Europe 2010: The 16th Arrondisement

The sun is warm, but not like summer. It is a comfortable, enveloping warmth—neither too hot nor too cold. It is a warmth that makes you smile. You cannot be miserable in such warmth.

I sit at a table just inside a brasserie and looking out at the swirl of pedestrians and traffic on the rue Victor  Hugo in the impossibly chi chi 16th arrondisement. My head is not in the sun but the table and my hand on the notebook are warm and illuminated with gold. My muscles feel warm and achy after a brutal hour of The Dailey Method.

The sounds are incessant—people talking–the French a low murmur but staccato at times, lyrical. Squealing of brakes, constant bass rumble of traffic, restaurant cups and cutlery clinking.

Two beautiful men appear on the pavement in front of me. One wears a pink shirt and grey suit, the other all in black except for a brilliant white shirt. They meet, clasp hands, half embrace. Their faces look like the ones I saw at the Cluny. Impeccable hair, styled short. They are not handsome–they are beautiful—as beautiful as the women prancing by on high heels, long strips of beads swinging across flat chests, arms slender and sculpted, cigarettes held in perfectly manicured fingers.

A young man comes to sit at the table in front of me. He is so gorgeous that he literally makes me gasp (but discreetly). Long, thick blond hair, wavy, he pushes it back carefully, then puts on his sunglasses. While I waited at least five minutes to attract the attention of the waiter, he is served almost before his perfectly toned butt clad in dove grey slacks hits the red wicker chair seat. I’m thinking he’s maybe 28 or so. He could be the son of Pierre Leblanc, the handsome French love interest in my novel.

Fifteen minutes later as he is finishing a huge pate of steak and pommes frites—enough to add 10 pounds to me, I see him wave at someone. Positive it must be a girlfriend as willowy and gorgeous as he is, I wait. But who arrives? Two little blonde girls – probably eight and ten run up and take turns to proffer fresh cheeks to Papa for a kiss. And then here comes Mama. The word conjures up an image of a rounded, matronly lady—kind of like me. But perched on high heels is a thirty-something woman with masses of curled and hennaed hair, her tight white jeans stretched evenly across bulge-less thighs.

How could she possibly have mothered two children?

Rapid exchanges in French, she holds up some of her purchases. Papa nods, the girls wait. A flurry of talk that doesn’t need me to know French to understand.

Don’t forget to pick up the lait on the way home. We’re meeting the Leblancs at 8. Yes, I know he is a bore, but his wife might give me a contract. Is the babysitter coming? Have a good day, my love. See you around 7.

And moments later Mama and her two gorgeous children totter off, leaving Monsieur to finish his dejeuner—every last scrap of it. He runs one sensitive hand through his tresses again, adjusts his sunglasses, throws a bill on the table, swings his jacket over his striped shirted shoulder and is off.

I feel the way I look—like a hopelessly gauche tourist who has the gall to walk around the streets of the 16th arrondisements in pink runners. Quel horreur. It’s amazing everyone is so nice to me!

And more on the wonderful Parisians (or at least the ones I met) next.