Forget what you’ve heard about the people. My experience with them was charmant. Whenever I needed help, trendy business men with computer satchels, dads with kids on tricycles, short museum aides with bureaucratic faces, elderly ladies who huddled with me over train ticket machines, them struggling with the technology, me with the French - they answered my questions, gave me directions, pointed me to the toilets. I spoke enough of their language to open up the conversation. But even if they didn’t speak English or I made glaring grammar errors, they weren’t rude.
The Marais’ narrow winding streets, steps up to the top of Montmartre, the clop of boot heels on the sidewalk behind me. Letting people pass me by as they scurried somewhere important and I trudged home after a long but pleasant day of gazing down at the pewter waters of the Seine, sipping a café crème wrapped in a scarf, sneaking photos in the Musée d’Orsay before a guard stops me, again.
I keep wandering the streets and it’s been three months, a whole season on this first day of spring, since I hopped on my Air France flight and timidly engaged the cute flight attendant in conversation en français. My heart gasps now to think of it. I will visit those moments whenever I need a touch of beauty to lighten a dull moment at the desk or standing in line at the bank or pumping $60 worth of gas. A daydream to wrap around my California live oaks, earthquake-built mountains and the chrome light bouncing off bumper to bumper cars on the 101 freeway. Oh, Hemingway, you were right. Paris will live in my heart forever.