The second, of a series of letters, to Paris, la cité de l’amour.
While the sun is shining my thoughts wander to you and when I lay down my head at night I frequent you in my dreams. No other city compares to you my love; no matter how hard they try.
London has the Eye, but I would much rather spot the distant glow of Sacré Coeur, having reached the second platform of la Tour Eiffel, than glide slowly by the wizened face of Big Ben (the only effort on my part having been to join in the British national pastime of queuing). And on the ground, what could possibly compete with the way you show off your many markets, in that careless effervescence you do so well. Whether well established or a pop-up only there for a few days, the vibrant displays of colours and smells can only be found elsewhere in the far flung corners of the world. Borough Market makes a good effort, but why would I want its careful reserve, when I could have my senses attacked?
Plump, juicy strawberries spilling, uncontainable, out of their wooden displays, staining the pavement beneath them a deep red – what a shame, I really ought to save them from such a dire fate, I think, as I pop one into my mouth. No need to be clandestine about because the vendors want you to try, as long as you buy as well, that is, and with such an explosion of flavour – a sweetness no sugar can reproduce, with the slightest tanginess – who wouldn’t?
I’ve hardly moved a few feet and yet the dulcet tones of the strawberries are gone. For a moment I swear I’m at the sea, the air is so filled with the rank smell of dead fish. Yet, I’m still here, with you, Paris, where I can luckily escape to the next stall, which I could smell blocks away – the sour yeast beckoning to me to try a warm and crisp croissant, or perhaps take away a loaf of bread for later. Now, where else in the world could there be such an adventure of sights, tastes, and smells?
Sunday mornings at the Cathedral Royale (in Saint Denis, up on Rue Gabriel Peri)
Marché Les Enfant Rouges (Le Marais)
Chateau Rouge (metro: Chateau Rouge)
Marché Bastille (metro: Republique)
No, all else pales in comparison to you Paris, my first love.