August 28, 2016
Whenever I come to Paris, I always get a special feeling. I have wondered what it is about this city that touches an emotional core. After four days of wandering through the Latin Quarter, strolling the banks of the Seine, and lingering in cafes, something came to light. Morning, noon and night, people live their lives communally on the side streets of their neighborhoods.
One morning, we sat at a sidewalk cafe bakery, sipping cafe au lait and nibbling the flaky, golden crust of a croissant. I watched the people. It was early, and few tourists had ventured out. I watched the locals; you knew them immediately. The mother pushing the stroller. The man in the suit carrying two baguettes home under his arms. The young woman in the red skirt on the bicycle. The old woman carrying the basket of vegetables. It occurred to me that Parisiennes live their lives together, in the streets. They meet. They greet. They eat. Each day, they go to the corner fruit stand, and to the bakery and to the butcher, and that it was all here, on this very street.
A man sat at the table behind us near the entrance, bantering with the waiter and conversing with those who strolled in. “Ah, ah,” he says to me, “Prenez la table comme ca, pour votre spouse. Il a les jambes longue!” And he popped over to assist with sliding the table over so Martin had more room. I had been oblivious to this need. Smiles and laughs. Voila! Un ami nouveau. Then, there was my backpack to attend to. “Oh, no, no. Votre sac, ne le prenez pas ici.” And he gestured to the other side of my table, near the protective planter. I had not noticed the peril my possession was in. Indeed, I myself was in need of protection. My patron then felt that we needed a picture–perhaps to record the utter perfection of the arrangement. I focused the camera for him and handed it over, whereupon he walked into the street instead and snapped the shutter with aplomb. (The picture turned out featuring a trash bin and barely squeezing our faces in.)
A handsome young man with blonde hair, sitting at a table across from us, gave us an amused wink. (He had escaped the attentions of the patron.) Voila! Another conversation ensued. He was from Copenhagen, Mikel, here for six months studying and staying with his friend Dominique, who of course, he also introduced. When Mikel found out we were celebrating our anniversary in Paris, and that indeed we had been married only one year, he became effusive. We had come to the perfect place! Dominique chimed in with a restaurant recommendation (Loulou’s near the Louvre, which turned out to be excellent). Mikel jumped in to tell us we must also go to the Jardin du Luxembourg right now, for the blooming flowers. They are the best. He sees them every day when he jogs. He declared, “I love this city. It is my home. You are so, so welcome here!” And he said it with such sincerity, we did indeed feel the city had opened its arms to us.