June 21, 2011

Paris. July, 1969

The first time I went to Europe, I had to prepare for the trip in secret. I had an inkling that my parents (my mother especially) would resent the freedom such a trip would allow. And I was right. When I finally announced that I had my passport, my airfare, my student work visa (which I wound up not using once I got there and saw how cheap everything was), my mother responded, “See America first.” Ooops, too late! I headed to London and pretty much stayed in Britain except for a boat-train trip to Paris and Nice. One stop in the City of Light: 27 Rue de Fleurus, the home of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. (Here’s a photo snapped by Debbye, my travel companion from the state of Georgia.) I ventured through the entrance and opened a set of frosted glass doors onto a small courtyard where a man was repairing a sailboat that filled the tiny enclosed space. He nicely pointed out the atelier windows of the fabled Stein salon and was extremely welcoming, something that surprises me in retrospect as he must have had his fair share of gawkers over the years. (When I passed #27 again on an early morning run in December, 2005, I noticed the entrance was closed up tight. Glad I saw it when I did.)

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