hot chocolate with a mistress
These days, it's where I seem to be meeting my friends.
Sunday afternoon I met up with another blogger for a much anticipated chocolat chaud.
I liked her instantly, under the pseudonym of "maitresse", it was obvious from her blog that this New Yorker, living in Paris, had a fine head on her shoulders.
When she posted about her favourite hot chocolate, I suggested we go on a hunt for the best.
And so there I was, at four in the afternoon, sitting against the back wall of a smoky little cafe just off Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris, with a menu in my hand.
She arrived on time, petite and beautiful in a black pea coat, and spotted me immediately.
"You look just like in your pictures!" She laughed.
It was comfortable from the moment she sat down, and her cell phone shattered in two pieces across the floor, leaving her searching under my legs trying to find the rest of it.
The conversation was as good as the chocolat chaud, which was as thick as pudding with small flavoured chunks. Mine was a l'orange, and hers was a la vanille. It was definitely a good start for our hunt for the best.
Long after I'd scraped the bottom of my mug for the last remains of chocolate, we were still talking, when two of her friends spotted us through the window and came in for a drink.
Soon we were four young woman expats, starting on aperitifs as our English bounced off the old French walls around us.
After paying the bills, I mentioned I was going to take a trip down to the museum of photography before it closed. Maitresse-Lauren-perked up and said she would join me.
We strolled casually through the museum, taken by the quality of the photos in an exhibit called "Pariscolor", with blown up photos of random sights around Paris, objects in bright contrasting colours. We moved onto the work of Bernard Faucon, and were both a little frightened by the man who thought that dummies and photography were inseperable.
There was also an exhibit by Raymond Depardon of famous political personalities. His exhibit was a room of black and white photos, with personalities ranging from Che Guavera to Georges Pompidou. I think we were the only people in the room laughing. Somehow, through the expressions and commentaries, we seemed to find humour in every picture posted on the wall. It was good to have someone by my side who could see the humour in such serious affairs, not judging me as I pointed out the bulge in a politican's pants.
When we split ways I took a long route to my metro. I took a few new streets, some charming back alleys, and a different bridge.
Paris hasn't changed, but something in me has, and these days everything seems new again. The Seine seems to glow brighter, and the buildings seem more romantic, from the ivy that drips over most balconies, to the fairytale rooftops. The market smells hit me harder, and the small cafes draw me in stronger than before.
As I crossed the bridge a white bird flew over my head, and I looked up at the same time as a man in a beret, our eyes locked in the sky. Something tells me this man's a dreamer as well.
A weight that sat with me through my first months here has lifted.
Suddenly I speak the language, I know how to do my job, and I'm meeting people I can share a good conversation with.
I'm no longer as bitter as a Brasserie espresso. I've moved on, and suddenly everything's sweeter than hot chocolate.