In Paris I started to believe I was hearing things. I mean, do I hear music all the time or is it just my imagination? I know that in many tourist destinations atmosphere is contrived and somehow vacationers forget that normal life people don’t come up to a beach chair and ask if you’d like a basil lemonade. Normally, it’s raining and bugs are biting you and you spill your lemonade and get sunburnt. But there are a few key things I experienced in Paris that I had to eventually acknowledge, in spite of my own desire to downplay the romanticism, while walking around the city.
So forgive my starry eyes, or my cliche sentiments poured out over a city that forever left a sweet taste in my mouth. The following are some of the thought bubbles over my head as I gazed through the lover-laden streets.
Everyone is enraptured in their conversations and time with others. It didn’t matter if it was a table of businessmen, an elderly couple or two old codgers having an espresso-people were present and committed to their time together. I kept looking for phones out, awkward silence or disengaged conversation. But while people were together they seemed oblivious to those around them, the future or communication with others not present. It was as if the world stopped when they were together. One evening we were walking past the L’Européen cafe close to Gare de Lyon when I saw an old couple through the glass, chandelier-lit windows. They were in their early eighties and sitting at a table for two, starched white table cloth and sparkling tableware. They held hands across the table and seemed oblivious to the late hour. I couldn’t hear what they were saying but their lips were speaking in an obvious French, their eyes lovingly gazing at each other. I lingered in front of the window wondering at their dedication to each other and evaluating my own ways of being with those I love.
Open spaces abound. Windows are wide, allowing the entire place to be filled with the sounds, smells and sights of the city. And admittedly, at times it is not perfect smells, or peaceful sounds yet it seems that the strength of the lovely overcomes any annoyance of the other. Our flat was on a cobblestoned street called Rue Crémieux. We opened the windows wide, silently listening to the city, blissfully tempting us to sleep. Sounds of young people, yelling at each other about their plans. Couples talking in hushed tones, taxis rushing, a flat close by all sitting outside late into the night, each were significant sounds yet didn’t prevent us from drifting off, the cool Paris breeze blowing over the sleeping.
The cafes were wide open, tables sitting outside. There is something about eating in fresh air, it makes everything taste bolder, richer, more satisfying. And in the night sky, coffee in hand, you felt yourself breathing the worries out and taking in your present, at last.