Archive for October, 2014


At the corner of rue de Turenne and rue St Antoine, I decide to head south on rue St Paul. This looks like a nice little street, but for no reason, as I walk along I begin to feel sad. A deep, unexplainable melancholy overcomes me until I reach quai des Celestins. I turn right, going toward a bridge to cross the Seine and I begin to feel better.

It absolutely creeps me out later, when I read about the area between rue St Paul and rue Beautreillis. It was the official burial ground for Paris from the year 600 AD, during the reign of King Dagobert, until it overflowed, and countless bones had to be transported to the Catacombs in the 1700s. This area was a place of grief in Paris throughout the Medieval Era and the Renaissance!  My guidebook tells me that rue St Paul is a delightful street for shopping.

So I do not believe that I felt the mourning of souls throughout the ages — because that would be spooky!



You want a what?

This morning, the delicious, flaky pain au chocolat is gone. Yes, I succumbed and gobbled the pastry down last night. There’s nothing to eat in this apartment.

I take a shower and get dressed in my black slacks, black top, black coat and black-and-white scarf. I feel most comfortable wearing black. In Paris in the winter, everyone wears black and I like that. My mother used to say in her Southern drawl, “Darling, just remember, black covers a multitude of sins.” (By that she meant bulges.) One day I might be bold enough to wear my red scarf and draw attention to myself, but not now. These days I want to hide. I get my bag and nervously check its contents. Here is the key to my apartment. I have my key. If I lose it, I will have to sleep in the Bois de Boulogne tonight and nobody wants to do that.

Just down the street from my apartment is a little café. I push open the door and sit at the first table. This place is more like a long hallway. From the menu, I order the lemon piccata chicken and a cup of coffee.

The waitress looks at me like I just walked out of a spaceship.

Un café?” she asks, her eyes big. I wonder what the big deal is. Yes, sometimes on a cold day, I like to have a cup of coffee with a meal. I reassure her that Oui, je veux un café, s’il vous plait. She blinks, shakes her head and goes away.

There are four young, handsome men at the table beside me. And when I say “beside me” I mean I could lean my head on this guy’s shoulder if I wanted to. This is so different from the United States where our tables are set five feet apart. We don’t take chances with strangers putting their heads on each other’s shoulders. And it’s unusual to be this close to someone I don’t know—I can even smell his musky cologne.

Perhaps this close proximity is what has generated so many great ideas, artistic movements, and political changes in Europe over the centuries. This closeness allows easily made acquaintances, and intimate conversations.

These guys are speaking French so quickly that I’m baffled. I guess my listening skills are not as vigorous as I thought. The waitress brings my lunch on a beige plastic dinner plate, a presentation reminiscent of a school cafeteria. Not what is usually expected in Paris, but it’s cheap, and I’m starving to death, and…oh….oh! this lemon piccata chicken is the most heavenly morsel I’ve ever put in my mouth! It’s so delicious I might pass out.

After a few more bites, I’m convinced this must have been a happy, little French chicken pecking away at worms in the moist French soil. I’m sure it enjoyed the warm French sun on its fluffy white feathers every day. And it was loved dearly by the farmer’s little daughter who cried when this poulet gave its life for the great Republic of France.

As I’m gobbling down my meal, absolutely grateful that France knows how to raise delicious chickens, the gorgeous guys have finished their plates and are now sipping tiny cups of espresso.

That’s when it dawns on me. I forgot the French drink coffee after their meal. So that’s why the waitress looked at me like I was ET in the closet.

French coffeemaker

When I awake this morning, it dawns on me once again that I’m in Paris, and I’m far from everyone who has ever made me cry. No one can get to me here. This is the best use of a savings account I can think of.

I pad over to the windows and work the latch, opening the window and breathing in the crisp, cold air. I lean out and look around to see what’s going on. The sky is bright blue and I would guess it’s forty degrees Fahrenheit this morning.

Perfect weather for a nice, hot cup of coffee. I decide to teach myself how to use the French press coffeemaker. I pull the glass carafe off the shelf and take a good look at it. It’s the classic style, albeit the cheaper version: a glass cylinder with a black plastic handle, a chrome lid with a plunger apparatus. I’ve never used one of these before, but I watched a YouTube video before I came over.

I find a bag of Peruvian blend coffee in the drawer. This might be stale, but since I didn’t have the presence of mind to buy fresh coffee yesterday, this will have to do. I pour water into the British-made electric kettle. It heats quickly, and shuts off promptly, leaving me with only admiration for the British and their kettles.

I learned from YouTube that I’m supposed to swirl a small amount of hot water in the carafe to warm it up. I measure out four heaping spoonfuls of ground coffee and dump it in. This seems so wrong. Don’t I need a filter?

I pour the hot water right onto the coffee grounds. This seems so very wrong. I swirl a wooden spoon so the coffee grounds mix with the water. Then I put the lid on, push down carefully on the plunger until it reaches the bottom. The grounds are all captured there. I’m not so sure this plunger is going to hold back this wet mound of pulverized beans when I pour coffee into my white cup. I’m full of doubt this morning.

I look at the sketch of the Peruvian man on the package. He seems quite happy. I wonder what his secret is.

I find some sugar cubes in a wrinkled, worn box in the kitchen drawer. This is gross. Why am I doing this? Who knows who last put their dirty little paws in this box of sugar? Can bacteria grow on sugar cubes? I can imagine my obit: Apparently she died from ingesting an old sugar cube and moldy Peruvian coffee because she was too damn lazy to go buy her own.

I swirl the sugar, letting it dissolve into the black liquid. It smells great. Ah, it tastes great. In fact, this might be the best cup of coffee I have ever had! Who knew that the recipe for great coffee is a French press, no filter, stale coffee, and a bacteria-laced sugar cube?

I am so grateful I have this cup of coffee and the cold, fresh air. I breathe deep and fill my lungs. It makes me glad to be alive.

That’s it. Right now, in this tiny, cold Parisian apartment, all by myself, with my tasse de café cupped in my hands, I am very glad to be alive.

Perhaps this is the secret to happiness—a cup of hot coffee in your hands on a cold morning and no one bothering you. Perhaps this is what it feels like to be inside the heart of God!!

Then it hits me—is this euphoria the result of that sugar cube being laced with amphetamines?

It’s not easy being a paranoid in Paris.