final morning in Paris
This morning I took a chocolate croissant from the Target Starbucks and put it under my broiler in attempt to make the top crispy, the way they are served in Paris, rather than mushy and doughy, the way they are bafflingly served here. Two days before I had gone to my local bakery for their version of a chocolate croissant, which is not quite the pain au chocolat I had in Paris. It was crispy on the outside, but filled with far too much chocolate, and had chocolate drizzled across the top, making it all too rich and too sweet. The pain au chocolats of Paris have a small amount of bittersweet chocolate, so you don't get a major sugar hit in the morning, when they are eaten--but you do get a pleasant hit of sweetness between bread that is first light and crispy, and then collapsing and melt-away, to start out your day.
Returning from Paris is every bit as hard as I knew it would be. But what remains is the fact that I was there. I spent two weeks running around Paris and even though it hurts to know that the city is carrying on without me, all those hurried masses eating pain au chocolats and tarte citrons and warm baguettes even though I am not there--I was there, and I have left my imprint all over it, in tiny pockets: there in the window of La Marine, there beside the espresso machine at Craft, there in that one open green chair at the Luxembourg, so that Paris will not forget about me. It will remember me when I return.
This was breakfast on my last full day in Paris. It was a miserable day. Icy rain was falling, and my umbrella kept blowing inside out from the wind, desperate to be a tulip. I took the metro to Hotel de Ville and from there walked a few wet, freezing blocks to a coffee shop I wanted to try. It was closed inexplicably. Maybe a little bit sorry for myself, I walked aimlessly until I saw this bakery, lit up gold in the gray morning. I went inside and ordered in French. When I was asked if I wanted it "sûr place ou a emporter?" I knew I wanted it sûr place, and when the total was "two four twenty ten" I knew that meant 2.90. Next to me a father and his two children were eating the same pain au chocolats before hurrying off to school. I was sad to be leaving and my toes were numb. But that accidental pastry turned out to be one of the best I had the entire trip. The next morning I would hurry one down in the Starbucks at Charles de Gaulle airport in between Chanel and Longchamps. And even that stupid airport pastry was pretty damn good.
After all, it was still Paris.