I’ve been listening to a whole assortment of music of late. From random old-school rock, to Aunty-ji and Chikni Chameli, to my new found love, Imogen Heap and I’m also getting a taste of some mellow jazz. In between all of that, somewhere I had a spell of re-obsession with the Buena Vista Social Club. I rediscovered the magic, basically. Only this time, with a lot more intensity. Added to that, one weekend not so long ago, I watched Midnight in Paris. Instantly, I fell right back in love with the city and the idea of going to Europe. Let’s just say the movie fast-tracked my itch. It really epitomizes that Parisian feel I remember so fondly. I’m big on associations. And the biggest associations I have with Paris are the street cafes, the dellllish foodie aroma and the mellow music that seemed to play everywhere.
So yes, a large part of my fond memories of Paris are to do with wandering along the little by-lanes and street cafes, with no real agenda. Stopping where I please, eating an omlette here, a waffle there, walking some more. Marveling at how everything was so picture postcard-like. Down to the pretty sights I’d stumble on in various nooks and crannies. A cute alcove in a building wall, a yellow door, a rusty knocker, a woman in a bright red dress, the wicker chairs at every cafe, the neon signs that read “pharmacie”, the little floating restaurants all along the river, the artists bent over their canvases overlooking the River Seine. Everything was just the way I’d read about and imagined in my head. And then there was this happy soundtrack playing everywhere I went.
In my recent Buena Vista Social Club trip, this one track has stuck in my head. Mostly because of the Parisian fantasies it has conjured.
This is the kind of music that transports me to a cool spot beneath the shade of beneath a red and white striped canopy in a quaint bistro. Rows of cane chairs dot the sidewalk, that has formed an inconvenient obstacle track for pedestrians, but a welcome place to for me, as I play the onlooker. Watching the day unfold differently for each person to pass me by. I sip my cold fresh beer, sucking on the aftertaste. A classic Parisian breeze blows the stack of paper napkins away. Enveloping me in its crunchy European lack-of-warmth. The sun shines through, just enough to enjoy the outdoors, but a single breeze is all it takes to want to button my coat, turn the collar up and bury my neck deep inside.
The smell of crispy bacon wafts by, and I can tell it is on its way to being caramelized to perfection. Steaming cups of hot chocolate are consumed and the cheery Garcon enthusiastically marches in and out delivering them to eager Parisians. Colorful mugs, sitting pretty on his tray, each with a savoury biscotti for company. And just like that, my Spanish omelette makes its way to my table, complete with bacon on the side and an assembled salad of shredded rocket and tomatoes and crumbled mozzarella. I waste no time, dig in, and devour every last bit, mopping up the vinaigrette that streaks the bottom of my plate with the final slice of baguette. Not too far away, is a young lad, with a smile on his face, scoops pouffy gelato from his cart, onto giant waffle cones. I hesitate, but quickly reconsider and get myself a cone. Because there really is no better way to finish a brunch in Paris, than with something to tingle the sweet tooth.
And that sound in the background? It gently fades out. Like the end of a a track, at precisely the right point, making way for the next. Like a continuous background score. My very own Parisian soundtrack.