Dernière minute

Yesterday we finally visited Giverny. It’s one of those places that’s been on our must-see list from the start, but we never found time until now, as time is running short. We booked our tickets home for mid-August.

It was a typical day in and outside Paris, rainy and sunny at short intervals. The leaves in Monet’s garden were big and green and the flowers were planted in lush processions and when we walked around the pond of waterlilies we realized that Monet must have been quite wealthy. (He was.)

The house was crowded with visitors snapping photos, mainly of the big sitting room with replicas of 59 paintings, and in the kitchen, with its blue tiles and long rows of copper pots. Something that didn’t get a lot of attentionIMG_5885 from visitors was the collection of Japanese woodblock prints lining the walls of the other rooms. I was reminded of an exhibit at the Musée Guimet – Miroir du désir – Images de femmes dans l’estampe japonaise – that I saw last week. (Looking for it on the temporary exhibit level of the museum I stumbled into a survey of Araki photographs. There is more than one temporary exhibition level at the Guimet.)

In our last month we’re squeezing in a lot of sightseeing and reading Hemingway, who at one time lived just around the corner from us, while trying to wrap up work obligations. I managed to bid successfully online at a country auction about a month ago but for weeks couldn’t get anyone on the phone who could accept payment or ship my lots to Paris.

Wednesday, June 29

Me [in French]: “Bonjour, I bid at auction on [date] and would like to pay for and collect my lots.”

Auction House: “The person you need to speak to is at an auction. Call back tomorrow.”

Thursday, June 30

Me [in French]: “Bonjour, I bid at auction on [date] and would like to pay for and collect my lots.”

Auction House: “The person you need to speak to is at an auction. Call back tomorrow.”

Me: “Excuse me, do you know what time? Because I tried yesterday and was told to call today.”

Auction House [disgruntled, in French]: “Madame, you can try in the afternoon after 3pm.”

[Another week of similar exchanges, then] Sometime around July 7

Me [in French]: “Bonjour, I bid at auction on [date] and would like to pay for and collect my lots. And I don’t want to pay for the storage fee because I’ve been trying to reach you about this for two weeks.”

Auction House: “You’re calling the wrong number. You need to call the billing department.”

After two or three more phone calls and email exchanges, and seriously considering renting a car to pay and collect in person, I finally telephoned at the right time on the right day and got the right person, who listened patiently to my largely incoherent French and took care of everything at once.

Still on the to-do list: packing. This has posed a particularly nightmarish conundrum. Question: If one wants to send four shelves of books home, wants to track them and receive them in the same condition, but doesn’t care so much about when they arrive, what is the best (cheapest, safest) option? Answer: forget shipping and buy another suitcase, which will cost much less in airline fees than sending five or six pre-paid or personally packed boxes via Colissimo International. The fabled M-bag apparently doesn’t exist anymore, or if it does, no one knows where to get it and more importantly no one knows how to ship it.

So onward we go, barreling back towards Philadelphia with all our accumulated belongings and hoping everything gets there, eventually.


Library at the Musée Guimet



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1 Response to Dernière minute

  1. Diana Odell Potter says:

    Lovely to read this as always, Zoe Dear. So you’re headed home mid-August; I hope I can get to see you and meet David, perhaps in the Fall? Please be very careful always and stay safe. I love you and wish you the best of everything. Yours, Dinah


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