It’s been thirty two years since I last sat on the terasse of Ma Bourgogne on the corner of rue des Francs Bourgeois and the Place des Vosges. Back then I had left my wallet and cash on a wall at the Louvre and all I could afford was stuffed vine leaves.
It is not a fond memory, but I remember loving the Place des Vosges.
It is eighteen years since I lived in Paris, and Gare de Lyon transience à part, it’s perhaps only the fifth time I have been back. It is the first time I have felt any strong pangs of regret.
There is something about spring in big cities. It must be the sap rising. It was the same in Barcelona last year, Paris this. The newness of the green, the vigour of the city.
Both Célestine and Madeleine have been to Paris before, but Gaspard never. At least not with me. And as a one time Parisian father, that counts. We had lunch at Chartier, as ever, far from a Michelin-starred affair, but fun. The 2012 Chateau de la Chapelle Côtes du Rhône was as much as you can expect for 15 euros; the steak tartare so-so.
I dropped the troupe off at St Eustache and made my own way to the Place des Vosges. After a gratifyingly pointless altercation with a Parisian couple on a Vespa (they’d been sitting behind me for “three hours” waiting for me to move), I found a parking place and moved on to my terrasse.
And so, thirty two years later, the Place des Vosges is still just as beautiful, if a little more populated. The man I remember endlessly jogging around the square is no longer , but if I had the cash, you have to say a large first floor flat here really would be the nec plus ultra of Parisian living. I have always said the Palais Royal was first choice, but it’s a close run thing.
Perhaps it’s the length of my Romeo e Julieta Churchill cigar, bought at the Palais Royal’s La Civette, perhaps it’s the two Leffes (along with a Perrier, s’il vous plaït), but I cannot resist a little regret, of things that were, or things that might have been.