We had a late dinner, and by the next morning I found myself on a train heading south to new destinations. The train station is connected to the airport. It is even dirtier than Charles de Gaulle aéroport. Tar stains on the walkway from decades of foot traffic, and the smell of unkempt bodies mixed with grease. But beyond the city were sights to cleanse the eyes. Lush green rolling farms, and postcard towns throughout the countryside.
This was a business trip with my new boss, yet it became so much more. The people, the food, the history, the architecture. My sensory perception felt inadequate to the task. The further south we traveled the more my anxiety grew. That I might not be able to remember it all, to be able to recount the wonderful experiences.
The highlight occurred at a place I least expected. A small town in central France, more to the south than the north, more east than west. Argenton-sur-Creuse. I can best describe it as a poor man’s version of Venice. A river runs through, with water lapping at the edge of buildings. Throughout the town are cobblestone sidewalks, rough on the feet but apropos to the setting. The multi-colored buildings, some with a slight lean, provide an architecture which could make you believe you are a character in a Charles Dickens setting.
Our morning meeting was short, leaving us four hours to wait on our train. We found a sidewalk café, the smell of baked pastry wafting from the inside. I ordered a glass of white wine. The food in France is fantastic. Basic dishes you might turn your nose up to in the States. It is all fresh. Something as simple as french fries, called pomme de frites, assaults your nose with cooked potato, oil, and salt. Even a cheese plate opens your senses; the sweet smell of slightly sour milk, in beautiful yellows and beiges.
As the waiter set my glass of white wine on the table, a slight sweat on the outside of the sparkling glass, she arrived. Did I mention the women of France? They are beyond beautiful. Slim figures with thin Parisian faces, highlighted by tight lips from years of pursed pronunciations. Slightly pronounced cheek bones, accentuating luring eyes.
But this lady stood out above the crowd. Long legs with tight jeans, tucked into tall black boots. I am partial to blondes, but she had long brunette hair, ending at the small of her back. Dark eyebrows on top of olive skin, and piercing brown eyes.
She sat at the table next to mine and stared directly at me with a pronounced smile. My heart skipped a beat. Not because I was suddenly in love. More out of embarrassment that she might have caught me gazing at her beauty.