Here is the last part of my little Christmas tale. In part one we saw Jen lose her job and decide to use the opportunity to make changes in her life; in part two she arrived in Paris to stay with her good friend Kath, a freelance pastry chef, and today we see how Jen makes her own new life in the city of Light. I hope you enjoy this last chapter, thank you for your indulgence.
Kath’s brunch was a major success, she received compliments on the food like never before and two new bookings from guests at the event.
She and Jen were sitting over a coffee the next day in the little bistro down the road from Kath’s apartment, a diary spread open in front of them on the small marble topped table. Kath explained to Jen “So the truth is that I already have as much business as I can handle. Like I was telling you yesterday, it’s hard for me to find reliable help, and the best way for me to destroy my reputation would be by serving bad food. So I prefer to refuse events rather than take the risk of disappointing clients”.
“I get that”, replied Jenny, her eyes travelling over the months laid out in front of her. “But what I find hard to understand, is why, in a city like Paris, where they are not exactly short of good food, is there so much demand for home baked pastries?”
“I think it’s because we keep it simple, and our presentation is fun, and of course I try to keep my prices competitive”
Kath reached into her big handbag and pulled out a book with her accounts written out by hand, “What!” exclaimed Jen. “You are keeping your figures up to date with pen and paper?! I can help you put this on to your computer if you like, it would save you so much time”
That evening the two friends spent a couple of hours, glass of wine to hand, transferring Kath’s accounts from her old notebook to a simple app on her computer. From there they looked at her marketing materials and her client data, all areas where Jen had experience and expertise. “Oh my goodness Jen, I wish I had done all this earlier, I could have gained so much time, thank you for your help”
Christmas came and went in a flurry of entertaining and laughter. Kath introduced Jen to her circle of friends, a happy mix of nationalities, and ages. Dinners and long lunches were enjoyed in the latin quarter, and Jen rapidly found her way around, and became a familiar figure at the bistro on rue Jacob, where she loved to take a morning coffee. The girls came to an understanding, that until Jen worked out her next step, she could stay with Kath and help her out in exchange for her room.
The weeks flew past, and rather than looking for a job independently Jen became more and more involved in Kath’s business and helped with everything from the baking to the accounts to logistics at events.
She got to know Paris quite well as she scooted around delivering pastries and she quickly found her favourite spots.
Halfway through January, Jen noticed a tall French guy who was often sitting alone at the table inside her favourite bistro. He wasn’t the only regular client that she had come to recognise, but well, he was the best looking by far. They never spoke but Jen found herself unconsciously checking the bistro for him when she arrived each morning.
She spun around on her chair, and there was the tall Frenchman, standing behind her, smiling broadly.
“Well yes, I mean no …. I mean I can’t actually read in French but I’m sort of guessing the words from the photos, you know” He grinned,
They chatted for an hour or so, his name was Philippe and he invited her to dinner the following evening. This would be the start of a new friendship, rather than romance, and also the opening of a door onto a new circle of friends, involved in other areas of work in Paris. It was fun to observe how different life was in the city, seen through the eyes of professionals like herself. She remembered her stressful working routine back home, and how she never had enough time to do all she wanted, but here she could see that priorities were more balanced. Work was important, but so was good food, good wine, and taking the time to enjoy friends.
In March, Jen returned home briefly for her mother’s birthday, and also to put her apartment up for sale. She wasn’t completely sure about the next step yet, but she had decided that it was only by daring to change that she’d be able to move forward. She applied for a long term visa for France, and crossed her fingers that would come through without any problem.
One of the questions she had to answer for her visa application was her reason for wanting to live in France, with a smile, she filled in the words ‘attending a French pastry school in Paris’. “Now I just have to sign up and learn!”.
Back in Paris she finalised the details of her visa, and discovered the joys of dealing with the French administration, a lesson in patience if ever there was one.
The months went by quickly, everything was so busy. It was fun to learn a new skill at the pastry school, and to be able to put her lessons to practical use as she helped Kath fill orders for clients. She bought herself a bicycle, and each morning she cycled along the river to school, pinching herself at the way her new life was taking shape.
With Jen on board, Kath’s business had stepped up to a new level. With the help of her friend, her desk was still busy, but everything felt more calm, more doable. Positive feedback from events was bringing in many new orders, and she was in the enviable position of being able to choose clients.
Kath was happy to see how well Jen had settled in to Paris life, and didn’t mind at all when in June Jen announced that she had found a small apartment two blocks away, and that she’d soon be moving out of Kath’s spare room.
Jen’s studio was newly renovated and partly furnished, which was good because she didn’t need to buy anything major, but there was space for her to add her personal touch.
Together the girlfriends took a trip to the Marché Vanves flea market and came back with a sweet old armchair; some beautiful glasses and even a painting for Jen’s little flat. Kath was pleased too as she found a huge silver champagne bucket that would be great for her evening events.
On Jen’s last day before moving out, Kath sent her a text message: “Dinner out tonight, get dressed up, it’s my treat!”
Kath and Jen walked down the rue Jacob. It was a balmy evening and they took their time walking to the restaurant. “Bonsoir”, called out a waiter as they walked into the bustling dining area, he led them to a little table, in the far corner of the restaurant, and the wide open facade gave them a lovely view out over the street and the tables on the terrace.
The meal was fun and delicious. Kath insisted on ordering champagne, and after they finished their main course, and were waiting for dessert, she lifted her glass and smiled. “Thank you Jen, for all the many ways you have helped me since you arrived” Jen laughed, and lifted her glass but before she could reply Kath continued; “I have a proposal for you Jen, would you consider becoming a partner in my business so we can continue working together but on more equal terms?”
Jen was speechless, then started babbling “well yes, of course, oh my goodness, this is amazing!”
The rest of the dinner was spent in happy chatter and plans, and promises to sit down properly the next weekend to draw up targets and plans for the next months ahead. “Just give me time to move into my apartment, and then I’m all yours!” said Jen.
Their partnership turned out to work beautifully. They complimented each other perfectly and the business continued to prosper. Jen often joked about coming to Paris in search of possible romance and instead finding a love for baking French pastries. By the end of the year, they invested in new premises and two young employees and Jen was even interviewed for an expat website, as a prime example of reinvention and moving abroad.
And when early December came around, and Jen received the inevitable call from her Mum, “honey are you coming home for Christmas”, she took a deep breath, smiled and replied “but Mum, I am home…… why don’t you come to me instead?”