Across from our apartment in the 11th arrondissement is a flower shop. Every day the owner puts out little silver pots full of lavender, roses, thyme, etc, that light up and fragrance the street. About a dozen doors down is another florist. Around the corner lies a third. Within a half-block are two butcher shops, their shelves overflowing with everything from mussels to rabbits to prosciutto; two bakeries, from one of which I purchased the best eclair I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a few); two wine shops; an Irish specialty shop; an Italian specialty shop; and a cheese shop (which also sells the yogurts in little glass jars that I covet). And this is just a normal Parisian hood.
This is what I love most about this city where we are living for five weeks: Everywhere, you can buy fresh, artisanal food, of the kind that you have to drive to once-a-week farmer’s markets to get a sampling of in the U.S. Those markets are here too; they are everywhere also, open a couple days a week, if not every day. They teem with items from all over this part of the world: cous cous, olives, fish, entrecote, samosa, brie, strawberries, giant artichokes, honey, etc. Plus a booth specializing in those striped French nautical shirts, another in soft leather goods, another in two-euro used clothing bins.
And again, of course, flowers. Pictured here is the bouquet I picked out yesterday. It took a good 15 minutes to get waited on. Do not expect efficient customer service in France. Every person is a tradesman, whether they sell flowers or Western Union delivery, and cannot be rushed. But your service experience will be worth the wait.
“Are these a gift?” asked the handsome, bearded vendor as he prepared to wrap my flowers. “Or are they for you?” An ordinary question, but the way he said it, with a coquettish smile, implied that I clearly deserved the flowers (as I did.)
“They are a gift for me,” I smiled back.
Picking out tender nectarines, the fruit seller asked where I was from. “California?! I was just there, in San Diego. I didn’t see you!” he joked. As he handed us our bags, he told my husband he was a very lucky man.
“Kiss her hand every morning,” he instructed Bud. Then he added with a smile: “You can do more, if you can.”
This is another thing I love about Paris: It really is a town full of amour. Couples lock lips, twist tongues, smush face, tickle tonsils, and just plain embrace with great passion and pride. There’s a reason they call it French kissing.