Not that I ever need reminding, but having kept my promise to myself to go to Les Soldes at Le Bon Marché this morning (more on that in a bit) – it gave me the opportunity to remember once again why I love this place so much.
Paris in the morning is like no other time of day. It’s not just the light – which, particularly in the winter dimness, has a soft beauty all its own. It’s that Paris isn’t an early city – so when I walk in the mornings, the city is, in many ways, all mine.
Sure, there are people on the streets, but depending upon the time you’re out and about, as well as where your wandering feet take you, there’s a delineation to whom you might expect. (Don’t count the jet-lagged tourists, here. We’re talking Parisians.)
In the cafés, there are the workers – those who just came off the night shift and those just starting their day.
For those on their way home, they sit with their heavy meal and a glass of wine or beer, surrounded by coworkers, laughing, joking and doing a dawn version of Happy Hour.
For those on the way to work, it’s all about leaning against the bar with your coffee, possibly reading the paper, maybe making a few jokes with the owner or another of the regulars. Getting ready to start the grind.
On the streets there are the students, piling off the buses and out of Metro stations. Walking in threes or fours, taking up the whole of the sidewalk as they call out to the friends ahead and behind. Smoking. (That’s a given.)
If they have enough time, they may stop in for a quick coffee at the café along the way – but not for takeout. It’s still a rarity to see people walking with coffee cups on the streets…no matter how hard Starbucks tries to change that bit of Parisian culture.
No, the students – with all their raging hormones and unending energy – sit at small tables, usually in pairs, gazing into each others’ eyes in that soulful way that Parisians of all ages seem to have mastered. Then they go to school.
As for me, I walk along, looking down streets and at buildings that – no matter how many times I see them – still surprise me with their beauty. Because the thing I never expected and of which I’m constantly reminded is that, no matter how beautiful Paris is in pictures, she’s even more beautiful in person.
And so, I went to LBM to do the shopping for which I was so well prepared. It was an event and I treated it as such. After all, shops – even supermarkets – don’t open at 8 am in this town, so this was something to celebrate!
After seriously duding myself up (it was, happily, one of those days when everything came together really well), I took the walk over, thinking that I would be best served by getting there as early as possible. I arrived moments after 8 am to be greeted with open doors and bright lights…and cookies!
The lovely people at Laura Todd – from whom you can buy fresh-baked organic cookies next door at La Grande Epicerie – had stationed employees holding wicker baskets filled with cookies at each of LBM’s entrances. As I walked in, the young woman smiled (that’s an oddity in this town, too), wished me “Bonjour!” and handed me a little packet of cookies!
It was, I thought, a particularly auspicious start to my sales adventure. Unfortunately, it was the only auspicious part of the adventure.
Ask any of my friends or family and they’ll tell you: No matter how hard I try, I am singularly unsuccessful at buying at sales. Whether it’s because there’s nothing there that I want or it’s not in my size, there’s always a reason. That’s why whenever I’m able to find a discount on anything I like I’m as excited as a kid on Christmas Day.
Well, this time it was that nothing – and I mean nothing – that I wanted and for which I had so carefully shopped days earlier in preparation for this auspicious day was on sale. Nothing. (It really does bear repeating.)
So I bought what I needed – at full price – and made my way back home.
Was the day a success? Yes. Not simply because of my new cutlery (which is simple and elegant) and bowls (which not only fulfill a need, but do so with a new aesthetic I’m introducing into my dishware), but because I had an excuse to go out and enjoy this beautiful city when she is at her best.
As if I need an excuse…or that there’s a time that she’s not.