Since leaving Paris many have asked what I miss most about it. The list of what I don't miss is longer and easier to compile. I admit though, after three years I started to love the place a bit. During a recent layover in Charles de Gaulle, on a slow crawl from Singapore to NY, I observed myself from afar. What would I do with my six hours in Paris? I zipped by metro into the city on autopilot and walked into my "local", Absinthe Cafe. It was like I never left - there were Grandma and Grandpa welcoming me to breakfast, all warmth and smiles.
We dubbed it "Grandma/Grandpa" - never referring to it by its actual name. I don't know if the two running it are actually someones grandma and grandpa or if they're even married. It's the way they made us feel each time we went - like they were delighted to see us, like they'd been waiting for our arrival. We could come in dressed like we'd rolled out of bed and spit out our nursery school French and it was all ok, even amusing to them. This was not my usual experience with most restaurants in France, where you battle through indifference and apathy until you've been enough times to be rewarded as regulars.
It's a large place - the kitchen sits in the middle, separating the bar from the dining room. It's colorfully decorated with many pictures, photos and theater announcements. The latter gave me the impression that they were friends of the arts. I imagined them as artists, who ran a bistro during the day, a feeling reinforced whenever I watched Grandpa writing out the day's specials in an easy, flowing script.
Grandma is in the upper right of this photo, engaged in conversation with some patrons. I chomped my tartine, sipped my coffee and watched them work. I was in Paris, jet lagged and happy. Grandma and Grandpa, I've missed you.