Walking in Paris: Rosé by the River Seine
It was springtime in Paris, but it felt like summer in Sacramento. It was as if the French soleil was punishing me for my seven year absence from the embrace of a city I once claimed to be home away from home. That afternoon was dramatically different from my previous afternoons in Paris when in late fall, the streets glistened with the wetness of the magical rain, which made the city even more entrancing. I love Paris in the rain, and a blistering Paris was so foreign to me.
After a brief moment of complaint, I realized I was being foolish: I was back in Paris where the exceptional incarnation of everything I love converges into one city; where elements of my dreams and goals of my waking hours surround me; and where I walk in the streets of my own fantasy.
Suddenly, the heat was irrelevant; and all that mattered was that I was there – sweaty and with hair so devastatingly puffy from the humidity; but with a cheerful handsome heart.
It was the afternoon I was meeting Felix and we decided to meet in front of the Panthéon, where Victor Hugo rests in peace, among many French poets, writers, and heroes. While waiting for Felix, I approached the entrance and asked the usher if Victor Hugo indeed lies inside the Pantheon. He is inside, and he is waiting for you. That was her response. I would have paid the nine Euros right there and then to enter had I not committed to spend time with Felix. The postponement of my visit gave me another Parisian event to look forward to.
Felix arrived and he asked where I wanted to go. I said I just wanted to walk and talk, so that we did, and we ended up walking toward the river after a quick stop at McDonald’s for iced tea. Through serendipity on our way to the Seine, we passed Ladurée Paris Bonaparte. I have heard from many that Ladurée is overrated, but whenever I’m in Paris I like to visit the shop for a sweet tooth treat. I selected six assorted flavors to fill my box and then we continued walking toward the water. On the same street was a Nicolas Wine Shop, so we stopped for wine. The merchant tried to sell me a corkscrew and a couple of wine glasses. I said no and requested for him to uncork the bottle. In French, he responded that it is against the law for him to uncork the bottle for me. I said, “Ok, you could cancel that sale and let me find a screw cap bottle.” Again, he responded in French, saying that he “didn’t have any.” Oh, but you do. I rushed to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of a cool screw cap bottle of Rosé. I got a scolding, also in French, for getting the bottle myself. Apparently, you can’t do that in Paris. Lesson learned.
With macarons and a cool bottle of Rosé, we continued our expedition toward the Seine, walking in the midst of crazy rush hour Paris. When we sat by the water, across from the Louvre, the traffic noise got muffled and we continued to converse with ease next to the river. Occasionally, boats with tourists would cruise by and we would wave and raise our bottle for a celebratory cheer.
For a long time, I have dreamt of a spring time picnic by the Seine. I imagined it to be prettier, with a perfectly staged spread of baguettes, fruits, cheeses, flowers, and actual wine glasses from which to drink bubbly and Beaujolais; and with a cool but bright weather to accompany the shot. None of that was true when the reality of my river picnic happened. We had six pieces of overpriced macarons, a bottle of Rosé drank straight from the bottle, and no elaborate still life staging. But it was still wonderful: We were in the midst of a new friendship, right by an iconic river, and in the ever-enchanting city of my dreams.
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Walking in Paris is a series of stories from my recent springtime return to the City of Lights. I have struggled, for a while, to capture into words the wonders of my multi-city European travel experience, especially since I have endeavored to capture them as a whole. I finally realized a hundred million stories unfolded in each city, and that most of them ought to be told with the vibrancy of their individual experience.