Paris is quiet on a Sunday morning in December. I feel an inner peace walking along blvd St Germain and up the hill on blvd St Michel towards Luxembourg Gardens. There is little traffic and fewer people, even at 11 o'clock in the morning. Like a pretty girl, Paris is always surrounded by a crowd but this morning I am alone with her. Le Rostand, just opposite the entrance to the Gardens, is my Sunday café. Sometimes I take a table by the window overlooking the terrace, sometimes a table in the back by the fireplace, depending on my mood and the weather. There is always a choice this early on Sunday morning. Later, families will begin showing up, everyone dressed nicely for a leisurely lunch. At this hour, there are only one or two lonely souls sitting at tables along the back wall writing, reading, or working on a laptop, once upon a time smoking. Even though smoking is no longer allowed, the color of the walls at Le Rostand is a dark, smokey yellow that retains the atmosphere of days gone by.
I am comfortable here, especially when it is cold and damp outside. I will linger for an hour or so over a plate of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon and maybe a glass or two of sancerre as the café fills up. I love listening to the conversations around me. Paris is not just streets and parks and museums and monuments, she is also the people who live here and the experiences they have. In Paris, people meet and entertain friends more often in cafés than at home. A few tables away a girl cry cries quietly while her boyfriend explains why he won't be seeing her anymore. A little boy runs up to my table to show me the toy he just got for his birthday, another couple plans their day. Before I could understand these conversations I was a stranger here.
In a few minutes I will walk across rue Vaugirard and stroll along the iron fence around Luxembourg Gardens looking at the picture exhibition that is always there. Eventually, reluctant to leave the day, I stroll back towards the Seine, through Buci market and back to Place St Michel and rue Maître Albert. Another Sunday in Paris, familiar enough to be comforting, new enough to be interesting.