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Undampened French Spirits In Gray Paree

Paris and all of the Ile de France was miserably cold and wet all weekend and still is as I write this morning. Walking home last night from the poetry reading and dinner at Patricia Laplante-Collins’ cozy pied-à-terre on the Ile Saint-Louis, I headed across the Seine at Pont Marie into Le Marais, winded through the narrow streets as I like to do to, and although not raining, it was as if I was immersed in a cloud, the streets wet and glistening.

Saturday, the poets from the Paris Poetry Workshop boarded the regional train at the Gare de Lyon headed for Nogent-sur-Vernisson in the same dank weather. We hoped for even a tiny shred of rays to shine over the planned picnic at award-winning poet and author, Jeffrey Greene’s 18th-century Presbytery in Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses.

No hope, but no matter. In the car, detouring through some of Bourgogne’s sweetest ancient villages, admiring the ruins of a Roman amphitheater, the tree-lined canals and ivy-covered stone cottages, the poetic sense was that the gray skies and moist bright spring-green foliage was as tranquil and loving as an impressionist painting.

Jeff Greene’s memoirs about the purchase and renovation of the Presbytery entitled “French Spirits, A House, A Village and a Love Affair in Burgundy,” is in no way similar to Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” or Frances Mayes’ “Under the Tuscan Sun,” but is “an eloquently recalled dream in which the lives and events of both the distant past and the immediate present constantly speak to one another, cross paths, inhabit the same space.” (Charles Siebert, author — see /parlerparis/books/booksaboutfrance.html for more about French Spirits.)

In the salon, surrounded by a managerie of pets, with a view of the expanse of grassy yard bordered by flowers, sitting closely on fauteuils, rockers and dining chairs, we circled the table spread with cold cuts, salads, cheeses and fresh breads, poured glasses of good regional wines, listened to Jeff read passages from French Spirits and talked about the political climate back in the States. Together on our way back to the station, we took a tour of the ancient locks that give Rogny it’s name — what remains of the project founded in 1597 by King Henri IV and his minister, Sully, to develop the navigatable rivers and canals uniting the Mediterranean with the Atlantic Ocean. You can walk along the stony edge, peer down into the bowels of the narrow and now-dry canal, see the metal fittings once the hinges for the locks, and imagine life four centuries ago in this idyllic setting. The canal, now rerouted and modernized, still affords many boats and barges through the intricate system of locks.

Sunday afternoon back in Gray Paree, the thirty would-be travel writers of the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop started off with a bang, dispite the soggy day. Workshop leader and master instructor, Jennifer Stevens, with her seven-month pregnant belly, opened the workshop with the first round of instructions on how to write an interesting and publishable travel article. Historian and author, Thirza Vallois, spoke candidly about her passion for Paris and for writing with her heart and soul — the key element to masterful prose, then we all headed for the hotel dining room for the traditional cocktail party, toasted with Kirs and mingled to get to know one another. Participants have come from as far as Australia to be a part of this exciting and enlightening event.

The workshop continues intensively through Wednesday. Along with Jen, accomplished writers and instructors Steenie Harvey, John Forde and Rose Marie Burke will be sharing their knowledge and experience. Author of “French or Foe?” and “Savoir Flair,” Polly Platt, will be talking about her experiences self-publishing her two best-sellers and of course, giving us tips on how to cross the cultural divide. WWednesday evening the workshop culminates with a closing dinner “chez moi.”

Let’s hope by then, the rays of sunshine will break through the gloom and we can really call these days in May “Springtime in Paris.”

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. Be sure to stop by tomorrow afternoon at Parler Paris Après Midi for a coffee or drink with me and other Parler Paris readers. 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at La Pierre du Marais. See /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for more information.

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