Today we went to Montmartre for the last day of the neighborhood’s wine harvest festival (yes, there is a tiny vineyard in Montmartre, the last one left in the city of Paris). Julie and Matt stayed home, because Matt wasn’t feeling well and Julie’s knee hurt — slow off the mark and dealing with mild maladies, we didn’t make it to church today — but I took the little ones, and joined our friends the Delansays and their children, and off we went on a rainy Sunday. I took the photo above of a singing acrobat, who stood on a railing at the top of a hill next to the basilica, hung onto a lamp post, sang French ballads and flirted. Here she is greeting a man in 19th-century garb (some people were dressed up for the fete). It was lovely. Beyond lovely.

This was a wonderful festival, yet another event that makes my heart swell with affection for France. There were winemakers and food vendors from all the regions of France. I saw cheeses and sausages I didn’t know existed. I tried roasted chestnuts from the Ardeche, and bought some chestnut cream made by the family selling the chestnuts. It was raining, and kind of cold, and we grown-ups were managing children, so we didn’t get to stop at all the booths I would have liked to have done. Still, it was such a pleasure to walk among the stalls. I finally had to stop when I saw these roasted potatoes sitting next to a bubbling vat of melted Comte cheese. Yes, I bought a serving of the potatoes smothered in the fondue, and a cup of cold, crisp beer from Jura:

Look at those tender little critters, falling all over each other to jump into that warm cheese bath. If that’s not comfort food, Jack — er, Jacques — I don’t know what is.

Votre Jeune Travailleur also tasted absinthe for the first time:

My verdict: Meh. I don’t see what the big deal is. Nice to have finally tried it, though. My only regret was that I waited till the last day of the wine harvest festival to go up to Montmartre. There was so much to see and do and (let’s be honest) taste!

It was late in the afternoon when the rain finally stopped, and we stood with the children on a terrace just below the basilica, and watched the setting sun lay golden blankets across the city below. And there, in the southeastern sky, was a rainbow. If you had thought you were in paradise already, no one would have faulted you.

And when I got home, I opened the jar of Ardechois chestnut cream and spread some on a baguette. Very heaven. I cannot say enough good things about France.

You know, though, for all that, the tenderest thing I saw today was my son Lucas run around like a puppy with the Delansays’ son Leon, who is about his age. These boys are inseparable. I’ve been friends with Beatrice Delansay since high school, when I came to visit her family (I was penpals with her older sister back then). I have known Philippe, her husband, through her, since the 1990s. I have very few close friends I’ve known longer than these two. And now, our children know each other, and our sons have become best buddies. So, friendship endures into the next generation, across the ocean and cultures. That’s worth more to me than anything else on this trip, and you know that for me, that’s saying a lot.

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