It was threatening to rain in the Marais as I wandered. Sometimes I fear that I’ll miss the actual best cafe or the most perfect spot to eat or drink in Paris. While they say you can’t go wrong, I have found that while truly bad is unlikely, you can, fairly easily, find somewhere that only passes as mediocre. And what a travesty that is, to find yourself in only the most mundane of cafes in Paris, knowing that just around the corner or down the street there is somewhere truly magical and wonderful going on without you.
Anyways, I was wandering down the street and the clouds were grey overhead. I had been walking all day, spent the morning at the Musee d’Orangerie (a real treat of course, and also perfectly timed to coincide with a very large and very violent rainstorm), and was now just seeing the city again. But then, as it’s wont to do when your only plans are to walk, the clouds just got to that point and it started to sprinkle. Light at first, but the clouds were thick and dark and I knew it wouldn’t be long before it was pouring.
I walked quickly, scanning the buildings ahead and feeling generally that I might end up somewhere mediocre but dry when I saw the awning, red and very parisian and only half a block away. I ducked in the front door and found a warm, quiet spot, empty between lunch and dinner, but with a bar and a bar man. I got a glass of rosé and sat in the window, snacking on homemade potato chips and sipping wine and generally feeling like I’d found myself a little home in Paris. I was thankful for the dryness and as I pulled out my journal, I was glad I had the emptiness of the place. Empty, yet cozy, ready for a happy crowd when the kitchen opened later, but quiet in the downtime before everybody arrived.
I sat in the window in a simple wooden chair, looking out through deep red velvet curtains. The windows had gold trim and from my seat at a two top, I could watch the intersection. There were bustling pedestrians, their umbrellas open, walking the streets (looking for their own cafés, no doubt), and tiny vehicles that are made seeminlg just for the narrow Paris streets. I sat for a long time. I ordered another rosé and another small plate of fresh potato chips arrived with it. I savored, I wrote, I sat and dreamed out the window. It rained and then it stopped. I relaxed and enjoyed and thought, “This. This is what I am in Paris for, this feeling of magic and nostalgia that comes only from the patter of rain and a good glass of wine.”
And then the kitchen opened and instead of leaving, I doubled down. A menu and a dinner, please. And suddenly I was drinking a third glass of wine: the Chardonnay pairs well with the chicken, after all. There was cauliflower soup done in the way only Parisians can (thick with cream), there was a personal sized Staub with the creamiest chicken and potatoes dinner, and then, right when I was ready to burst, there was a fresh fruit terrain, served on a plate with peppercorns and a light juice over the top. I might have burst open right there had they served me any more cream (I am only a Californian, after all), but my lovely and kind waitress was so so right: it was the perfect simple dish to finish up my meal.
Thankful for this perfect Paris experience, this perfect afternoon and early dinner, this excellent evening of nostalgia, a perfect meal, a lovely view. I’m pretty sure it’s exactly what I’ll seek out next time: All you need to enjoy Paris is a glass of wine, the perfect window, an excellent meal, and a healthy serving of whimsy.