After 30 hours in transit, we landed in Paris at eight in the morning on a perfect spring day. A cloudless blue sky and warm sunshine greeted us as we emerged from the Metro at the Luxembourg Garden. The walk to our apartment, past the Panthéon and into the heart of the Latin Quarter, with cafes, boulangeries, quaint shops, narrow streets and uneven cobblestones made my heart sing. I was finally here. I was in Paris.
There is always the possibility that a much anticipated experience will disappoint, that expectations will not be matched by reality, but my first impressions of the City of Light exceeded my hopes. Wherever we went we were met with kindness and helpful assistance. A young man hefted my suitcase onto the train, seeing me struggling; a couple with their baby in a stroller helped negotiate getting out of the station when one of our tickets failed to let us through the gate; two charming young women served us cafe au lait and delicious pastries with delightful smiles at our tentative French; a family asked me all sorts of questions at the wallaby enclosure in the menagerie when they realised I was Australian. And the beauty of the city entranced me. Just as no street in New York could be mistaken for a street in any other city, every narrow lane lined with balconied apartment buildings four or five stories high sang Paris, Paris, you are in Paris to me. Before I returned to the apartment, spent with walking and travel fatigue, I dawdled for an hour in the Jardin des Plantes, the botanic gardens, full of Parisians enjoying a relaxed Saturday picnicking on the lawns, and I have no doubt it will be a daily ritual to meander through the neat gravel paths, drinking in the beauty of trees and flowers, and listening to bird calls in the heart of the city.
But for now – fresh bread, marinated vegetables, some soft cheese for dinner, and ripe blackberries, strawberries and redcurrants for dessert, and thence to sleep the sleep of the delighted (and exhausted).