I adore the way her old, cobblestoned streets form a labyrinth that require a pedestrian to possess sturdy shoes, a stout constitution, and a reliable map. I adore the charming wrought iron balconies found on many of her buildings, the art deco Metro signs in her Latin Quarter, and the old world lampposts that circle her many gardens. I love the way the yeasty scent of freshly baked bread hangs in the air from early morning until late afternoon; the street performers who fill the Metro stations with their haunting violin music; the self-impressed locals who genuinely believe they are superior to all other people in the world simply because they were born in Paris. I love her museums, gardens, theaters, and stores. I adore her hustle and bustle, her glitz and glamour. More than anything, though, I adore her bistros.
I adore Paris for her magnificence, opulence, and sophistication, but I adore her bistros for their simplicity and lack of pretention. The china found in a Paris bistro is not fancy, or hand-painted from a Lenox workroom. It is plain and white. The chairs are practical but comfortable. The food is as casual as the atmosphere (no fois gras, string quartet, or pompous maître d’ here). Common fare at a bistro includes: salad Nicoise with tuna, grilled steak with béarnaise sauce and sautéed potatoes, apple tart with crème anglaise, and my favorite, the croque monsieur.
I was in Paris this past December. I sipped spiced wine and purchased a ridiculously over-priced, but much-coveted cashmere hat at the Christmas Market on the Champs Elysees, said my prayers and lit my candles at the Cathedral Notre Dame, stood wide-eyed and in wonder in front of the opulently decorated windows at the Gallerie Lafayette, and listened to a cellist play Silent Night on the Pont Alexandre.