Amis en France

Edith, Martha & GuyOn our last evening in Paris, Edith and Guy LePechon, dear friends for five decades, met us at our hotel and took us to three lovely places. I had first met Edith Schmid in Vöcklabruck, Austria, when I stayed with her family in the summer of 1965.  It has been a joy to keep in touch all these years with her and her younger sister Christl, who lives in Vienna with her husband Joseph Matousek and whom we visited in 2015. I only wish that I could have become acquainted with their other sister, Brigitte, but she had just married and no longer lived at home.

Edith was working in the family Gasthof that summer of ’65, but had already met her future husband, Guy, at the American Church in Paris. They were married and living in Paris by the time Mobil Oil sent us to the city in 1967 for a week on each side of Steve’s summer assignment in Istanbul. Those two weeks  were the longest time that we ever spent in Paris. Edith and Guy both spoke English very well and it was great to get to know them as a couple before either of us had children.

A generation later, our children began to continue the exchange that had begun in 1965 with the Experiment in International Living. On our family trip in 1986 the Smith kids met the LePechon kids at their home in Sceaux, just south of Paris. Both Lilli and David enrolled in French that fall. In 1989 we hosted Francine and Marc LePechon in Arlington. David stayed with Stefan LePechon and his family in 1990 at their summer place in Dahouët in Brittany. In 1994 Steve and I attended the wedding of Marc and Valerie in Brittany; in 1999 Edith and Guy visited us in Arlington. Lilli and I met with Edith, Francine and 8-month-old Thomas at Charles DeGaulle Airport on our way to Dubai in April 2001. David and Leslie had dinner with Edith and Guy and several of their sailing friends in Miami a few years ago.

On September 30 Edith and Guy took us first to the Museum of French Monuments, a centralized collection of reproductions of famous French architectural masterworks intended for convenient close study. It was an apt choice for me. The models were very well done and at eye level. I took lots of photos so I could try to understand and identify the various periods of French architecture. The Museum also had an interesting view of the Eiffel Tower.

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Our second stop was a place we would have never found on our own–the Shangri-La Hotel, where Guy treated us to drinks in the luxurious bar. The atmosphere evoked some of the scenes in my current book, The Paris Architect. Then we continued by subway to a great restaurant near Les Halles, Au Pied de Cochon (literally, “at the foot of a pig,” but tres chic). Francine and her family joined us there for dinner. Francine is an intellectual property lawyer in Paris and her husband Pierre-Yves Joubert is Professor of Biomedicine at the University of Paris-South in Sceaux; we had met him at Marc’s wedding in 1994. The Jouberts have four children–Thomas, 16; Aline, 9-1/2; and 5-year old twin girls, Elsa and Laure. With their busy schedules we were very honored that they found time to meet us on their 22nd wedding anniversary! They brought Thomas and Aline with them and left their younger daughters with Pierre-Yves’ mother. Edith proudly reported that she, too, gets to spend a lot of time with all her grandchildren.

The dinner lasted almost three hours, giving us time to catch up. Francine seemed relaxed and happy, despite a long day at work. Pierre-Yves was amiable and interested in our family. Thomas has many interests, chiefly film and photography. He helped me snap a shot of my dessert. Aline ate everything she was served, answered questions politely, then began writing in her journal. She wore a sweatshirt that she got in Ireland when she accompanied her father on a business trip. Thomas and Aline both showed admirable social skills and stamina, reminding me of Francine when she was 19.  Skiing is their usual winter vacation, while sailing is a summer favorite.

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The Schmid-LePechon-Matousek-Joubert family has meant very much to me for the last 51 years. Relationships like this, I believe, are the basis for international peace and understanding. My dream is that our families may carry on this exchange into the fourth generation. To that end, I issue an invitation for any and all of these French and Austrian family members to visit us soon in Florida. Massachusetts and Texas visits can likely be arranged, as well.

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