When the waiter comes back, he leans slightly and crooks his head to the side.

« Vous avez choisi ? » he asks. (You’ve decided ?)

I look up at him, praying he will understand my vowels.

Oui, je voudrais un chablis et une salade vegétarienne, s’il vous plait, monsieur,” I say. What a mouthful. I rehearsed it beforehand, remembering to purse my lips like “oooo” to say une and popping my syllables like marching toy soldiers in ve-gé-ta-ri-enne.

He nods and leaves. So far, so good. He understands me and I haven’t knocked anything over. I feel like I’m on stage in a spotlight. Everyone must be staring at me. I pretend to rub the back of my neck as I turn my head to casually look around the café.

No one is looking at me! What? I can eat alone in Paris and not be considered an odd-ball? In my small town in Florida, whenever I dine out alone, people stare at me like I’m a circus freak, waiting to see what trick I’ll do. In a town filled with tourists, families and retired couples, it’s unimaginable that a woman would sit alone at dinner without a significant other pasted to her side.

I take a deep breath and look out the window. I’m facing east and it’s twilight. On my left I can see La Tour St. Jacques and to the right is the Hotel de Ville. What a beautiful view. This bistrot was opened in the 1800s by a German immigrant named Zimmer. The interior is rich and voluptuous—red velvet curtains, an ornamental ceiling, paneled walls and chandeliers. It used to be the favorite haunt of famous people like Sarah Bernhardt, Jules Verne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gustav Mahler, and Igor Stravinsky. No wonder why my beautiful salad of fresh greens with blanched cucumbers, beets, carrots, and green beans costs twenty-four dollars.