It’s been going on for weeks now. It started with a movie – I don’t even remember which one now, but something from Warner Brothers, made in the 40s I’m sure, set in Paris – and I began to do a little internet research, borrowed some books from the library, started listening to podcasts in French (because, you know, my French is so good!). And then I began to pull out some cookbooks, some of my parents’ cookbooks from their adventures to France.
This lead me to a little more research on line. I learned about rue Cler, one of the great open air marche’s in the city, with wonderful fromageries like the one pictured above, and patisseries, like the one below.
And I began to read about cooking schools and language schools, about walking tours of the city and using the bikes available to rent everywhere (the Velib system). I learned about the easy-to-use Metro, the buses that are almost as good and offer wonderful sights along the route. I came down on the side of Musee d’Orsay over Le Louvre (line-ups can be such a bore on holiday, don’t you think?). I worried about the pickpockets and the gold ring scams. In my head, my suitcase has been packed and unpacked a dozen times, at least twice for every season, as I debated the bliss of Paris in April with the fresh fruits and flowers v. the relative calm and contentment of a quieter, cooler, rainier Paris in November. I visited every website I could find with apartments for rent because, as expensive as some of those might be, I will never be able to afford Le Bristol Hotel, to which I have given my heart. I became a lurker on Trip Advisor and even posted once or twice, offering up my opinion. Not because I know Paris, but because… well, because I think I should know Paris.
Once, a long time ago, when I was young and foolish and thought that Paris would always be there, I decided to merely travel through it, on my way to see my pilot husband, sailing somewhere in the Med. So my only experience with Paris was 5 hours in Le Gare du Nord, waiting for a train to take me south to Rome. That’s it. That’s my experience with Paris. And for the past several weeks I have felt bereft, empty, lonely for a city I haven’t really ever seen.
There just is something about Paris that has generated in me such feelings of… longing, of belonging, of being drawn to the romance, the pride, the beauty, the smells and tastes of history and art and culture and, yes, the food & wine that so defines the city.
When my parents went to France, they planned in great detail their dining adventures. My mother was in the business after all, so she wanted to see and taste and feel what made food so different in France. As I stalk the city, I read the reviews of restaurants, find out what people like and don’t like, how they find themselves surprised by the formality of even the smallest cafes, how they finally learn to embrace the pleasure of savouring a meal and not rushing through it. And in my reading I think I might have found the cafe for me…
Leo le Lion is a little bistrot in the 7th arr which has no stars, no one famous amongst its clientele, it’s just… part of the neighbourhood, the warp and weave of a village within a city, welcoming residents and visitors alike with good food and excellent service. This is where I will have my first dinner in Paris.
When our lives turtled a couple of years ago, any plans or ideas I might have had for travelling overseas were halted. There is no short-term plan for me to be in Paris… or anywhere else that I cannot reach in a half tank of gas or less… but still, I dream.
I walk the Champs de Mar, the paths along the Seine, the rue Commerce. I visit les passages, the undercover ‘streets’ of Paris where sweet little boutiques can be found. I sit in Notre Dame for Sunday morning mass, listening to the Gregorian service and bathe in the sound and glory. I drink champagne at every meal and indulge in a croissant for every breakfast. I sit in Rodin’s garden and let my mind wander with The Thinker. I visit Giverny and wish again with all my heart that I could paint but as long as I can gaze upon Monet’s work, will let that joy suffice. I wake up early to take photos of a rising sun lighting the golden domes and stay up late to stroll the cobblestones in the rain.
Paris, I am stalking you… I am loving you… I am missing you…. and someday, we will be together.