Queen of the Road: An Affair to Remember

I’m in love. At least that’s how I feel when I think of Paris. Like your best friend or your first kiss, Paris never leaves you. It becomes you, whether you want it to or not. When I took my last trip to Paris more than ten years ago, I met a small town about an hour’s train ride from Paris that I am unable to forget. Her name was Meaux and she was lovely — a flower shop filled with muted blue pastels and the smell of fresh cut lavender, chocolates arranged and packaged more beautifully than fine jewelry and a Fromagerie brimming with Brie De Meaux stacked in large rounds to the ceiling. We stuffed ourselves with cheese and pastry. At dusk, we strolled into a local bar for a drink and noticed several beautiful, burly Frenchmen playing a game we had never heard of, and haven’t seen since. The game involved drinking, laughing, pieces resembling dice and a board which, depending on where each die landed, required more drinking. I got lost in the “watching” and the wine and my mind drifted into sunshine — the California coast and my French Teacher, who adored Louis Armstrong, possibly more than France. I remembered she cried every year on his birthday when she played his trumpet solos for us on her old 45s. I wondered if she would be disappointed that I could not speak the language fluently. I wished I had told her how much she meant to me. If you want to know the truth about yourself, travel until not a person knows your name. Travel until you don’t recognize the landscape, the language, the customs or the smells, especially the smells. Walk until you lose focus on yourself and your world, and you will find a hidden passageway to real understanding. You may even disconnect your over-stimulated and digitally dependent brain, if only long enough to let new light in. I have a deep yearning for an unwired world, which is probably why I fell in love with Meaux. There were no working cell phones or iPads then. I didn’t know anything about the city or its people, yet I still wake some mornings knowing she paid me a visit during the night and remember the train. We almost missed the train back to Paris. After a typical four-hour French dinner, we were forced to jump the fence at the train station because the ticket office had closed. C’est la vie! What did we know. We weren’t from there, but we were no longer strangers. When I think back about Meaux, I wonder what would have happened if we had missed the train. Would I still be there? And then I realize, with deep gratitude, I still am.

Tags: last trip, love, Paris, unwired world, yearning

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