17 November 2008

Bonjour mademoiselle

Many of the most memorable parts of my first year in Paris (2001) were spent on rue du Commerce in the 15th. When I saw the above photo from Carla Coulson’s new book Paris Tango, I immediately felt as if I was walking past my corner café on rue du Commerce, 22 years old and loving every moment (yes, the honeymoon phase, with my rose colored glasses I couldn’t see the future struggles and frustrations intermingled with the bread, cheese and views of the Eiffel Tower...still blind to the bureaucratic intricacies that are as French as champagne... mais non, those stories were for a later date).

Nearly every day we’d meet in the café, where my dear friend K and I had befriended the French waiters. We only understood (in our broken French) the name of one of them, Pascal. Pascal called me la princesse and was amused by the fact that I was always smiling (or at least, I think that’s what he said...my French wasn’t so good, but I smiled my way through it..apparemment). They’d wave at us as they scurried about with their trays of drinks, and from across the street they’d call out "bonjour mademoiselles" as we passed the café on the way to the métro.

On the eve of our devastating departure from Paris (I did, in fact, move back to the very same corner of Paris eight months later) we made chocolate chip cookies for the waiters (my secret weapon in Paris -- my cookies á l’américaine) and sat with them to have a final drink in our café. When I did move back the following year, the wait staff had changed, but I still heard the echoes of Pascal and the other friendly waiter and found myself looking over across the street, always expecting to see one of them rushing out the door with a tray and a charming wink and a nod, bonjour mademoiselle.


vicki archer said...

Carla's photos are glorious - of course I am biased - and her new book is wonderful. xv

Carla said...

Oh my god. Of course you had that adorable puppy who appears in my story in HAT'S dog boutique. How fabulous. I love your blog and thanks for putting up my pics. HOpe to see you in Paris soon.. Carla x

Victoria Plum said...

Bonjour Mademoiselle: The amazing thing about Paris is that it is a friend. It is always there for you, and it is a comfort to explore your old haunts, you can always be yourself, and can never truely leave as it stays in your heart forever. The two years I spent living in Paris have so far been the happiest of my life and I love that I can go back there any time - and there it is for me. In fact in just three short weeks i'll be there for a weekend, there is nothing better than simply walking through the streets and indeed prehaps stopping at a cafe to watch the world go by. Victoria Plum