Many years ago, when in Paris for the first time, I noticed a lone businessman reading the afternoon newspaper while enjoying lunch. I snapped the following photo.
The self-evident caption emblazoned on the window means “Mussels and Fries.” As far as I could tell, his meal reflected the label framing his repast. To me he epitomized Paris, the long breaks for lunch, the intent yet unhurried review of the local goings-on, the formal casualness. One of my best memories of Paris is of lingering at a sidewalk cafe nursing a glass of Kir Royale and watching the people go by. There are plenty of tourists of course, especially on the busy Champs-Élysées, but it is the locals that attract my attention. They look like they belong here.
The gentleman finished his moules et frites, paid his bill to the smiling waitress – clearly he was a regular – and walked a few doors down the street to a nondescript office building. I boarded my tour bus, later the scene of some broken ribs, and enjoyed the rest of my visit. After returning home I submitted my photo to a Washington Post contest and actually came in fourth place.
So I have the photo, the award, and lasting memories of my first encounter with local culture in Paris.
David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is due out late July 2017.