rose bakery tea room at le bon marché, paris

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She was calm and quiet now with knowing what she had always known, what neither her parents nor Aunt Claire nor Frank nor anyone else had ever had to teach her: that if you wanted something to do something absolutely honest, something true, it always turned out to be a thing that had to be done alone. ― Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road

In the end, all cities bleed back to New York. All cities are a great, sweeping metropolis where the motley lot stack horizontal in subway cars and pretend to ignore the downtrodden who’ve taken shelter in makeshift homes constructed of cardboard boxes on the sidewalk. They sleep with pets or in pairs, but mostly alone. We’re told not to give, to report, to move right along, and whether we know it or not, we’ve become expert editors, excising all that is not beautiful out of the frame. The uncomfortable, the unsightly, never stays in the picture.

In the city, we wait on an endless succession of lines. We’re told to complete forms, bring identification, and you’ll notice we’re closed nearly twenty-four hours a day. We wake up, we work, we complain about work (and sometimes explore our options, but never really deviating too far), we work out and get drunk and go to sleep. We travel in packs; rarely do we drift from our spheres of influence unless it’s strategic. We’re card-players without ever having learned the rules of the game. But we play, and we sometimes win (dumb luck) or blame others for a bum hand (what the fuck?). In the city, we ridicule other cities and treat them like they’re quaint and provincial specks on a map should we ever visit. The country is for sleeping and the ocean is for taking pictures of our feet. Our constant struggle is the weather, and how, like the porridge, it’s never just right. We subscribe to dozens of newsletters, follow and befriend the right people, so that we’re constantly informed, always connected. Interesting how we’re vociferous about our left leanings, but keep close to the class that binds us.

There are no accidents. Arbitrary is a word that doesn’t exist in our vocabulary. This is the formula, the regimen to which we’ve subscribed, and the days become photocopies of themselves with minor variation.

But I swore Paris was not like this. It somehow escaped the drone of mobile phone alarm clocks and a rain that chills you to down to bone. PARIS! NOT PARIS!

I’ve spent the greater part of the past decade writing an ode to Paris. From the peonies painted pink to clusters of blush roses, to steamy baguettes wilting paper sacks and pink skies settling on the Seine, from cobalt blue doors and balconies for which arias were written, to manicured gardens and trains that hurtle into the countryside — it’s easy to romanticize Paris. It’s new, all talcum powder on the body and cut grass. We’ve yet to develop our blinders; we haven’t lived in the home that refuses to heat. We haven’t dragged four pieces of luggage through the underground metro system in the middle of rush hour.

Last fall, I gave serious thought to leaving a job that was slowly killing me. In three years I went from a person who created, who thrived off of the relationships I’d cultivated with others, to a person who sent all-cap emails that read, CASH MONEY. To a person who worked all hours, rescheduled, cancelled and spent months ordering take-out. In September, in Paris, I wondered about the woman I had become. Who am I? This realization was terrifying, it implied major alterations had to be made, and it was a reality of which I wasn’t ready to confront. Instead, I created this bombastic love affair with Paris. Much like April in Revolutionary Road — making Paris bigger than it is, so much so that she gets crushed by the enormity of her hope and the inevitability of her heartbreak — this affair was a cringe-worthy hot mess, replete with French lessons and culinary school research.

It took me ten years to realize that the luggage comes along for the ride no matter how beautiful the scenery.

While Paris is remarkable, magical even, it’s still a city that demands one live in it with eyes open. Part of me wishes that I would’ve taken that trip to Bordeaux, kept the romance alive for a little while longer. Stretch out the dream, slip into it, face full of childish sleep and wild hair. But I’m awake, band-aids ripped off and the bright lights flicked on. I leave Paris tomorrow for New York, ready to leave but not quite ready to go home.

Stop asking, stop checking. I don’t know. {emphatically} Start being there. Start accepting the in-betweens. {emphatically} I want to find my way back to myself. I want something sweeping, unsettling and great.

But first, a day of solitude. Of quiet. Of sitting uncomfortably in one’s thoughts. Inspired by infectious energy and beautiful photography on Paris in Four Months, Carin inspired me to take a trip to Rose Bakery, located on the second floor of Le Bon Marché. I spent the morning reading, eating muesli, scones, and banana chocolate loaves in a delightful tea room cloaked in effulgent light. While the tea room is decidedly expensive ($6 for a cappuccino?), it was a gift to myself, a lovely quiet morning before the impending storm.

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17 thoughts on “rose bakery tea room at le bon marché, paris

    1. Thanks, Lindsey! Interestingly enough, I was talking about New York — but it certainly can find itself — albeit in an altered form — in any other city. Then again, I’m going through a weird time and my POV might very well change in a few months.

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  1. Dear Felicia,

    Thank you for the wonderful pieces you’ve posted on Paris. My husband and I leave for Paris next Friday, and your blog has been a wonderful resource for us to have. We rented an apartment the Marais district, and are looking forward to visiting all the little gems you’ve introduced us to on your blog. I love your blog and the personal nature of all your posts, and they are so relatable and authentic. Have a safe trip back to New York, and don’t let it bring you down from your Paris high!
    Thanks again!

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  2. True, Paris is not the romantic anodyne that people believe it is, or not for long, BUT it does offer some consolations that New York does not, especially of a quotidien culinary variety. Just about anything to eat in Paris can be found it New York, but it is much much harder to find, and the attitude toward quality of life in small details couldn’t be more different. Ken

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    1. Thanks, Ken! I wasn’t really comparing the two so tactically. There are certainly differences between the two cities, all cities — what I was trying to convey more was the fact that I used Paris as a band-aid for a much larger concern.

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  3. Good for you for taking your time…. don’t know for a while and then maybe for a while longer…. and while all I really do as part of your journey is read your words, for what it’s worth, I have your virtual back :) Zelda

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  4. Your writing and observations are so sharp and clear, I am hanging on every word and nodding a lot. This trip has re-awakened your writing, don’t you think? You’ve got the flow back — keep at it!

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    1. Oh, Barbara. It has. I’m just worried. I’m writing this to you from a plane, and I worry that the stress of being back in NY, having to be pragmatic and figure it all out, will put me in a slump all over again.

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      1. I totally hear that, but I think that IT is back in you (as gross and weird as that sounds, I hope you know what I mean). It’s just your job now to summon it out to stay (I am going through the same thing, frankly). You have it, you do. Try to go easy on yourself and just let it happen, because it will. Vacation is a reason to do nothing, but you actually weren’t doing nothing — you were percolating. And I think you still are. And look what happened. Good stuff. There is more good stuff to come too, I know it.

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  5. Oh! Felicia. This piece hits home. I grew up in NYC and moved back here last September after 32 years in CA. It was a life longing moving back after kids off to college but I had an epiphany moment back in March when I noticed the porcelain skin on my hand. I need vitamin DDDDDDDD badly. Thank you for sharing your personal sentiments with us in this cyber space. All the best.

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  6. Love your writing, your passion and the clear way your words resonate with my thoughts…thank you for sharing your trip with us. BTW, no trip of mine would be complete without a stop at Bon Marche’s gourmet department on the main floor in the adjacent building, and of course the cool clothing department upstairs…ah, memories!

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