"Those who have experienced Paris have advantage over those who have not. We are the ones who have glimpsed a little bit of heaven, down here on earth." - Deirdre Kelly

Monday, July 26, 2010

Faut Voir {Must See}: A Sistah in Paris, Paris Soirees -

Patricia holding court (2010)

"It doesn't matter who you are or of what origin you are. You're either French (in your head and behavior) or you are not...the sum of being an American who lives in Paris, and African-American trying to find roots here..seeing life internationally - on a large scale and permanently, equals my personal experience of being an expat" - Patrica Laplante-Collins. I first met this lovely and fascinating woman in 2004. Sometime during that first meeting I realized two things: this woman would change my life and we would become life-long friends.

Paris Soiree - October 2010

Paris Soirees is a twice-weekly networking cocktail event. Patricia welcomes Americans in Paris, expats, hip French and the international community in a 'global meetup'. For 30 euros per person, Patricia opens her home for these events, and reigns over a cocktail hour, an elegantly simple and yummy buffet dinner, wine (a whole lot of wine), and featured speaker. Her soirees feature literary, art, new age, business, African-American and Black Paris themes. And this all takes place within a backdrop of an "intimate salon" atmosphere - or at least that what her brochure says. In reality, it's so much more. Patricia's soirees are a gathering, a celebration of life and meeting new friends. Patricia's soriees welcomes people of all colors and walks of life that have three things in common: a) their insatiable love of meeting new people; b) their insatiable desire to discover and experience the unique c) their insatiable love of Paris. Upon exploring Patricia's Paris Soirees website, I knew that I had to go!

Featured speaker: Randall Kenan
He recited poetry, told wonderful naughty stories, and discussed one of his famous works: The Cross of Redemption: The Uncollected Writings of James Baldwin

My first opportunity came in October 2004. Peter had a week-long business trip to Germany and had surprised me with a ticket and a week's stay in Paris - how fucking awesome is my man?! Although I literally contacted Patricia at the last minute, she welcomed us. Getting an invitation and actually getting to (and into) the soiree was an adventure in itself. I had to call Patricia the day of, she gave me the super-secret address (the soriee started at 10 pm), and in order to get buzzed into the building you had to know the password - so 'speakeasy 1920s!

Nightview by James L. Stanfield

There's something incredibly romantic about whisking through the quiet dark streets of Paris. Our elderly French taxi driver gave us an impromptu tour of the oldest parts of Paris, practically screaming his narrative (in French) over some crushingly percussive African music. After driving across the Seine over a cobblestoned bridge, our taxi stopped at an 18th century mansion on the Ile St. Louis. The antique vintage carved wooden doors were at least 8 feet tall with huge black iron handles. Nestled in one corner was a tiny brass covered console w/ tiny black buttons - no names, just apartment numbers, very James Bond (the fine ass Daniel Craig version). After being buzzed in and pulling open the surprisingly light door, we stepped into a courtyard that had a garden (with trees and benches!) in the center, and a narrow cobblestoned walk around the sides - with slightly smaller wooden doors placed at 12 o'clock, 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock, and 9 o'clock. We stepped into a elevator so tiny Peter and I barely fit inside it, and slowly made our way to the top floor.

We entered a small apartment filled with people. There was a buffet along one wall filled with platters of finger food and there were wine bottles on every available surface. There were all kinds of incredibly diverse and interesting a people (with all kinds of diverse and interesting things to say). But more than the amazing people, more than the free-flowing wine and amazing conversation, by far the most interesting person in the room was Patricia.

Patricia is a fascinating intriquing woman - American memories with a Parisian sensibility. She was reserved and sometimes curt - oh so Parisian. But I got the feeling that since she's met thousands of people over the years, she reserves judgement - takes her time sizing you up. Well, I did the same. Patricia and I wound up talking the whole evening, and long after everyone else left. Sometime during our talk I knew that I had to bring my beloved mom - Dorothy - to meet her. I knew that once mom met her she'd see what I saw in Patricia - a beautiful, intellectul, artistic, Black woman who had carved out an expat life for herself in Paris. Patricia's lived in Paris for nearly 30 years. I knew that, not only were Patricia and I kindered spirits, so are she and mom. After Peter and I returned to the States, over the next 5 years, I corresponded with Patricia (love @mail!). But I didn't get the opportuntiy to introduce Patricia and mom 'til October 2009.

Les Grandes Dames meet.

Of course mom and Patricia hit it off. And the soriee itself was unique and wonderful. That evening's featured speaker was Maria D'Arcy - belly dancer extraordinare.

Everybody dances! Belly dancing in Paris - how fabulous is that?!

Peter and I about to dive into the buffet and copious amounts of wine.

We took Patricia to lunch the next day and then again a few days after that. So many stories and adventures. If I get her okay, I'll share them with you. Maybe I can convince her to share them with you herself. As soon as I finish this post, I'm going to @mail her and let her know that we're returning. I'll take her to dinner and over wine and good food, see if I can get a story or two to bring back with me. Believe me, this lady is multi-layered and fascinating. Maybe I'll do a series and call it 'Patricia in Paris.' Is that too corny?

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!


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