Weekend in Paris
By Peter Jon Lindberg
The idea was undoubtedly hackneyed. It was our anniversary. It was a long autumn weekend. And it was Paris. How clichéd we were, how cloyingly obvious! Cue the accordion, dissolve to black and white—we were stepping into a Zales ad.
And yet: Was there really a problem here?It was Paris. If cheesy ads and bad Meg Ryan movies can spoil your affection for a place, maybe you should just stay home. The rest of us will always have...y’know.
We’d visited countless times before; my wife, Nilou, had even lived in the 15th Arrondissement as a child. We knew the city the way we knew each other, which is to say that although it had become intensely familiar, we’d never tired of its company. (Except four years ago, during that transit strike.)
The trick with any short trip is to promise each other you’ll be back. Riding in from de Gaulle that crisp morning, we resolved that we were not there for Paris. No: Paris was there for us. We would take of the city what we needed, but feel no obligations. We would heed our whims, instincts, and appetites. We would not be overly ambitious.
Also, a week earlier, I’d sprained my ankle.
The fact is, the Paris-ness of Paris can be distilled into a single arrondissement, even a single street. One needn’t traipse across town searching for quintessential spots in a city cluttered with them: this bakery window, these church doors, that park bench. In the end, we spent most of our visit within 10 blocks of our bedroom. It helped that our hotel, the Esprit St.-Germain, was on Rue St.-Sulpice—yards from Le Comptoir du Relais (our favorite bistro), across the street from Vanessa Bruno (one of Nilou’s favorite shops), and around the corner from Gérard Mulot (our third-favorite patisserie).
Our mornings became a comforting pattern, bookended by Mulot’s macaroons and Comptoir’s café crème. We were not alone in having a routine. Somehow we’d stroll past the cathedral just as the octogenarian priest with Depardieu’s nose emerged from the sacristy, and we’d arrive at our bench on Place St.-Sulpice just as the YSL-clad couple was leaving. Their smiles of acknowledgment made us feel at home. As did the hotel: our room had a king-size bed (so rare in Paris, even now), and there was an intimate lobby, where a dozen guests gathered each evening for free wine and cocktails. We felt we were at our own chic pied-à-terre, and treated it as such.
The night of our anniversary, instead of fighting the Saturday crowds at Gaya Rive Gauche or Mon Vieil Ami, we stopped by the street market on Rue de Buci and brought dinner back to our room: a wedge of Reblochon, a tangy sourdough baguette, and the most delicious poulet rôti either of us had ever tasted. The food was so good we had to laugh; it was almost absurd—no, patently unfair. We’ll always have Paris?Paris will always have us, in the palm of its manicured hand.