This morning we visited a new French Patisserie which has opened very close to home. So close, in fact, that we can walk or ride our bikes there. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and brought home a baguette for Ron (later on). I picked up some cheeses from Aldi during the day and prepared a late afternoon ‘picnic’ consisting of crispy baguette, cheeses and red wine to share with my husband. All of a sudden, my mind was transported back to another picnic, in another time and another place, shared with another loved one.
Taste and smell are powerful memory triggers. Today, the smell of the fresh baguette, anticipated taste of creamy French cheese and appearance of the ingredients laid out triggered a happy memory of a similar picnic a little over three years ago. My daughter had just finished high school and we were enjoying a very special mother daughter travel adventure to celebrate and launch her into the world before she embarked upon further study at university. It was the sort of adventure I could only dream of at her age and a dream come true for both of us. We’d already visited London for the first time and I was now introducing her to Paris, having visited once before over two decades earlier, when I was not that much older than she, at the end of my university studies.
On a cold, overcast, wet and gloomy early December day, we set off on the Paris Metro, disembarking near the infamous Moulin Rouge. We wandered through the streets, heading towards Montmartre, stopping to explore small artisanal produce stores, purchasing a baguette at a boulangerie, soft cheese in a stoneware bowl, another slice of cheese and fresh salmon dip at a charcuterie. Continuing our stroll, we wound our way to the Montmartre carousel, with Sacre Coeur rising above us. Here, we found an empty park bench overlooking the carousel and square and, using my scarf as a table cloth, we laid out our purchases for a picnic of baguette, cheese and dip, enjoying our Parisian picnic lunch and looking, I’m sure, like quintessential tourists before heading up to Sacre Coeur and Montmartre proper where we were able to look over the entire city. It wasn’t the most remarkable or favourite day on the trip and I don’t even remember what else we did that day. It was, in fact, quite ordinary so far as travel days go, albeit in an extraordinary and wonderful location. Yet, here is the memory of that day, somewhat randomly popping up at unexpected moments. This trip holds so many special memories of wonderful sights seen and shared with my first born immediately before she moved out of home. It’s something I will always treasure and trust she will too.
Similarities to today’s picnic outweigh the differences in my mind’s eye, clouded as they are by my sentimental reminiscing. Today, here and now, it is wet, gloomy and overcast, although far from cold. Today, again, we are enjoying a freshly baked French style baguette, although on the opposite side of the world and culturally worlds away from France. Today, I have again purchased a soft French cheese with a stronger flavour as well as a couple of other items to eat with the bread. Today, I share this picnic with a loved one, this time my husband of over twenty seven years. Today, I have purposely taken a small dish out of the cupboard and placed some cheese into it. The very same small, round, brown glazed stoneware dish I bought full of cheese in Paris, that would have been so easy to throw away, yet was carefully kept as a souvenir, and is being used again today in memory of that other picnic in another time and another place. And yes, I do have a blue cheese in that little dish today, sparking memories of my first trip to Paris, where I first learned to eat and love blue cheese, but that is a memory for another day and another story all of its own. As I savour the sweetness of the cheeses and wine, I simultaneously enjoy the sweetness of some of my happiest memories, memories made with my two great loves, my family and travel.
Time flies, life moves on, my daughter has now lived away from home for over three years and my son has recently moved away to study as well.
Special moments are fleeting and I am grateful for memories made and remembered. I hope and pray they will stay with me for as long as I inhabit this earth.
Postscript: I look forward in eager anticipation to once again visiting Paris later this year. On my third visit to the city of love and lovers, I will finally have my lover with me and for the second time, I will have the privilege of introducing Paris to someone I love very much.