I smiled politely at the waiter who brought me my almond pastry. I had yet again found myself seeking sanctuary in Angelina’s, home of the most delicious hot chocolate in all of France. Given the dreary weather and cold winds, it was not surprising that half of Paris was trying to get a table. Tourists and locals alike clamored into the restaurant, adding their names to the growing wait-list.
I bit into the almond fluff, suddenly very aware that I was alive. I licked my lips with a little too much satisfaction. Paris was going to make me fat and I was totally at peace with this.
My phone vibrated against the spoon on the table, signaling receipt of a text from Clarisse. She was running late so she was sending a good friend to meet me. I didn’t particularly need to be entertained, especially since I had a succulent pastry to keep me company, but I was always up for meeting new friends.
I had only seen photos of Maureen so I tried to keep my eyes peeled while I waited. This proved much harder than I thought, what with my eyes rolling back into my head each time I took a bite. I looked around suspiciously, wondering if anyone else was having a party in their mouth.
I observed my fellow pastry lovers, silently judging each table’s choice of beverage and baked good. Having now visited Angelina’s on multiple occasions, I was aware there was really no wrong choice, but I gave more kudos to those who chose the hot chocolate. I started weaving complex back-stories for the American women seated adjacent to me.
My phone buzzed again with a phone call from an unknown number. It was Maureen. She spoke with such joy you could hear her smile through the phone. “Hello, miss Hilary! I am heeeere!” I turned around in my seat to see her waving through the window. Her warm smile matched her bubbly voice. I paid my check and went out to meet her.
She danced down the sidewalk, asking me a slew of questions about my stay so far, the things I’d seen, and what I thought of her city. I loved how each Parisian I met took such pride in their city, claiming it as their own. “I absolutely love it here.”
She took my hand and led me down a side street. “Well, we have to make sure you see more wonderful things! Come, I have a surprise for you.” I happily obliged, wondering where she could possibly be taking me. I saw Clarisse emerging from the underground about a block ahead. Maureen flagged her down and she joined our proceedings to the unknown location. She and Maureen prattled on in French, obviously in agreement as to where we were going.
“Look, there it is! The very famous Palais Garnier!” Maureen pointed to the opulent building that sat in the center of the road.
“This is probably the most famous opera house in the world,” Clarisse remarked. I agreed, recalling that it had been the setting for Leroux’s novel, The Phantom of the Opera. It was also noted for being the most expensive architectural achievement during the Second Empire. After viewing the lavish interior, it wasn’t hard to see why.
We didn’t spend much time at the opera house since Maureen wanted to make another stop before dark. “Quick, the city will be rolling up its streets soon,” she commented. We left hastily in pursuit of more things to marvel at.
We rounded a corner and were met with a gust of chilling wind. I pulled my coat tighter around my body and shivered. Maureen didn’t miss a beat. “Why, Hilary! Why aren’t you wearing a scarf?” Maureen turned to Clarisse. “Why isn’t she wearing a scarf?”
Clarisse shook her head in disapproval. “She does not have one.”
“It’s no big deal,” I interjected. “I’ll survive.”
Maureen grabbed me by the shoulders, squaring my body to hers. Her eyes were suddenly very serious. “Hilary, you must always wear a scarf in Paris! Especially in such weather.” Another gale hit us broadside. I had no justifiable argument for my fashion faux pas. As a Vegas girl, I had never had a use for such an item and therefore never thought much about it. Maureen continued. “A scarf is ultra feminine and high fashion! Plus it will keep you from getting sick! You must always wear a scarf in Paris!”
She let go of my shoulders and continued walking, her black curls bouncing in time with her stride. “This is the fashion district of Paris. See? Scarves everywhere! All Parisian women wear scarves. It is a law.” Clarisse laughed but agreed with this. Maureen was emphatic. “You must get a scarf!”
It was hard to argue as we passed multiple stores with models donning the colorful material wrapped around their necks. The stores had all locked their doors for the night, but I promised Maureen I would invest in a scarf the next morning. I couldn’t break such a sacred commandment of Paris, especially since it was so pragmatic for the weather.
Maureen seemed satisfied with my promise. She continued to float down the street, stopping occasionally for photo ops and to point out her favorite stores.
And though I was thoroughly enjoying the company and tour, I couldn’t help but feel very conscious of my bare neck for the rest of the evening.