I had an adventurous weekend, flying around on trains to Lille, Amiens, Reims, Rouen, and Epernay. French towns around Paris that are all so beautiful and unique. I could bore you to tears with my stories of cathedrals and museums, wind-along-the-river and umbrellas-in-the-street, and the best glass of Champagne I’ve ever drunk…. but I won’t.
I shall quip a moment about the instances.
An Encounter in Reims
“Donc, fais attention, tous les français sont des bandits,” said a gray-haired grizzled Frenchman as he was getting up to leave Le Condorcet sur la rue Condorcet in Reims, France while I was “degustation”-ing an 8euro coupe de champagne a Saturday evening in October when the streets were filled with tourists, but I found a seat by the carousel and the little church St. Jacques, and the sun was setting in my eyes, so all I could see was the glow of rosé bubbles rising from a slender glass stem and shapes of everything that walked and went before me moving black against the shining.
And therefore I was warm, even though it was almost winter and had rained earlier to leave orange feuilles with the cigarette butts in the gutter puddles, romantic in the cracks and cobblestones; but when it (it being the sun and not the rain or leaves) finally sank behind the line of church-like houses, I wondered how long was the appropriate time to take drinking an 8euro coupe de champagne and if you’re not supposed to mix it with a cigarette like the woman beside me is doing, if that would ruin the taste of cellars and expanding esophagus blood vessels, which creates that heat the skinny way down my body, because I am pretty sure it might, and I’m pretty sure the appropriate time is a long time into the sunset, after the two tables beside you have cycled out patrons several times and the bubbles in your glass have gotten tired and decided to succumb like they forgot they come from chalk, yeast, and stone, from a French cave under the earth where creators work somewhat selflessly for the money and alcohol, vines torn down in the fields and pressed mercilessly until their blood ran, but I drink it now, slowly, and enjoy it as fully as the word “degustation” suggests I should, like it’s Perrier and chocolate.
I like Paris at 7am on Saturday morning in mid-October when the streets are black and silent but there’s a butcher singing as he opens his shop beside the tabac and I can smell the boulangerie before I turn the corner to see the bright windows, the back door open to the kitchen where a man is baking to the sound of his wife setting pastries in the glass case by the cash register.
I like Paris at 7am on a Sunday morning in mid-October when a man is picking up trash in the dark along the metal sidewalk grills and a waiter is writing the menu on the blackboard at the Linois inside the glass-paneled room when the red awning is not yet rolled out and the chairs for the tables are still stacked against the wall.
I like leaving Gare St. Lazare on a green train to Rouen Rive Droite when the clouds are still low and gray but Sacre Coeur has a sunrise over it because there are scribbled holes in the sky and there are spires that glint in the cracks.
Across Paris this early first kiss symphony plays as I pull away, and I am part of the brouillard that begs caresses from the hills in the country, and they consent like I consented to the silence in Champagne-Ardenne last night in front of the train station as the shiftless lights of the city almost sparkled in the muffled wind and a conductor let his whistle scream somewhere down the tracks, and a train left and a train arrived and the TGV exploded through without stopping and only I remembered its passing when the rails seemed ignorantly still in the wake, gravel huddled against wood and iron like the cold huddled against me as I attends a moment on voie 4 before the Paris-Est-bound approaches to take me back to the late night métro and my host mother smoking on the couch in the living room, turning the TV down as I enter so she can hear me spill as fast as my French will let me about the cathedrals, as if they were my only aspiration and I would give them the dark part of me as well as the stained-glass and my life would be a rose window in France from that moment on.