I was in France four years ago with my two children and my then husband. We had come via the Chunnel to see Paris at Christmas, a day tip from London. It was not my first trip to Paris. I had been to this romantic city before, with a girl friend who insisted I accompany her abroad. She had been appalled that despite my extensive Art History background, I had never traveled to Europe to experience western art and architecture first hand. She had volunteered to bring me to the Louvre. She was conducting business for Microsoft. I flew to Dublin for the day and on to Paris with her for the weekend. I had cried at her generosity of spirit. In return, she appreciated my tour of the grand museum. I had made our dining reservations, and we savored truffles at one of the best Parisian restaurants. I wanted my family to see the magic of Paris, the magnificence that I had enjoyed with my friend.
The first class train under the English Channel and through the French countryside met expectations of a family familiar with the finest privileges that excess money could provide. Paris was a different story. To my husband, the cab ride was considered too expensive, the galleries too crowded, the staff of the Louvre did not show the proper respect for wealthy Americans, and the concept of trying to speak a native language was inconceivable. I was told that I was deferential, too adoring of the art and architecture, too adoring of France itself. The children watched and learned. I desperately tried to introduce them to Aphrodite, Mona Lisa, and Venus. They were not in love as was their mother. At dinner, my rapture of the Eiffel Tower view was discarded as trivial. We returned to English speaking London. Perhaps, like the prom queen, Paris was threatening for her beauty and sophistication. I am a lover of beauty. I remained in love with Paris.
Now I sit in a corner bistro eating an omelet drizzled in chocolate. Where can you get an omelet drizzled in chocolate? Simon and Garfunkel play in the background, and the sounds of spoken French wash through the room. This non drinker sips her Bordeaux alone and observes the patrons while she types on her lap top. The couple in the corner kisses. The family beside me utter phrases like, “C’est magnifique.” The small boy turns and watches as I type. I think he is fascinated with the robot figures that decorate my laptop. I smile and wave my pinky finger at him. The waiter speaks his best English to me, and the rain glistening street reflects the red of the stop lights and the white of the car headlights.
I order more to eat in attempt to remain in this corner of heaven.
‘Do you have anything dietetic for dessert? Sorbet?”
“We have mango…” and he lists the numerous choices.
“Mango is perfect.”
“Oh no, I need to fit into my suitcase full of clothes.” The waiter looks at my body. “You are beautiful. You don’t need to worry.”
I tell him that I love French men, and he smiles.
I have walked through the streets of Paris alone, found a bistro, and am enjoying my table by the window. I watch the scooters, the pedestrians with their umbrellas, and vehicles go by. I am so happy to be in Paris. It’s a beautiful city, a city of romance and magic. I vow to savor every moment. every glass of wine, and every smile. The waiter leaves me undisturbed; to allow me the time to enjoy my experience and to feel unhurried.
My mango sorbet is done, the wine is finished, and I will leave for the streets to see where my path will lead. Each step will be an adventure. I will savor them all, one at a time.
Bon appetite from a delightful, unnamed bistro, that could be on any corner of any Parisian street, where chocolate comes with omelets, and everyone utters,”magnifique”, at some point during their meal. The family beside me softly sings Happy Birthday in French to the young boy. The smell of the blown out candle fills the air. Laughter rises from every table, the silverware clinks against the plates, and the beat of the music continues. Waiting for my bill, I watch the tiny white lights twinkle across the façade of the Eiffel Tower like thousands of fireflies gathered in celebration of the holiday. I feel myself becoming bilingual.
“A demain mes cher amis!”