H whisked me to nearby Montreuil, where she lives (and where I used to in 1997 and 1998), and we were soon catching up over demis (half litres – I had a Jenlain) on the terrasse of a pleasant decontracté Montreuil bar.
After a ten-minute discussion with the proprietor of a local wine shop-cum-restaurant about the best wine to accompany soufflé (you know you’re in France when this happens!) we went back to her place where we were joined by her brother Louis, a fan of most things Russian and an enthusiastic hunter of wild boar, for a delicious meal and further conversation. After Louis left, I showed H some of my photographs, said my goodbyes and then collapsed into bed. (Poor H had to get up at 5.30 for her job in an airport, so I wouldn’t be seeing her in the morning.)
The morning was uneventful, apart from when I ventured onto H’s balcony to photograph the view, startling her cat (which, by the way, we had watched dismember a hapless blue tit the previous evening), which then knocked over a plant pot, smashing the saucer it had been standing in. I was writing a note of explanation, apology and thanks when H phoned from her work, insisting I help myself to various items of food for the road (rail).
The Metro journey to Gare de L’Est was unremarkable and, having ascertained that there was no complicated check-in procedure, I bought a bottle of wine at a Nicolas store and a “sandwich fromage crudités” at a boulangerie, then had an espresso on the terrasse of the Brasserie Gare de l’Est (it’s fab to watch the world go by from the terrasse of a Parisian brasserie) before catching the train to Stuttgart via Strasbourg.