I squeezed into my little cabin I would call home for the next few days. It was a tough haul with all my luggage, and I definitely looked like a tourist when I arrived at Rue Montorgueil. I quietly surveyed the room as the AirB&B guy walked me through the rules.
“And finally, here is your terrace, for eat or for drink. Oh, and your keys.”
My eyes got stuck on the road below. I dumped my bags and slipped out to wander the streets of Paris alone. I was glad to be staying where I was – I knew the area quite well. Marc and I had stayed two streets over.
Rue Montorgueil was not a bad place to settle. It is known as the ‘restaurant street’. It is sort of a mix between Bree, Loop and Kloof Street from back home in Cape Town. But with more people. The street moved at all hours of the day.
At 6 am I can hear the garbage truck rattle down the narrow cobbled road. Then I would start at the crash of glass that bounced off the buildings. Around 10 am I would go downstairs for a coffee at my cafe. Elyias managed the cafe in the morning.
“Sava! Un café s’il vous plaît.”
And my coffee would arrive. I began worshipping this daily ritual as the only set part of my day. It is funny how we travel to break routine, then immediately work on creating a new one.
From my table, I would watch the street unfold. It’s a little bit like the beginning scene in Beauty and the Beast with a constant choir of “Bonjour”. Across the street was a flower shop. At about the time I sip my coffee, they unpack bouquets of bright flowers onto the curb.
My cafe doesn’t come with breakfast, but a local told me the best croissants on the street is at Stohrer – a bakery just up the road. I would go some mornings to collect this perfect pastry. Croissants in France are really just so much better. They flake as you bite it, and then the soft butter pastry melts on your tongue. It’s divine with a cup of coffee. In fact, locals often throw in an orange juice too. It seems to be a breakfast tradition around here.
In the mornings I watch people commute to work and tourists (like myself) pass by. But it is not until midday that the rush comes. When the French are on their lunch break they flock to the restaurants. Many businesses have a two-hour break, so lunch becomes an event.
In the late afternoons, the dress code becomes fancier. Couples are out for dinner and friends are out for drinks. I am amazed by how integrated the different age groups are in Paris. Old ladies dressed in their best meet with their friends for a bottle of wine or two. At the same time, I see a ten-year-old out in the streets at 11 am. It’s bizarre.
I am glad to say I enjoyed a few treats along this street myself. Marc and I snatched a sneaky Thai dinner from Monthai when we first arrived. They have excellent stir fry. We even had a date night here. I put on my best dress and polished my heels and set off with a smile. Dinner was at Cafe Du Centre. We started with escargot and I braved a bite – it’s actually pretty tasty, just tough. I had salmon, Marc had steak, and we shared a bottle of Chardonnay. It was magical.
But late night is when Rue Montorgueil loses its charm. The spell wears off. Spirits soar and music pulses, mixing with the laughter and the night air until 2 am. Somewhere above the din I lie tossing and turning, trying to use a pillow to drown out the sound. Then it’s home time. It’s the stacking of chairs and locking up. It gets quiet around three.
Well, almost quiet.
What I haven’t mentioned is the constant wail of sirens. It becomes insignificant in the day time, as it melts into the city. But at night, it punctuates the air painfully. I drift in and out of a light sleep. Then at 6 am, it all starts again.