Thursday, January 19, 2006

Coffee and Cold Mornings

Have you ever had a moment that grabs you just so, and transports you instantly back to another time, another place? Some combination of sensations comes together and for just a few seconds, you are not standing there above your feet, but instead are somewhere, somewhen else. It can be a lovely little crack in the "real world", letting you see a happiness, a pleasure, a sorrow, a taste, an emotion, that you experienced a long time ago.

This morning, as I left for work, I had one of those moments. I was no longer walking across the frozen parking lot, my knitting bag slung over one shoulder, with a travel mug of coffee in my hand and a bottle of water in my pocket. I was in Paris. That's a good moment.

When I went to Paris for my whirlwind three days with John, we would start each day with the baguette and jam breakfast at the hostel. The coffee there, however, was not good. Very not good. So we'd generally either bypass it, or choke down a bit, then pack up and head out the the Columbus Cafe just around the corner. We were there in February, and, while it wasn't unbearably cold, it was still chilly, and there was a bite to the still air, just like this morning.

I can't remember John's specific coffee order, but I had a medium cafe latte each morning, and it was the same guy behind the counter. For most of the trip, I was stubborn about not trying out my pathetic French speaking skills, and asked John to do all the talking. But with the coffee, even I could manage "Un cafe latte, s'il vous plait" Actually, I think that that was why I initially chose that particular order - because I knew I could say it all. In any case, one of my favourite moments from the entire trip was when we walked in that third and last morning in Paris, and the server looked up at us and smiled and asked, "D'habitude?" He'll never know how much happiness he caused me to feel, even now, looking back and taking a silly, childlike pride in being able to say that I was a regular in a Paris cafe, to the point where the staff asked me if I was going to have 'the usual' when I walked in.

This morning, the cafe latte in my hand, wearing the coat that I wore when I was there, feeling the crisp, cold air, hearing the sounds of traffic just a little ways off, made a wonderful, reminiscent morning. I suddenly had a longing to be back there, in that time and place, with John, ready to explore and learn and stumble over high school French, and eat baguettes and hang out in cafes and spend hours and hours on the Eiffel tower, just to see the sun set while we were at the top, hugging ourselves for warmth and reading the graffiti to pass the time. To be back, even, in that horrid little teeny tiny elevator that didn't work, standing there in the dark, almost nose to nose, and not actually going up or down, but waiting for the power to come back on, feeling giddy and a bit frightened in the dark (until we realised that we could force the doors open, and, after all, hadn't moved an inch, so were still on the ground floor). To make meals of brie and bread and eat in an eentsy little hostel kitchen while Germans are at the next table with their tourist maps. To run through train stations in an effort to catch our train, to walk and walk and walk and never run out of things to see and do and talk about. To sprint through the Louvre, stopping only at our 'must sees' to take copious amounts of pictures, hoping not to hit another tour group.

To just live again for a time with no worries beyond deciding what to see and do, and be moving, moving, moving, and have someone there to be with and share jokes and stories and observations.

I think there's a travel bug going around.


Rachel said...

You're spreading it! You're spreading the travel bug. Back, back, I say!

Now I want to go back to Paris.

Kirst said...

Mwa ha ha!

It's always around this time of year that I get a hankering to either move or travel. In general, travelling is cheaper. Can't afford either, though, sadly.

I'd love to go back to Paris - three days is not even nearly enough time there.

Rachel said...

Totally hear that. I was in Paris for two days, one of which was a holiday (and I had blisters on the bottom of my feet, so I was useless anyway).

BoozeFest in Paris!

Because someone's totally bound to hit the lottery one day.