The Problem With Paris

January 2, 2007

I hereby resolve to refuse all offers of visiting Paris unless made by someone I am completely crazy about.  No offence to the lovely people I just spent New Year’s with; but alas, there simply is no point!  The pleasures of Paris make Paris without pleasure a travesty.

It was my third time there, although charm is not the word I would use to describe.  Yes, it was beautiful.  Yes, it was delicious.  And yes, it was fun, thanks to the company I kept.  But Paris has rendez-vous written on every lantern-lit corner and tête à tête etched into the busiest brasserie.  You must have that latte while your legs are tangled with those of another.  A playful brush of the shoe is not enough.  French people don’t need to play footsie.  You are supposed to cross La Seine in a desperate embrace; even the dead at Père Lachaise demand a hand-held stroll.  In the same pulsating vein, attempting Paris sans amour succeeds in raising buried memories and the ghosts of lovers past.

It appears to me that if you are lucky enough to be madly in love in Paris, restaurants and sightseeing matter little.  Stumbling around together in a state of abandoned bliss seems enough from over here.   So I had to console – note I did not say “content” – myself with another kind of hot pursuit: that of chocolat chaud.  Let me warn you that both my recommendations are unabashedly touristy, but what else do you expect from someone single and hungry?

First stop:  Ladurée.  A dark and cozy place, yet the adjoining shop is distracting and the bouncer at the door doesn’t exactly make you feel at home.  But we’re not after romance here.  The stuff comes in a little pot and pours out slinky and smooth.  Nice, rich, buttery, and, at 5 euros, gives that ubiquitous chain a run for its bucks.

Even more gaudy is Angelina, where you may as well have “tacky touriste” emblazoned on your forehead.  Mais mon Dieu!  Now this is chocolate, sexy and thick and with hints of cayenne and cinnamon, also quite reminiscent of the stuff my grandmother made.  Abuelita was a charming belle from Buenos Aires: petite and coquette.  A Scorpio in the truest sense, she wore nothing on her face apart from red lipstick, a faint sweep of powder, and the cheekiest grin.  She never counted calories and made her chocolate caliente with butter and three kinds of milk: whole, evaporated, and condensed.  They say I am a lot like her.  That’s not entirely true.  I also add a shot of Kahlua.

My grandmother would have loved Paris, and I sat at Angelina thinking about this as I tried to drink the last bit of chocolate clinging arduously to my cup.  I gave up, my gaze now falling on a pair of joltingly familiar eyes – heavy lidded and unflinching, cutting deep and purposefully across the buzzing room.  Heat burst in my cheeks.  Could it be?  Then I noticed the black vest over the crisp white shirt above the polished silver carrying a consolation prize for another lovelorn palette.