winter’s long embrace is wrapped tightly around the city. the air, colder than crisp, strokes my cheeks and stains them rosy pink. fingers soon feel frosty underneath gloves ill-equipped for european winters. here the sky is a misty grey, with streaks of pink that cast a warm hue over buildings the colour of baguettes. where a little bistro sits on every little corner, ready to welcome you with the type of warmth found in a little glass of côtes du rhône and a bowl of soup du jour.
ooh, everything looks so french, so parisian, i think to myself as i shuffle along the boulevard, eyes darting here and there, soaking in every last drop on my very first day in paris. mothers lead children bundled in heavy parkas with tiny curls down into the metro. while men in flat caps and navy coloured duffle coats walk sandy-coloured terriers as they stop to say, “bonjour” while collecting today’s newspaper.
the ‘coo coo’ of the pigeons is a familiar sound reminding me of home. but these pigeons are parisian and therefore feast on croissant crumbs left behind, not those of stale donuts and hot soggy potato chips. the constant sound of sirens ‘eeee orrrr’ through the streets, their dull hum rhythmic and calm, belying any sense of urgency which seems to be a very parisian trait.
here in montmartre, students and tourists collide, searching for the lost bohemia amid clothing racks brimming with 5€ jeans. filling bistros, and spilling out onto footpaths and cobblestone laneways, with trinkets and cameras in hand. and like dutiful pilgrims they make their way, one by one, through the streets and up the hill to the chalky dome of sacre coeur because that’s what you do when you come to paris.
patchy snow covers the ground and toes begin to ache. the streets quieten as the sun sets slowly in the distance, and the city faithfully appears as she does in pictures and films and even dreams, glowing in the light, all soft and pastel like vanilla-flavoured ice cream. and then it happens, a little moment between you and the city, a secret full of all the beauty and truth and wonder, and you know right then that such things can only happen in a city like paris.