living la vie european inside los angeles


people who have known who-we-are-in-real-life for a Long Time, are always surprised that we ended up in los angeles.


because they think of los angeles as a place of plastic surgery, obsessive actors-taking-hopeless-classes and a general sense of everyone-on-a-restrictive-diet.

and, from what we’ve Heard, it’s True (for many people here).

but we had a formative experience (we blush to remember exactly how many years ago but we were 13 if that gives you a ballpark of decades) of Life Lived Differently – and this was in Lisbon (Portugal, to clarify, as according to Messrs. Google, there appear to be Quite a few Lisbons on this planet).

before we proceed – there’s a soundtrack to this Post – would you like it?


here’s what we’re listening to Right Now as we write.

yes – she has a Haunting quality to her melodious yearnings, you’re right *looksintomiddledistance*.

because we grew up (mostly) in england – a place with Many good Qualities – but not a lot of sunshine or mellow days that stretched into twilight with salt on one’s forearms from swimming and faded paperback books and freckles joining up to make one’s nose most pleasingly retroussé.


those sorts of days we found in Portugal.

and it has occurred to us as we swim and lie around reading paperback books and admiring the hot sunshine toasting the hillsides and eat fresh fruit and vegetables from the farmers market and generally have a sense of wellness and joy here in L.A – that what we are doing is Living the way we learned in Lisbon all those (many) years ago.


the landscape is even remarkably similar.


although the carved mason-work-on-stone in portugal is usually Original and not an homage or – more likely – left over from a movie set or a millionaire trying to recreate the pre-war europe of his Youthful dreams.



(this picture was taken on a trip to Lisbon and recorded here – in fact, just in case you’d like an In Situ account of a bit more Portugal experiences (perhaps for Heather and our other new friends – before you joined us) here are few posts from April 2012.)

now back to the book-at-hand (literally finishing it now because the Library just emailed us to say it is Due Back on Tuesday)


someone else who lived in america and fell in love with la vie european is the poet w.s. merwin who wrote the most extraordinary memoir called Summer Doorways. It is extraordinary because, as a young American, he dreamed of a EUROPE that he knew must exist but he had never experienced and the way it slowly unfolds before his mind’s eye is soothing and tranquil and Rather magical.

Life presented opportunities (as it so often does when one is open and ready with a magical glint in one’s eye and a small overnight bag packed) and took work as a tutor.

These jobs ranged over a few summers and w.s. merwin found himself exploring EUROPE with pretenders to the portuguese throne’s young relatives and staying in villas in Italy circa early 1950s.

on one particular summer, w.s. merwin drove with the Braganza family members from their summer lodgings in france through spain to portugal (does one have to go through another country first? hold on. asking messrs. Google –  – ah – look! quelle journey-by-Motor-car!)

Screen shot 2013-02-16 at 10.04.10 AM


and the Portugal that he found was most definitely not just La Vie European but also a way of life not seen in many countries by the early 50s.

may we share a few more lines with you from w.s. merwin?

(p. 208)
there were still minstrels in the mountains, men who wandered, with musical instruments, a sack, and a shepherd’s blanket. The quinta courtyard had been one of their stopping places, since some period in the past…..the one who came most often was a tall, old, blind man with a beard, who put his hand on the rim of the well and stood looking upward. He had a large, beautiful zither, which he played with great delicacy, and sang songs of longing and mourning……the words were as impossible to grasp or retain as filaments of mist.

Summer lasted late along the small valley. It was summer light that lingered in honeyed beams through the afternoons, over the small fields, and lit up the car track across the river, the bronze hides of the oxen, the mud-caked cart wheels turning slowly and wailing, the wisps of mauve smoke climbing……..By late morning the summer seemed to be back again, the season in which we had come……

the future poet’s experience of EUROPE was somewhat strange, especially for a young american man, as Tutor to the offspring of once glorious nobles – now most exiled or roaming other places looking for a home or a new place to belong while longingly looking over borders they could no longer cross but they still wanted their sons to learn about Shakespeare and converse in ancient dialects of privilege.

So we would move out of the farmhouse to Estoril, and a villa next door to the one belonging to the exiled King of Spain, and there Anthony would meet Juanito, who would one day be the King, and we would all play kick the can in the walled garden, and dorothy and I would sit in the same small movie house with King Mark of Rumania and Umberto of Italy, both of whom lived nearby. We would have an apartment above the carriage house and stable, and I would go riding with the Comte’s head groom, up over the mountain to Sintra and its palace on the other side. We would explore Lisbon, and travel across Spain on milk trains, and I would visit Robert Graves on Mallorca , who would turn out to need a tutor for his son and would offer me the job.

thanks to the lovely clever people at NPR, it sounds as if w. s. merwin went on – to France – and wrote about Troubadours and chivalry and verse and stone houses covered in brambles – we shall Request This Item from the Beverly Hills Library at Once!


so – as you can see – our life in Los Angeles has much to recommend it to someone who learned La Vie european – like w. s. merwin – in Portugal. Twilight in February sets off the Gucci ad and neon pinkness of Chateau Marmont Most Beautifully.

now – before we leave you – a Most Lovely surprising compliment from Korea.

Ms. Heej Lee, our friend on Instagram, who resides in Seoul, left us a darling note to say how much our photographs of recumbent linens soothes her when she visits our photographs during what is mid-afternoon in her part of the Planet. linens

and so – in hono(u) of Ms. Lee – a few more from this morning – captured in the morning light. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

this morning we woke up Particularly rested after a remarkably Fine Friday during which we spoke to our literary agent in NYC (such a lovely sentence to write) as the contract is Nearly Done for book 1 and then took a walk along sunset at dusk with Eric Shaw Quinn from The Dinner Party Show – both Most delicious events – but perhaps the Most Glorious bit of our day – which we cannot really tell you about as we are Discreet about RL events and so-on-as you understand we Must be – was standing outside Stage 6 (where Jane, Dolly and Lily frolicked) smiling in the sunshine because we were Just too happy to drive quite yet.


2 thoughts on “living la vie european inside los angeles

  1. Ahh, thank you for this amazing post. Where are the other remarks? Hello? *echo* I love getting caught up, gathering the bits and pieces of your trail not quite gone cold, not now, not ever! And that satin made me want to crawl right back into bed and pull the comforter up over my chin mais alas, there are two puppers that need to be walked–two!

    I would love to hear more about the next merwin book please–troubadours? That is Provence!

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