My latest trip to Paris (the last week of July 2015) was, well, different. Paris felt different to me - that warm fuzzy feeling of connectedness and inner peace I always have when I am in Paris was completely absent this time. Paris felt colder - both literally and figuratively.
In the weeks prior to my visit, one of the worst heatwaves of the century had hit Paris. Yet, when I arrived, temperatures plummeted into the 50s and 60s (Fahrenheit) and it rained almost every day. The weather reflected the overall temperament of Paris and the Parisians. Both the city and its people seemed distant and emotionally unavailable.
I wondered what was wrong. Was it me? Was it Paris? Was I simply misreading things because I was miserably sick with bronchitis and laryngitis? Or was it, worst of all, that this love affair between Paris and I was dying? That last thought deeply saddened me.
Since July, I have had time to reflect upon my visit. One day, the answer became clear. Paris and I had both suffered tremendous loss in the last year - I, my father, and Paris, the senseless murders related to Charlie Hebdo. Perhaps Paris was not giving me the cold shoulder after all, but instead was mourning with me. Both of our hearts were burdened with the sadness of loss. Strangely enough, in our shared grief, our simpatico was restored.
I have mentioned before that two of my biggest regrets are that I was never able to travel with my Dad to Paris, and that he never taught me to make his amazing crème brûlée. On my last night in Paris - the only day that did not rain, we were wrapping up our final meal - duck à l'orange, a favorite of my Dad's - when someone asked, "What's for dessert?" The maître d' replied, "Crème brûlée." I was instantly overwhelmed with emotion. I could not control the tears that were coming so I excused myself leaving my table mates thinking I must REALLY love crème brûlée. In all of my travels to Paris, it was the first time I had ever eaten crème brûlée there, and I did not think it to be a mere coincidence.