Life is a Bowl of Cherries
Friends are funny beasts. They come in all shapes and sizes, in all permutations, don’t they? I am lucky to have lots of lovely acquaintaces I like to socialize with, people whose company is hugely enjoyable and whom I appreciate and treasure, but when it comes to really close friends, those absolute besties that have gone through thick and thin with me, and whose responses show that they really care about me, those people with whom exchanges are genuinely valuable, who inspire me and for whom I have a deep affection, respect and even love, well then the number dwindles to little more than a handful.
One of these precious few is my friend Caro. I met her when I was four or five years old and she not quite a year older. Hailing from Venezuela, her parents sent her to live with us for three long summer months, so she’d learn to speak fluent English. My, was she exotic with her glossy dark hair and her fiery brown eyes! She could do everything better than I could, swimming, reading, dancing, engaging adults in conversation, everything, and, despite occasionally being mildly jealous, I looked up to her in awe. Right from the start, she was my guiding light and whatever she did, I copied. It seemed quite clearly the way to success on every level. In no time at all, we were dressing alike, doing the same things, acting the same way and generally, much to my delight, developing into twin creatures and, yes, double trouble.
There was that time we disappeared for a day when we were five and six respectively, each with one of my roller skates, and made our way towards a spire on the horizon, which I knew to be that of the church where my father’s grave was. It took us hours to get there and, once we arrived, we innocently plundered other graves of flowers, so that we could solemnly put them on that of my Daddy. Then it took us hours to get back. By now it was dusk and my poor mother, along with all the neighbours and the police, were searching for us two lost little girls when she came upon us in the neighbourhood, dirty, happy and with a great sense of achievement, oneleggedly rolling towards home. Man, were we in for a hiding!
On another occasion on holiday in Cornwall, we once again took off, ice creams in hand, to climb some inviting looking rocks on which we sat, chatting and laughing and playing pretend while the tide rolled in and cut us off from the beach. This time we had to be rescued by the coast guard and, once again, we got our bottoms spanked along with a serious talking to and no doubt a confiscation of our buckets and spades.
A few years later, when my mother and I had moved to Germany, this very same friend came to visit for two or three months, this time to acquire German language skills. Idyllic summer days were spent establishing a school for newts in a zinc bathtub, riding our bicycles around the countryside, swimming in the river, midnight feasts and swooning over G, a boy of nine, the local cool dude, whom we both thought was our prince.
And so our story continued over the years until, in our late teens we lost touch, somehow. We both went off to university, got married, moved to different countries, had children, got divorced, remarried. Our letters and visits to each other fizzled out to nothing but even so, unbeknown to us, our lives developed in astounding parallels, hers in Venezuela and the US, mine in Germany, England and Australia. Not until decades later, when our children were grown, with families of their own, did a coincidental, fateful meeting bring us together again. Our reconnection was instant. From the moment we set eyes on each other, the old bond was as strong as ever, and it seemed as though the intervening years had slipped past in the blink of an eye. We were astonished to find out how similar our lives had played out, how identical our secrets, fears and hopes, our hobbies, food preferences and taste in literature, our battles and dramas, our joys and pleasures. We were and are a Rorschach ink blot, a mirror image of each other, still, all those years on, and over all those miles that divide us. While she is dark and I am fair, uncannily, we even share a similar physique, a similar hairstyle and a similar dress sense. She is truly my twin from another mother and it would all be almost spooky, were it not for the immediately apparent deep love, the closeness and mutual understanding that runs through our relationship.
Having lost sight of each other for so many years, these days we treasure every single opportunity that allows us to get together, so when my lovely friend announced to me that on her way from South America to Milan she would be stopping over in Paris with part of her family for a few days, the Lovely Husband and I scraped together our Avios points and flew there for lunch to see them.
We agreed to meet in the Marais, that area of the French capital which was once the Jewish quarter and which, these days, is so totally the hip place to be. Mais oui! Bien sur!
I know the area superficially quite well from previous visits, but for this momentous, most important occasion, I threw myself into research. In the end, I couldn’t resist choosing Le Temps des Cerises on Rue de Cerisaie as the rendez-vous venue for our gathering. I mean, how could I possibly resist a Bistro called The Time of Cherries on Cherry Orchard Road? Hmm? Doesn’t it just bring the prettiest picture to mind? And then I read all the good reviews of this place, saw that it is family friendly –great therefore for my friend’s two beautiful little granddaughters- and that it is in proper ‘Old Paris’, the romantic medieval bit, close to the Bastille. How much more perfect could it get?
This restaurant is, in fact, named after a much loved French song of the same title, written in the mid 19th century and strongly associated with the Paris Commune and its revolutionary ideals, so being located in the Rue de Cerisaie and so close to the Bastille, emblem of an earlier revolution, the name is not only romantic but also highly appropriate.
Hopping on to a plane to Paris with just your handbag is a wonderful thing, I tell you! It feels so marvelously extravagant, so jetsetty and so incredibly unencumbered. I could get used to this! Then from Charles de Gaulle we hop on to the Metro and bingo, we’re there.
It’s a hot and sunny day, 36 degrees, and scorching. The restaurant is on a corner of a little cobbled street in among small narrow houses, the area heavy with historic atmosphere . This place an ideal choice, relaxed, casual and very pretty, a typically French bistro as you might find in a picture book. All that’s missing are moustachioed Frenchmen with berets on their heads and baguettes in their hands and yet, it is not remotely touristy or contrived, just a perfectly charming neighbourhood hostelry.
Our glamorous South Americans arrive, my friend, her beautiful daughter and handsome Italian son-in-law and their two cute little girls, and the catching up and reminiscing begins. In between all the talk we order our lunch: An excellent tuna tartare mixed with mango pieces, unusual but refreshing and very tasty, and a tuna in millefeuille, another delicious dish with crispy pastry and well prepared tuna, offering a wonderful combination of taste and texture and again, just perfect for a sweltering day such as this. Finally. The Lovely Husband and I share a cheesecake with raspberries and this, too, is simply divine. But there are so many other promising dishes to choose from the menu. All of us wish that we could visit this wonderful little place on a more regular basis and try them all.
After a good four hours of chatting and laughing, our bill arrives. At €180.30 including various juices, water and coffee this is a positive steal for an excellent lunch for seven people! We part, reluctantly, and each go our way. By bedtime, the Lovely Husband and I are back at home in London. Another heartlifting, enriching memory has been made. On days like this life is indeed a bowl of sweet juicy cherries.
Le Temps des Cerises, 31 Rue de la Cerisaie, Le Marais, 75004 Paris, Tel.: 01 42 72 08 63, www.letempsdescerisescoop.com
What I wore
Black and white checked seersucker sleeveless shift dress by Versace, orange Hermes Kelly bag, yellow Melissa ballerinas.
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