Seduced by a City

Depositphotos_13633398_xs (2)The beef fell apart at the touch of my fork. I swirled it around in the rich brown sauce and speared an unsuspecting mushroom. I raised it to my mouth and went to heaven – herbs, onions, and wine sauce – like nothing I’d experienced before. It wasn’t the flavor, but the place it took me that surprised me  – every moment of comfort I’d ever remembered came forward with a simple bite. God, when I die, please make it feel like this.

I thanked Donna and returned her plate. She and Marit had selected the French classic Beef Bourguignon. I returned to my delicate fish kabobs, quite a contrast from that beef which had such a notable presence – like it stormed over to our table with the power of Napoleon, thumping its chest and demanding our awe. My kabobs were more like a sweet angel that floated in and once you saw her, you could not take your eyes away.

A commotion on the other side of the restaurant broke my thoughts. Jill and Caitlin had made their way toward the kitchen in search of the bathroom. One of the waiters, a young man with dark shoulder length hair demanded a high five before passing.

“Again!” he insisted, inferring their slaps were not sufficient. The girls revved up and delivered their open hands with the energy expected from the two girls dubbed “the wall” by their first soccer coach. The waiter dramatically held his hand in the air, dangling as if broken. With his other hand he swiped his forehead in anguish. A roar of laughter came from the boy’s table and another waiter pointed out their outburst. “Of course, yes – typical – they approve of this.” It was like watching a comedy.

Here I sat at this cramped table, watching the candle-lit faces of my wife and her best friend, delighted as heck, in lively conversation, enjoying the best tasting wine and food on earth, watching our kids spread out over two other tables, eating sausages and or pasta and most importantly – having a blast together. It was here that I stopped and reminded myself that I was sitting in Paris.

For this wasn’t the Paris I’d imagined.

Fewer than eight hours had passed since we pulled in. In that short time the people made quite an impression on me – from the nice cleaning lady on the train who saved me from losing my camcorder, to the locals on the subway that stepped aside and cleared room for us, to the overly-attentive staff at our hotel. All were simply delightful.

And the sights of this city – good God, I can only begin to describe them.

The moment our friends arrived we headed out. We walked the tiny streets flanked by old three and four story buildings decorated with window shutters and flower boxes just like all the paintings I’d ever seen. Everybody chatted non-stop – catching up and sharing travel stories. It felt so nice to have a little bit of home joining us. Donna and Marit always remind me of two school girls when they are together – probably because they are the same height. They walked ahead of me. Marit looked like a typical tourist wearing sharp, brand new clothes she’d bought for the trip. Donna on the other hand was clearly dressed for comfort. Marit was freshly made up from an arsenal of products she loaded into her giant suitcase. Donna hadn’t used a hairdryer in weeks. I found myself in a pleasant state of isolation, which I welcomed greatly. I’d worried about feeling a weight of responsibility for this group. Seeing them paired off together brought a comfortable sense of relief.

Our goal was to get across the river and see the Notre Dame Cathedral before dark. The kids walked at a much brisker pace a good distance ahead of us. We’d just started crossing a bridge and noted they’d stopped. Their mouths were gaping. Their excited faces looked back to us as they pointed down the river and begged us to hurry and catch up. We reached them and realized what the hub bub was all about. The setting sun was illuminating the ever bluing sky and shining up the clouds with brilliant hues of pink. This was the backdrop for our introduction to the EifelTower.

More tower than base was exposed beyond the varying styles of historic buildings and bridges separating us. The breadth of it took me by surprise and for a moment I thought it was covered in scaffolding, then realized the thing was really that thick. My God it took up much more real estate in the sky than I’d imagined.

When Dusk turned to darkness we thought about dinner and eventually found our little restaurant. We’d headed back toward the Latin Quarter where the lights had come up and a different atmosphere took over. A giant fountain had been illuminated. People filled the sidewalks and streets. We couldn’t walk fast enough to the party. The narrow streets were lined with warmly lit cafes.

It was the Paris I was hoping for.

NEXT: Magic Under the Tracks

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