The Morning Aprés

Sleepy-eyed after a very long night of wining & dining, I crawl out of bed and pour myself a steaming hot bowl of café au lait and toast slices of pain au levain


The beginning of another year in Paris.

I bring the bowl to my lips and take a comforting sip.

I slather butter on my warm toast. It melts and forms little buttery puddles in between the delightfully irregular bubbles revealed each time I slice and toast another slab from the hearty loaf.
I drizzle it with bitter chestnut honey. Delicious.

The sweet, creamy smear of butter and the sharp, amber honey pair feel just right this morning after a night scraping briny oysters from their shells and washing them down with endless flutes of icy Champagne. After we polished off several platters of les huitres, our next course was tiny roasted quails, expertly roasted with root vegetables, accompanied by the smoothest puree of potatoes, mounded alongside, bathed in a delicate sauce made from the savory pan juices.

Afterwards, a long sleep was in order while all of Paris closed up for the night. My re-entry to the world begins when the late winter sun peers out from behind the curtains. A few slow, tentative movements as I slide out of bed, and I find myself back into the world.

That wonderful luminosity of Paris!
The sun peering through the grey still of winter.
The heater buzzes softly in the corner, the only sound, except for the faint patter of traffic on the street down below.
The gentle quiet of a slow morning, as Paris begins to wake up. Curtains are tentatively opened in buildings across the way. A queu begins at the corner bakery, Parisians exiting with slender baguettes tucked under their arms and warm, buttery croissants enclosed in stiff bakery paper.

How wonderful to live in a city where breakfast inspires a photograph.
I finish the last, warm sip of my café au lait.

My clothes are draped carelessly over the sofa where I dropped them the night before. I gather them up.

Then I smell it.

That ever-present, overpowering smell.

My clothes reek of cigarette smoke.
The woman sitting next to me last night spent the evening chain-smoking. She went though an entire pack of cigarettes during dinner. No sooner did she finish one cigarette then she lit up another. The room became so smoke-filled that I had to get up several times during the night just to catch some fresh air in another room. My eyes burning with acrid cigarette smoke, at times I was barely able to breathe. Every so often, the room would clear of it’s grey, foul, heavy smoke…then someone else would light up, prompting everyone else to reach for their cigarettes and light up another.

My clothing will have to go to the cleaners.

I settle in at my desk to check my email.
My email doesn’t work, nor does my internet connection.
No email. No internet. Nothing.

I consider calling Noosnet Customer Service, then I remember the last time I tried that.

Four weeks later they re-connected me.

I shiver and wonder why it suddenly feels so cold? Why does it seem so dark inside?

I switch on a light. Nothing happens. I try another lamp.

The heater has stopped buzzing and the metal feels cold to the touch.

My electricity is off.

I begin to get chilly, thinking a nice, hot shower will warm me up.

I run the water for a few minutes.
The pathetic spittle of water that comes from the shower nozzle is barely tepid. I let the water flow for a few more minutes. It’s still cold, the water just slightly warmer than the now almost near-freezing temperature inside my apartment. I shiver and think about getting in, then turn off the sad trickle, putting it out of it’s misery. I decide to get back into bed, burying myself under my fluffy down duvet and crisp linen sheets, where it’s all warm and cozy.

“Bienvenue à Paris…let’s give it another year.”…I sigh to myself, before dozing off.

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  • January 2, 2006 3:43am

    Buon 2006
    Was wondering how lucky you were to be so poetic on the 1st!
    I had the same email accident… no email all morning,must be a European glitch!

  • January 2, 2006 6:52am

    As I shivered me own timbers on the barge, waiting for the French world to deliver 500 liters of fuel, I can only say, it is SO worth it to have that morning celebration- le petit dejeuner…

  • January 2, 2006 8:38am

    Sitting here in my over-heated NYC appartment with buckets of hot water, reading this..what wouldn’t I give to be chilly in Paris right now!

  • Spencer
    January 2, 2006 9:19am

    Hmmmmm….no electricity, and you managed to toast your toast with your electric toaster?

  • January 2, 2006 11:22am

    Oh thank god for the second half of this post. The photograph actually made me whimper. And then the descriptions….oh, want to be in Paris. Want it.
    But then the shoe dropped and I started laughing.

    Thank you for yet another wonderful reading experience, David. Damned cigarette smell!

    I hope your year is equal parts wonderful comfort and hilarity.

  • January 2, 2006 11:45am

    The first half of this post had me reaching for my car keys to hurry over to my favorite French bakery in town for their “Breakfast Classique” – a bowl of cafe au lait, small baguette, served with European jam & butter.

    I’m just drooling thinking of this, even though I’ve already had my breakfast porridge….

  • January 2, 2006 12:11pm

    Who in Paris uses a toaster?
    (Er, actually, I do…but most of my friends don’t even have one.)
    The power went off midway through breakfast…for you copy editors out there!

  • Martha
    January 2, 2006 4:14pm

    Thanks for the postings. I just love them.

    Did you ever think of getting flannel sheets?
    I can bring you some, since I am coming to Paris for 3-4 days.

    Keep warm.

  • Alisa
    January 2, 2006 4:59pm

    I am reading and I am thinking “oh David must have had such a wonderful night, he’s gone all poetic and mushy, so cute…..” And then, well, all was once again right with the world and I had a good chuckle! Bonne Annèe!

  • January 2, 2006 5:03pm

    haha…Welcome back to Paris and reality. Oh to be in a non-smoking land once again!

  • January 2, 2006 10:43pm

    who in america uses a toaster (except me), why does everyone have toaster ovens and no one have an electric kettle?

    great picture. I thought you were just showing off to begin with.

    Have a great year (hope your birthday was fun)

  • Ivonne
    January 2, 2006 11:02pm


    I was almost in pain reading the first part of your post. Especially the part about the bitter chestnut honey. Being of Italian background (born in Canada) I’m blessed in that we actually have some chestnut trees in Italy (in the region of Le Marche). On my trips to Italy to visit family, I so look forward to my uncle’s chestnut honey.

    Hope the power came back and that all is well.

    All the best in 2006!

  • January 2, 2006 11:07pm

    Coming back from Gastronomie’s fabulous New Year’s Eve party we found OUR electricity off too! Fortunately ours came back about 6 hours later….

  • January 3, 2006 6:49pm

    Hi David,

    Happy 2006. Akemashite, Omedetou (that’s happy new year in Japanese;). Thank you for your post-I have been thinking very seriously about quitting smoking and, after reading your description of the stinky coat and the smoke-filled room, I am more determined than ever. It is a gross habit and I feel for nonsmokers. Now I just want to become one. Wish me luck!

  • Ginger
    January 3, 2006 11:02pm

    Would love some insight to your lovely photographs… camera? lens? Feel like I am at the table in front of that steaming cup… Thanks for the mini visits to Paris…