A few years ago we found ourselves traveling through Southeast Asia two weeks behind Bill Clinton. Everywhere we went, from Vietnam to Laos to Cambodia, he had just left, and left behind him an enthusiastic population, eager to show us the photos of themselves posing with the former president. Bill Clinton being who is is, there was no shortage of photo ops.
We now find ourselves in a Paris also recently visited by an American president, but there are many fewer traces of Barack Obama's passing through. Paris is a more sophisticated place, used to the visits of presidents and emperors, and Obama is much less in need of adulation than Clinton. This combination of circumstance has made it barely evident that he was here.
The only notice taken of his dinner at La Fontaine de Mars in the 7th arrondissement is a small framed headline from a provincial French newspaper heralding the fact that Obama had dined at a restaurant owned by a woman from the region. No photos of hands being shaken, no shoulder-to-shoulder smiling, just "Obama a Diné Chez Une Tarbaise". We also dined there the other night, and no one asked to take our picture either. We were treated just like visiting presidents. The Tarbais beans in the cassoulet were great.
Barack was not the only Obama in Paris last summer. Michelle and the girls were also here and had a shopping expedition to Bonpoint, the well-known children's clothing store on rue de Tournon. In need of a dress for a cousin's grand-daughter, we took ourselves off there and loved the store. It's housed in a beautiful airy building, with room after high-ceilinged room of creatively merchandised clothes for besotted grandparents. The best part however is a hard-to-find tea salon/café downstairs, through a window, and into the garden. Don't tell anyone.