I’m currently sitting in a beautiful little cafe in urban Paris. It has blue walls, pretty lights, white umbrella’s and sweet mismatched tables and chairs. It is at the bottom of a pretty staircase that takes you to the metro and us are traditional Parisian apartment blocks… It’s postcard perfect.
To complete the picture, I am surrounded completely by locals. It is happy hour and it’s also Bastille day, so they are here, drinking, smoking and chatting away in French. There is an engaged couple who are holding hands across the table and lean across every few minutes to kiss, it’s like there is nobody here but them.
They are all so beautifully dressed, in a way that only French people dress – effortlessly beautiful. They are so comfortable with who they are and what they are about. The waiter is dressed exactly as you imagine, complete with circular glasses.
I am here all on my own and only the slightest chance of conversation if somebody decides to suddenly embrace the English language for a moment.. But I don’t mind. I am enjoying my ‘quiet time’. It’s peaceful and un stressful. Whilst I miss my loved ones terribly and wish badly they were here to share it with me, it leaves me to sit and watch and absorb. To watch the Parisians go about their daily life. Interacting with each other, their body language. Noticing what is the same as at home and what is different. Isn’t that what travel is all about?
I had a very special day. It wasn’t just because I woke up in a beautiful traditional Parisian apartment in the Montmartre, or because I was offered a job whole eating breakfast, or because I saw the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, wandered down the Avenue des Champ-Élysées, stood on the Pont Alexandre while gazing at the Eiffel Tower or even because I had confit duck in a traditional French cafe which was the best I’ve eaten. All these things were amazing in their own right, however it was the other little things that really topped me off.
It was walking the historic streets of the Montmartre and looking out over Paris from the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur with no other tourists around (a place usually swarming in them).
After that it was a sweet smile from the cleaner who was trying to mop around me as I stared intensely into the map at the train station. I then was secretly impressed that despite the determination of the train station ticket attendant to be as unhelpful as possible I was able to get a train ticket AND get both on and off the metro at the correct locations first go.
I made my way up to the surface after my successful metro journey and there was the Arc de Triomphe! Again with only one or two tourists. It’s so familiar to me, even though I have only visited once before and it was strangely comforting to see it again.
I wandered down the Champ-Élysées and soaked up the stunning morning. Feeling incredibly grateful. I discovered a little park called Square Marigny that had roses in it, so I walked over, got down on one knee and smelt it, it was Devine! Such a strong smell! A French lady saw me and asked me something in French, and quickly realised I couldn’t speak English, then asked me again in English if it had a smell, I said yes, so she also go down on one knee and smelt it, then looked at me with the biggest grin and a big happy sigh and remarked that it is so Rae now to come across such a fragrant rose and with the smile still on her face, she wished me a nice day and went on her hurried way as French ladies do. This moment will stick in my kind forever, when you are travelling on your own and just tracking along doing your own thing having not spoken to anybody all day because you are not sure if people can even speak English (or want to speak English) these little moments are more significant than they usually would be. This is the rose
Tomorrow has if shoes to fill…