gay, and then a woman mayor, and now women leading the race entirely. You go girls! U.S., take a lesson from France! We need more women in politics for true balance and justice for everyone…don’t we, ladies? I was not at all surprised to learn late last night that Hidalgo won the election, backed by the Europe Ecology — the Greens Party (EELV), which gained a very strong showing nationwide in yesterday’s election.
Tomorrow night in the U.S., our newest “House Hunters International: The Adventure Continues” episode airs — it’s the second to air of their new series — and naturally, after taping it during confinement, I’m extremely anxious to see it:
Season 130, Episode 3: “From Heartbroken to Happy in Nice”
“John moved to Nice, France, after his bitter divorce and braved the unfamiliar with help from property consultant Adrian. Almost two years later, John and Adrian look back at the house hunt and show how not everything unfolded as planned.”
Airing: Tuesday, June 30, 10:30 p.m. EDT/9:30 p.m. CDT and Wednesday, July 1, 1:30 a.m. EDT/12:30 CDT
The tough part is being able to watch it live from France. We are often asked what’s the best way to view the shows if living outside of the U.S. What I’ve done to-date is turn on my VPN (Virtual Private Network) that “enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network.” In layman’s terms, and for these purposes, a VPN is a clever piece of software that creates a secure (encrypted) Internet connection between your device and the Web or app you are trying to access. Once you’re connected via a VPN server, your computer’s IP address will have changed and your true location will be hidden. So, to watch U.S. programming, my system has to appear as if I’m on the Internet from the U.S. There are lots of VPNs to choose from (see top10vpn.com/top10/), but the one I rely on is ExpressVPN. For a small price to pay, it provides an awful lot of viewing pleasure.
Then, in the past, I would visit HGTV.com on my computer and click on LIVE (or visit this address) to see the shows…live. The only caveat was that one must have a U.S. based cable network account in order to watch it, so I’d “borrow” my sister’s login on Cox Cable and voila!…I could watch the show, even if six hours later than its U.S. air time.
Yesterday, I discovered something much easier…watching it direct on my TV using my new Amazon Fire Stick with Alexa Voice Remote! Right about now, most of you may be thinking I’m pretty lame just now figuring all this out, but some of us are just slow to catch on…especially at my age and lack of technical knowledge.
The Fire Stick is a streaming device I discovered during confinement (thanks to the suggestion of a friend) when we were watching inordinate amounts of television. For about €40 and shipped to me at home, it wasn’t hard to install myself. It even allows ExpressVPN to be downloaded to it so that programming from anywhere in the world (or almost) can be watched. I just love pressing it’s little microphone button, saying “Alexa, turn on episode whatever of blah-blah,” she politely answers, then connects it directly without having to fumble with the remote control. How exciting it that?!
Saturday night, while sleeping and dreaming, it came to me that the Fire Stick could connect to Youtube.com, so first thing Sunday morning, I was able to go straight to the Qigong exercises I’m doing daily to wake up and feel alive. This was another benefit of confinement, discovering Qigong (pronounced chee-gong) — “a centuries-old system of coordinated body-posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for the purposes of health, spirituality, and martial-arts training. With roots in Chinese medicine, philosophy, and martial arts, Qigong is traditionally viewed by the Chinese and throughout Asia as a practice to cultivate and balance qi (pronounced approximately as “chee”), translated as ‘life energy.'” (wikipedia.org/wiki/Qigong)
Try it, and you’ll be thanking me for the rest of your life. Wikipedia will tell you that there is no conclusive evidence that Qigong is beneficial in treating various diseases, or has any therapeutic effect, but I’m here to tell you that’s malarky. (See draxe.com/fitness/qigong/ for more information.)
Ten to 20 minutes a day of Qigong has changed the way I feel dramatically. I’m convinced that when a cold started coming on, it nipped it in the bud within 24 hours rendering me good as gold. It takes no energy, no special clothing, no special mat or place…just follow a simple routine of breathing and movement and you will feel like a new person from that moment till you put your head on the pillow to sleep for the night. Youtube is loaded with videos that range from a few moments to over an hour, demonstrated by a good group of practitioners who make it easy to follow. Try this search and then pick one. Every day, you can try a different one! I’m working my way through all of them, little by little.
Discovering Youtube on the Fire Stick led me to realize that HGTV was on it, too…so guess what? Thanks to ExpressVPN and my sister’s Cox Cable login, I now have HGTV live on my TV! Now I can watch any time on the big screen. So, for all of you living outside of the U.S., find a friend or relative willing to lend you their cable TV login and voila!…you’ll be set up for all of this wonderful programming!
For those who are fed up with TV and being confined, good news here in Paris is that the Eiffel Tower reopened, but of course with tight restrictions. La Grand Dame was closed for three months, the longest period of closure since World War II. As of tomorrow, the lifts will be back in business, the number of visitors will be limited and face masks will be obligatory if you’re over the age of 11. You won’t be able to go all the way to the top, though…for now. Visit toureiffel.paris/en to get your tickets online.
Clearly Parisians are fed up with TV and being confined, because they are seriously “En Terrasse.” My quiet street during confinement has turned into a noisy, animated affair, now that the restaurants have moved their tables to curbside and everyone is out, dining and drinking even more than ever before. All of Paris is animated with life after so many months of it being more like a ghost town.
In the south, from the Alps to the Côte d’Azur via Provence, they’re going so far as to having created a new festival — La Fête des Terrasses from 6 p.m. to midnight, July 1st. Designed to celebrate the terraces, symbols of conviviality, aperitif and rediscovered freedom. The idea is to return year after year to bring together families, friends and work colleagues with the owners of restaurants, bars or cafés, deprived of their most loyal customers for almost three months. This is so typical of the Southern French!
And this my dear, is the New Normal!
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(en mask with Janet Hulstrand)
P.S. We have developed relationships with a number of financial and tax experts to assist our clients. With all the upheaval caused by this pandemic, consultations are more important than ever. For more information, please visit our Global Money Services page today.