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STRANGERS IN PARIS
Paris is often touted as the city for lovers, but it is much more than that, it is a city that invites a singleness and lonesomeness that does not stigmatise. It is a place where you can, on having lunch by yourself, make friends with the person sat next to you, and swap stories that become precious memories. It happened to me recently, I am an advocate for solo dates with oneself you see, whether it’s a matinee in the cinema, lunch in Paris, or brunch in Borough Market…there is something wholesome about this act, something pleasurable and self-fulfilling.
My favourite people to meet when I travel are Americans, because you will not meet a nicer more helpful bunch of people than travelling Americans, they are typically some of the friendliest people. Granted, I have met a few weirdos like the one time I was asked how it was, that I, a black woman a) came to find myself holidaying in the South of France and ii) speak with an English lilt. Yes, you guessed right, he was a Trump supporter as he revealed, so we’ll chuck it up to one of those we lost. Another time I was asked by another American travelling in the UK, why I’d left Africa. I mean she’d just spent two weeks on a thousand pound a night safari in Zimbabwe and feeling she’d seen the continent where tourists’ whims are catered to… Look, whom amongst us has not been in contact with weirdos once or twice or indeed, been one. Still much of my interactions with Americans I meet when I travel has been nothing short of a pleasure as it happened one fine Autumn afternoon in Aux Lyonnaise in Paris, where I met another lovely travelling American, who struck up conversation with me as we were sat next to each other at lunch. She was older and in Paris for longer than I was, she was there for a typical sojourn of two weeks a quarter sans husband or children, who had all left the nest, and I was there for an afternoon. We had the most fascinating conversation on life in general, it was also during the fever dream of the Truss government, so there was no short of political brouhaha to cover as we pondered what the actual fuck was going on in both our home countries over some perfect duck, for a time the UK had assumed the role of clown in the global circus of government. We touched on the Trump years and the tumult of the world in general. I admired the fact that she was there on her time, this is something of a tradition; time on her own to see the world on her terms, and she was envious of me being able to get to Paris in less than an hour by plane for a short play in the middle of a rather fine autumnal Tuesday afternoon. The short time in her company, was something of a jolt that made me appreciate even more, the fortune of where I found myself in that moment and in a position, able to do just this; hop on a plane, see an exhibition, grab a quick lunch and be home by teatime. It is above all else, a privilege that I can.
We exchanged recommendation of restaurants, exhibitions, and shops, she booked to see the Munch exhibition the next day based on my recommendation.
I love conversations with strangers like this; there is an ease of expectation, nothing more to it except a fond memory but it also puts into perspective the fortune of our privilege in life, which we often times take for granted but it also leaves one with the feeling that above all else, no matter what the news cycles will have you believe, there is more good that surrounds us and it is something to be thankful.