‘Life is what you celebrate. All of it.’
― Joanne Harris, Chocolat
Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash
Tomorrow is a big day. If we could do anything, go anywhere, I would take us both on a walk to celebrate your birthday. Paris pairs perfectly with a day of flânerie, so I will set the story there. And us, at its beginning, early morning, coats and scarves on, at the ready.
The Latin word adventura means ‘what is to happen,’
will happen. The French embrace it. So do we. We walk out to meet it, flâning.
We happen upon the jardins des Tuileries. Much calmer than the parallel rue de Rivoli where shoppers and tourists are already queuing for … things. Souvenirs, outfits, overpriced café crèmes served in guilded big name cafés. You were never really one for things. Me neither. We keep walking.
It is still so early that the jardin is ours. We conquer it, chasing after patches of sunshine. You rub my hands in yours as you used to when I was still a child. You blow hot air onto the blue tips of my fingers. We could both use something warm.
At it happens, meandering through the gardens, we find a little kiosque.
Deux chocolats chauds s’il vous plait,
We do not mind the paper cups. Quite the contrary; they warm our hands as we toast, and sip and walk and talk our way through the allées, past sculptures, fountains, bare trees. Past the Musée de l’Orangerie, to the end of our drinks and the Tuileries.
L’aventure continue. We exit and immediately encounter…
La Grande Roue! The Ferris Wheel!
We exchange glances:
And, minutes later, we do. We lift off, two adults on a carnival ride. You, fifty-eight years old. I, having known, loved, and looked up to you for twenty-nine of those.
A thirteenth century adventurer was one who took a risk and embarked on a ‘perilous undertaking’ to encounter ‘a wonder, a miracle.’ You taught me to live like this. We glide over the city, over the moon, drinking in the sights and beauty like the hot chocolate we just had.
The sun is up over the Seine and the city is bathed in gold. A rarity for December. The rays shimmer on the windows. We spot the places we know and those we have yet to. We have time. We notice how far we have come since this morning, since last year, since whenever we started walking.
The Ferris Wheel stops at the very top. ‘A wonder, a miracle.’ We talk of dreams and clouds and changing winds. About shifts in altitude, course, time, perspective.
A minute of living, out of existence. We savour the sun and the view, the lingering taste of cocoa on our tongues. Then the rotation resumes.
On our way down from the top of the world, your stomach grumbles. You ask:
Where do you think we could get a good croissant?
A good croissant in Paris. Hmm.
We laugh. I know just the place. The best in all of Paris, or at least I think it is because we discovered it together years ago, on another walk and adventure. We turn right and out of the Place de la Concorde as soon as our feet touch ground. Wander past the same big name boutiques, cafés, patisseries, queues still ribboning out.
A left onto la rue du 29 juillet; I wonder what it celebrates. Some grand adventure. We proceed with our own, find ourselves lost, are not too bothered.
Adventure – you taught me this too - requires an acceptance of detours and unplanned stops; a friendly dog, a flower stall, a book shop -
I lose you to books, fruits, and artisan cheese. Samples of sausage and wine. We will never reach our destination, I fear. That is not the purpose of this walk, the childlike delight on your face reminds me. You peel, we share a clementine.
In fifteenth-century German, the word adventure also translates to abenteuer: arrival. We eventually reach our boulangerie ...
and it is still morning, and there are two seats by the window, inside, in the heat.
It takes a while till our coats and scarves are ready to be removed. The adventure comes to a close. We place our order and moments later, magically, breakfast appears.
Tantalizing sights, fragrances, and textures. The perfect celebratory meal. But before we dig in, we raise our hot cups and toast:
To more walks.
To ‘happiness. Simple as a glass of chocolate […].
Bitter. Sweet. Alive.’