Once upon a time there was a little girl who heard about a beautiful, enchanting city in a land far far away where people wore berets, ate something called ‘baguette’, and spoke what she immediately decided must be one of the prettiest languages in the world. She learnt about all the ancient stone buildings that stood tall and magnificent along the long, winding river that ran through the middle of the city, and she listened to songs sung in this pretty language. The little girl fell in love with the idea of this magical city, and consequently spent many hours, days, months, and years dreaming about what it might be like to wander its cobblestones streets. Time went by and life went on but still, the idea of this city and the country it was a part of remained in her heart and in her dreams.
That was over 80 years ago, some time around 1930. As we all know too well, life goes on and dreams get put on shelves. For this little girl, wars came and went, lovers stole her heart, children were born, then grandchildren, and then great grandchildren, her body became more fragile but still, she never forgot about her dream and she never lost hope that one day she might see this beautiful city in person – she always dusted the shelf where her dream lay waiting for her.
Today, that little girl is 90 years old. Her name is Joyce and she is my beloved great aunt who, when I was a little girl, taught me how important it was to dream and how important it was to keep dreams alive. When I visited her back home in Sydney this past January, she told me that this year she was determined to get to Paris, the city of her dreams. I told her, “If you go, no matter where I am in the world or what I’m doing, I will be there with you – I will not miss it for the world.”
Yesterday was the day her dream came true.
Together with her daughter Kathy, myself and Romain, the four of us strolled through the Jardin des plantes, took in the view of the Notre Dame along pont sully, had lunch at Café Louis-Philipe, wandered along the surrounding streets all the while taking in the sights and scenery. She can’t quite believe it is happening, and I am beyond ecstatic to be here with her and show her some of the Paris that I have come to know and love. This afternoon we plan to go to Montmatre to see the Sacre Coeur and have an aperitif in a little bar somewhere along the way. It’s not an easy feat with a wheelchair in tow, but so far we have managed. Countless times Aunty Joyce said to me yesterday, “Why has it taken me so long to get here?” and I said, “It doesn’t matter, you are here now, and it just goes to show you, dreams can come true” and she added “yes, and age is just a word”.
Pia Jane Bijkerk is an internationally acclaimed stylist, photographer and author specializing in interiors, still life & food. She continues to use her home as her workshop and her travels as inspiration and delights in stepping off the beaten path to discover the unexpected for her clients and readers. As a stylist she has worked around the world for the likes of Vogue Entertaining + Travel, Gourmet Traveller, Real Simple, Saatchi and Saatchi, Tommy Hilfiger and Philips. Today she is the author and photographer of Paris: Made by Hand, Amsterdam: Made by Hand (June 2010), as well as the much-anticipated My Heart Wanders(2011).