Monday, September 17, 2007

Autumn in Paris

It's almost autumn in Paris. The morning air has a chill which slowly abates as the sun takes hold of the day. Last year, my first Fall in Paris, I had a pang of homesickness. I realized that I missed New England's autumn leaves. Not the brilliant blaze of color from sugar maples and birches, though that was a perennial favorite.

No, I missed the smell of rotting leaves.

That delicious pungent fragrance -- which used to be found all too often in unraked piles in my yard. But also the comforting earthy aroma of walks in the woods in Massachusetts. Paris is a verdant city, with some of the most gorgeous parks, but all so carefully groomed, so well-maintained. No decomposing leaves from the thousands of horse-chestnut or plane trees.

"Try the Parc de Saint Cloud!" suggested my friend Daphne, who politely declined my request to bring me a ziploc bag of old leaves when she returned to Paris from a trip to New York.

So I went to the Parc de Saint Cloud last autumn. Majestic, fabulous place, easily reached by metro and a hop across the bridge. I could walk there for hours.

But no dead-leaf smell.

Then one morning as I took a short cut by the Trocadero, I happened upon a path in a small grotto leading up to the Musee de la Marine. There it was. I sat down on a stone bench and inhaled deeply. Dead leaves. Ah, Paris felt like home, at last.

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