“Aah, you’re so lucky!” my friends said as I announced an upcoming trip to Paris.
Indeed to return to a place believed by many to be the most beautiful city on earth is exciting. So I responded to their enthusiasm with equal amount of my own and promised to enjoy a pain au chocolat on their behalf.
It is fascinating how Paris remains the same, yet each time I seem to discover a new facet of it. Gone are the days when a trip to the Louvre, a walk around Montmartre, and a ride in a Bateaux Mouches were the highlights of my visits. Now that I’m an ocean away, it is the excitement of a family reunion that lures me there, though I retain an undying admiration for the city, too
On the ride from the airport, I marveled at the gentle rain, a thousand shades of green, and the tiny cars that have become even tinier. Once again I admired the ever-lasting monuments, lovely rose gardens, and quaint sidewalk cafés. The initial awe did not last long and it took only one ride on the metro to bring out the “Ugly American” in me. My bad knee criticized the absence of escalators, my summer shoes hated the filthy sidewalks and when the four of us could not fit into the toy-sized elevator, I had just about had it!
After a couple of days, I had settled into Paris routine, began to rediscover its delightful corners, and got used to the outrageous price tags. Soon a peaceful sense of pleasure had set in and I even found myself thinking, “I could live here!”
One afternoon, my niece stopped by a pastry shop for yet another box of delightful pleasures when her mom remembered their diabetic guest and darted out of the car to buy me some strawberries. This is my only guilt-free fruit and I was most grateful for the gesture.
Back in her apartment, we brewed tea, washed the fruit and sat down to a delightful chitchat. I studied the tiny, pale orange strawberries and thought of the gigantic ones in California, where one needs to cut them in half. Still, I figured they’d be a good distraction from the tempting pastries, so I put one in my mouth. I could not remember the last time I had actually smelled the scent of strawberries, not to mention worrying about the juice squirting out of my mouth! The unbelievable tender fruit had the flavor of melted sugar and the freshness of spring. To my shame and utter embarrassment, by the time others were done with their pastries, I had finished the entire bowl of strawberries. A fair trade, if you ask me, even a gain on my part.
That is what Paris does to you. It makes you appreciate good things as they used to be. Commercial as the city may have become, it has a way of stirring you away from the flash in modern life. You rediscover the pleasure of a small cup of coffee that has no refill, the aroma wafting from the bakery, and the pure taste of strawberries.
Now back home, I sit in the TV room and stare at the lovely basket of large strawberries I’ve just bought from Carlsbad. They are a deep shade of red and gigantic in size, but I know the taste is too subtle and that there will be no juice squirting out of them. Indeed these will make the most attractive display and a few may even win a prize for their sizes. I close my eyes and imagine a room full of relatives where the space if filled with words. I imagine these lovely looking strawberries having the sweetness of the pale ones in Paris, the same tender skin, and juicy flesh.
Maybe I want the best of both worlds. But isn’t that what everyone wants? I rarely look back because I don’t want to miss anything or anyone. But as long as one has an imagination left, why not picture the best?