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Matisse, France, Travel, Creativity, Adventure, Expatriates, Dreams, Reinvention


Chasing Matisse: The Book

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Matisse, France, Travel, Creativity, Adventure, Expatriates, Dreams, Reinvention

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January 22, 2003

The Joades Leave Paris

I'm sitting in front of the mirror at a small hair salon, a one man shop, on the rue Mazarine. Jean-Paul is the artist here, and I've come to see him for my first haircut in France, my first attempt at getting my glistening orange hair color that Toad (my fabulous hairdresser at home for 20 years) told me I wouldn't have any trouble finding. So I hadn't even tried until just this week. There was no time for the most part, and it seemed like too much trouble, which I never would've said before. But a few days before we were to leave, my roots screamed at me. I was not a vision of anything I wanted to see. The well-versed Alice in all things French found hip Jean-Paul.

This is the conversation Jean-Paul and I have about my coiffure: I show him a picture of myself, when my hair was looking good, and make a cutting motion along the side of my head and on my bangs, while saying, whoosh. I hand him the formula for the tint which Toad has written out. Jean-Paul says words, phrases, sentences, which I do and don't get, except for one phrase. "Doesn't exeest in France." Oh, well, I think. We'll see what happens. Anything is better than these horrid roots growing out of my head. The two of us come to an understanding, although I'm not quite sure what, and his stick-thin assistant brings out the bowl with its orange concoction and starts applying it meticulously. I try to decide if this foam looks the same (but am not sure) and write my notes, choosing not to freak out. It takes much time for my miraculous color to take its hue, but when mademoiselle is through, my hair is bright and festive. It is a copper that I love, though I'm still not sure if it's the dazzling Goldwell to which I have become addicted.

Jean-Paul takes his place and begins cutting ever so precisely, what seems like hair by hair. He occasionally asks me questions, and I answer, feeling quite self-assured. It goes on and on, and I realize I've been here all afternoon-just me-alone. (It's the day before we're leaving, and I have other errands to run, the headache of packing bags.) I start to fret. Is this going to be $500? He cut some more. When he is finally through, my bangs are-I mean-short. I don't think they'd been that length since I was three, but the cut was right. And it was time for me to leave. The bill is not $500, and I happily hand him my credit card, which doesn't work. Quelle damage! Of course, I don't have the phone number for our apartment written down. I ask Jean-Paul's patience and understanding (with the help of another man who finally has come in and speaks some English) to let me run up to the Galerie and get our number from Alice, so I can call Jim. Which I did. Jim was on the Internet, and I couldn't get through. Alice wrote me a check to give Jean-Paul.

Trežs plus embarrassment all round. Jim was horrified when I arrived home.

In the meantime, Jim had retrieved the car that would carry us nomads around France. After his exhausting day before, we'd decided to call our handy driver, Jacques, to take him to pick up the car. (There's a certain point you have to spend money for help to reduce wear and tear.) Jacques applied his usual expert assistance, got Jim there and back. The only thing Jim didn't accomplish was a guarantee of his signature, which had to be done for business at home. The place wouldn't be open again until the next Tuesday, which meant we would have to return to Paris after our first foray out.

We walked over to the printing shop to pick up our job and were informed it couldn't be done with what they had. So much for that. We consoled ourselves with Kentucky Fried Chicken, which we'd craved for weeks. As we packed and munched the American bird, I realized every time Jean-Paul said "couper," he must've been talking about my bangs. I answered, "Oui, oui." I'd given him the instructions to cut them so short. Monsieur Bubbah and Madame Bubbette laughed and laughed.

The next day it was sad to leave our second beloved apartment in the Marais, Ste. Croix, but we were excited to be off on our trip around France-that is, after we packed the car. Of course, it was jammed as I knew it would be. Barely enough room for the two of us. Like chameleons, we changed into our other alter egos, Steinbeck's Joads, but in this case, we're the Joades (pronounced jwahds). Jim is a great driver through the narrow streets of Europe, and he took us without trouble to the Galerie Daniel Besseiche, where we repaid Alice for her kind loan to me. Then on to the Hotel Saint Germain, our new Paris home, and one we're quite proud to have (a home on the rue du Bac, not bad, as Monsieur Malvic said). We deposited two bags with the ever professional and nice Daniel. We wove through the rues and Jim negotiated the mad roundabouts at the Place de la Concorde and Arc de Triumphe with great aplomb, which is amazing because there is no organization-just tens of cars going every direction. It is harrowing.

We arrived in St. Quentin in Picardy, where Henri Matisse attended boarding school and discovered he could draw. We checked into the splendid Hotel des Cannoniers, which we found in the centre ville. We took a walk, had a drink, bought some luscious chocolates, some filled with Calvados and raisins, some the village specialty-Quentins-and indulged our sweet tooths. When we returned to our fine, large room, Jim couldn't find the car keys. We retraced our steps. No luck. Marie-Paule Michel, our chic proprietress, made many phone calls for help. It was Saturday night, and everything was closed. We would have to wait till Monday to solve this dilemma. We would have a chance to rest. Jim went with the flow (the only sensible reaction but not what one would necessarily have) and chose to look at this as lagniappe, an enforced holiday.

We walked to a restaurant, where we ordered champagne and enjoyed a delicious cassoulet. Then fell in bed for deep sleep.

posted by Beth on January 22, 2003 | View All Diary Entries

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