Looking out of my Hausmannien-style dining room window, my eyes hover above the busy avenue covered with dead leaves of many different autumn colours having tried to hang onto their branches as long as possible. This artery which links the Champs Élysées with Trocadero is trodden upon by thousands of eager tourist every hour of the day and night. Strangers that come and disappear.
The jingle of the rickshaws cycling by, the disco bus’ music on a Saturday night, the Friday evening ritual of Egyptian protesters’ claims, the PSG supporters' chants after an exciting football game, the ambulances’ sirens at night and the workers' unions’ slogans during lunch hour, they all reach our ears from below and every once in a while curiosity gets the better of us and we drop what we are doing to get a peak of the action going on outside our house. We especially appreciate the green garbage trucks that drive beneath our windows at six o’clock in the morning even though we do feel sorry for the garbagemen who need to rise at the crack of dawn on the freezing winter mornings.
Below our building to the left you'll find your typical French bistro with a red awning protecting the wicker chairs around tiny round tables which in any other European county would seat two persons; the Parisians manage to fit four to six tourists around them and charge a fortune. The waiters - dressed in their traditional black Parisian waiter’s apron - seem to be friendly, albeit after all this time living right above their workplace, we have yet to greet person to person.
To the right of our building huddles a homeless person, some days he's in his familiar spot others he is not, but we've adopted him as our « hobo » and the kids give him a few coins whenever they pass by. He does greet us. We get a big smile when we step out our front door and sprint across the pavement down into the green iron alloy Hector Guimard designed metro station hoping to make it to school on time. We miss him when he disappears for a while and imagine places where he might be hanging out.
Lately there has been a new addition to our little community of strangers. In stark contrast to the hobo and the garbage men, a luxurious hotel has opened it’s doors and we have spotted more bell boys, maids and concierges from our prime positioned window than actual paying hotel guests. It had never occurred to me, that one might be able to define different levels of strangers?
Of course, we are happy to welcome the newcomers in our hood, they do add a bit of colour to the block. We have yet to see if they will greet and smile or just cohabit with their « voisins ».
The icing on the cake, however, comes when at dusk the century old building lights up in pink hues and makes the perfect backdrop to my pink decorated Hausmannien-style dining room.