One balmy June night, while eating an omelette on the patio of a café at the Place de la Madeleine, I experienced one of those Paris “moments”, which endear one to the City of Light forever.
It was midnight. My daughter was fast asleep at the hotel and I had just come from an organ recital at the Eglise de la Madeleine, not at all ready to retire for the night. I sat lazily sipping my wine, the city still very much alive. I was getting on a plane next day, going home, already missing Paris and trying to console myself with the promise that I would be back…when I heard it.
It was the sound which first diverted my attention, like angels laughing, the palpable camaraderie of girls in a bunch, how noisy they can be, a little tipsy with drink and feeling lighthearted. Then they floated by, coming round the curve of the Place de la Madeleine and whirring past me on sturdy large-framed bicycles fitted with baskets, which clanked against metal frames.
There were six or seven of them, young women I guessed to be in their twenties, in evening dress. Chiffon to the knees, barefoot, high heels bouncing around inside the baskets, scarves and tresses flowing about them. The little breeze they stirred up swirled the scent of perfume mixed with alcohol around my head. One of the girls clicked at her little bell mounted on the handlebars, to alert a crossing pedestrian, and they all giggled. In a flash, the plume of silk and fringe disappeared down a side street, but it seemed a very long time before the breathless chirping faded into the night.
I walked back to my hotel and began to pack.