It's hard to believe it's been two years since my first visit to Paris. Lately I've been feeling that I could use a little Paris.
I love Paris in the spring time. And in the fall. I’m sure I’d love it in the summer and winter, too. Except I haven’t been then.
A lot of my friends don’t get my love affair with Paris. They say it’s dirty, rude, overpriced.
Yeah, formidable ain’t it?
My frame of reference for dirty is New Orleans (another city I adore) so I have a high tolerance for filth. And Parisians strike me as formal, like the old-time Southerners I was raised around, rather than rude. So that doesn’t bother me either.
My deep and abiding affection for Paris really has nothing to do with the usual tourist attractions. I’m hooked on those perfect little moments that can happen only in this city. Moments like …
That first sinfully rich sip of hot chocolate poured from a little silver pitcher at Laduree. And if it’s accompanied by a bite of a delicate rose-flavored maccaron - even better.
Aromatic roasted chestnuts plucked from a paper cone on a crisp fall day outside the Musee d’Orsay.
Aligot – an Auvergnant specialty of potatoes, garlic and cheese whipped in a gleaming copper pot tableside at L’Ambassade d'Auvergne. It’s a beautiful thing.
Sipping champagne while watching the sunset from my tiny 5th floor balcony at Hotel Caron de Beaumarchais …
… and smiling when I spy the occupant of the Marais apartment opposite me scoop up her cats and kiss their noses as she walks in the door. I have the same joyous reunion with my cats every day after work
Paying homage to the Lady with the Unicorn tapestries in all their breathtaking splendor at Musee de Cluny.
Chocolate shops on every street corner. And feeling free to indulge because I know I'm going to walk it off that day.
Catching another American’s eye in the street and sharing an unspoken “Hey, can you believe we’re in Paris?” moment.
The orgasmic experience that is Saturday morning market day. The bountiful produce. The ripening cheeses. The exotic spices. I just want to buy one of everything and go cook up a Babette’s feast for all of Paris.
The musical chattering of French school children as they walk in double file formation down the street – a tableau straight out of a Madeleine book.
The elderly man in a plaid jacket flirting with me in raspy Maurice Chevalier tones “Madame, vous etes seule. Moi aussi, je suis seule.” Oh, non, non, non grand-pere. But thanks for noticing.
The young man who sweeps my heavy suitcase up onto his shoulder, hauls it down the metro stairs and sets it at my feet with a wink and a bow. Oh, that Gallic charm.
Shuffling through dried leaves in the Place des Vosges while a string quartet plays Vivaldi.
Music everywhere - in the parks, museums, subway stations. It's as if I'm the star of a movie and this is the soundtrack.
Buying a pain au chocolat as an afternoon pick-me-up and not feeling guilty because all those skinny French women are having one, too.
Discovering small museums with private art collections and jewelbox tearooms.
Shopkeepers who carefully wrap all my purchases like presents instead of heaving them into a bag.
Scoring bargains at Monoprix -- Target with a French accent.
“Licking the windows,” as the French call window-shopping. And with good reason. The clothes are scrumptious.
Admiring how elegantly an impeccably groomed woman tucks into a big split bone for its creamy marrow. I envy her table presence.
Steak, frites, walnut salad and profiteroles at L’Entrecote. It will be a sad day when someone finally cracks the code to that fabulous secret steak sauce.
Going someplace crowded and noisy for dinner. Noise always sounds better in French.
Being mistaken for French -- by a French person. There is no greater compliment.
All the other magical moments I haven’t discovered.