Saturday. We had just returned home to La Tour Desnos after a nice meal out at a friend’s restaurant up the street. The air was clean and cool, but not cold. A lovely Spring evening. So I walked into the séjour (living room) and opened one of the doors to the little balcony which looks out over the Parc du Nançon below. As I swung open the door, I was greeted by the sound of a strong, confident female voice accompanied by a jaunty accordion. There, below me in the park, was a clutch of perhaps fifty revelers gathered in front of a pair of musicians as the glowing light of dusk was slowly giving way to the night. Traditional French music filled the air as it soared in rich waves up to the top of our tower.
What a surprise! A small, informal concert in the park, virtually at the foot of our home. And the music was, at least to my American ears, that kind of arm-swinging, head-bobbing, sing-along, smoky cafe style that is so quintessentially French. To such a degree that I felt compelled to search the crowd for Hemingway sharing a drink (or two) with Picasso and Gertrude Stein at a little bistro table while puffing away at their cigars and Gauloises. I’m almost certain they weren’t there, but it was a nice image that I had concocted in my mind’s eye.
Both the chanteuse and accordion player were top-notch, really talented. So much so that I stood there, on our little balcony, for the next hour, transfixed, swooning with pleasure at the way the music had so taken me. I listened contentedly as the tunes rolled by, clapping my appreciation along with the crowd below as each one finished. The shadows slowly crept in, darkening the scene at my feet. And our resident host of small bats began to fly about the tower, indulging in a moving feast of insects as they careened through the air. The music played on with that particularly French combination of angst and verve.
But nothing lasts forever. Except perhaps Twinkies. At length, the singer closed her last song with a crescendo and the accordionist gave a final flourish to end the evening’s entertainment. The crowd of cheerful listeners began to disperse. And I, with bittersweet reluctance, watched them all go into the night. The park was once again quiet, apart from the excited but hushed voices of a few stragglers who, like me, were unwilling to let go of the musical high. But they were soon gone as well. Eventually, I left the balcony and closed the door, content to have such a special memory of life in France. How lucky I felt to be living here where such magical serendipity seems to happen with such astonishing regularity. My hope for you, dear reader, is that you, too, may someday chance upon your own special memory of a magical moment in France. I promise you that it’s not difficult. You just need to be here.
Until next time, here’s a little taste of the evening: