“Breathe deeply,” said Aurore (my Paris hostess) as we parted ways. My first walk out of the neighborhood found my local patisserie, Jean Millet, closed. “Quelle horreur!” I thought it must be closed on Friday and found that I could not bring myself to enter another café. And so, I walked around and said good-bye to the Eiffel Tower from the first place I saw it at Pont de l’Alma. The morning was gray again like when I arrived only not quite as wet and rainy. I stood on the bridge and watched the people heading to work. I’d like to believe I did not stand out as l’Americain. This had come to feel like home.
I returned to my apartment for a quick stop and resigned myself to going to Starbucks down the street. At least I could do a little comparison shopping at a semi-familiar place. I was not willing to risk having a mediocre cup of coffee at a new café--rather to have something vaguely familiar. And then I saw it—the night time bars removed from my favorite haunt and “Voila!” they were open for business ☺.
I finally felt confident enough to use a little more French with the Madame.
“Comment allez vous?”
“Bien et tu?”
“Tres bien,” I said, but in truth I was a little sad. Still I ordered my breakfast. “Je voudrais un grand café au lait et un croissant, s’il vous plait.” (This was a far cry from the stumbling, “Uhhhh????” of a week ago ☺.)
For one last time, my coffee came in its beautiful China cup. The espresso served first followed by the little pitcher of warm milk. The croissant tasted especially buttery and fresh this morning. Pure heaven!
As I prepared to leave the café, I told the shopkeeper that I loved her shop and thanked her for her recommendations as well as telling her it was my last morning. She said, “Wait! I have something for you. You will like it—a souvenir to take back with you.” She left and came back with a straw “Jean Millet” tote bag and a nice little French pastry cookbook. Tres bien!
As I left the shop, there was one more surprise for me—Madame Martine and Ginger were coming up the street. I said, “Au revoir and it was a pleasure meeting you.” Martine told me not to be so sad for leaving Paris. It would always be there.
“It is in my heart”, I told her.
She said, “See you again. You will be back. Same place” and she pointed to Millet.
Nothing will ever compare to this first amazing trip. It was exactly what I needed to do for me. As I walked through rue Cler slowly breathing in the morning, I knew that I was a different person than the one who arrived eight days ago. I was more of me. It was like I found a piece of myself that had been tucked away for awhile.
I strolled once more through the market. The locals had their shopping carts and the dogs were out en masse (in a very lovely sort of way.) It was a little drizzly and threatened to rain, but that never happened. I visited the streets that were foreign to me a week ago that now felt like home. I snapped a few more shots—stalked a few more dogs—enjoyed the lovely aging people. As Tess said, “The older women are not ‘invisible’ here.” (I think I would love to grow old in France with my little shopping cart and sensible yet still stylish shoes ☺).
When I turned the corner to go back to my apartment for one last time, I saw the taxi. My taxi—15 minutes early. The cab driver was polite, but not talkative. The trip to the airport felt like the final scene of a movie complete with operatic soundtrack. We toured through the Right Bank (a place I spent very little time). I saw sights I had missed along the way—the couture houses, Hermes and others. Then up the Champs de Elysee and back to the Arc de Triomphe where it all started.
Au revoir, Paris. Je t’aime!