Tiny dust particles floated on streams of light as the rising sun shone through the airplane window. My back pressed hard against the seat, and the engines roared upon landing.
Like a drum in a rock band, my heart beat double-time.
I’m actually in Paris!
After going through customs and collecting my bags, I pulled my coat tighter and stepped outside, bypassing the unofficial taxi drivers and handed my suitcases to the first cab in the Taxi Rank.
I sent a text to Renée, the landlady I met through the leasing agency, to let her know I was on the way. She responded immediately and said to meet her at the café on the corner of the apartment building. Thirty minutes, and sixty Euros later, the driver sat my suitcases on the sidewalk in front of the double doors of, 5 Rue d’Abbeville.
A woman waved to me from a table under the blue and white awning of the café, “Kate, over here.” She spoke to a waiter and then walked my way, extending her hand. “I’m Renée. Welcome to Paris.”
I was surprised at how well she spoke English. “It’s so nice to finally meet you in person, Renée. I’m glad you speak English because my French is awful.”
She smiled, “You’ll get the hang of it soon enough.” Renée grabbed the handle of one of my suitcases and started walking. “I can’t take you up to the apartment just yet because the workers are not finished varnishing the stairs. They assure me that they’ll be done, and the stairs will be dry by 1:30, so we’ll set your suitcases inside the doorway until then.”
I followed her into the apartment building, past a wall of mailboxes and into an open courtyard. The strong order of varnish wafted through another set of dark green double doors. We stepped inside onto the tile floor. My eyes surveyed the winding wood and iron stairs that seemed to reach the heavens.
Renée sat my suitcase to the side of the stairs. “You can leave your bags here. The workers will watch them for you. I assure you they’ll be safe.”
I followed her back outside to the table where she had been seated when I arrived. “We can sit inside if you like, but I thought you might like it out here.” She motioned toward the wicker-like bench that ran the length of the building. “You’ll be comfortable with the overhead heat lamps and the day will be much warmer by noon.”
She said something to the waiter in French and then turned back to me, “I have an appointment to get my hair cut at a shop around the corner. I told the waiter to bring you a menu. I would like to treat you to breakfast since you’ll have to wait to get into the apartment.”
“That’s very kind of you, but it’s not necessary. I’ll be fine.”
“I insist. They understand English here in case you have any questions. I shouldn’t be long. Enjoy.”
I wrapped my cold hands around a hot cup of café au lait and took in my surroundings.
The apartment building and café were located on a busy one way street and intersection. Cars, scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, and people on skateboards, vied for the crowded lanes. In the distance, the melodic wailing sound of a police car ‘nee-eu-nee-eu’ echoed through the streets.
My apartment building mirrored a striking, historical building six stories tall, with shuttered windows and black iron scrollwork. Balconies, some adorned with flowers that brightened the winter, overlooked the hectic street and café. A cobblestone pathway curved beyond my line of vision.
I will have to explore and see where that path leads.
The sidewalks were lively with tourists wearing backpacks and pulling suitcases; couples holding hands; oblivious to anyone but each other, along with businessmen hurrying to work, and moms with their infants in strollers and slings.
I took a sip of coffee and sank back in my chair. I’d never felt more at home in my life.