Palm Sunday

Here is a little excerpt from a work in progress, a novel that I started writing over 25 years ago. Working title, AN AMERICAN IN FRANCE. In this chapter, our heroine is visiting France for the first time.


She slept in late. Then she went to a cafe to eat a brioche and write in her journal:
...Even though I'm not religious, yesterday was Palm Sunday. I went to mass at l'Eglise du Sacre-Coeur. Outside the church people were buying green boughs from vendors to make bouquets.When people went into the church, they dipped their hands in a little bowl of holy water, touched their foreheads, and made the sign of the cross in front of Christ at the altar. I did this too.There were some saints along the sides of the church. Some people said prayers and lit candles in front of the saints. The church was very striking. L'Eglise du Sacre Coeur is an imposing chapel made of stone, with an arched ceiling that rises five or six stories above your head. I sat in a pew in the back of the church and listened to the mass. I understood the words, but the ritual was lost upon me. I thought there was too much standing up and sitting down...
As she was writing, an old man sat down next to her in the cafe.

"Are you a virgin?"he asked her in French. "Would you like to make love?"

"No," she said.

"Why not?"

"You're too old."


She ate dinner at a small seafood restaurant on the Cours Saleya with a couple of Italian boys that she had met earlier at the fountain. They spoke in French, but one of the boys only spoke Italian, so the other boy had to translate for him.

She had a kir. She hadn't ordered it, but she guessed that an aperitif must be complimentary. She placed her order from the menu fixe. The soupe aux poissons was excellent. A rich, creamy soup with a rouille (a spicy mayonnaise that she spooned into the soup) and freshly shredded mozzarella served on the side. Also baked croutons for dipping into the soup. For the main course, she had the poisson du jour, and the plate presentation was incredible, with marinated pieces of fresh fish in a basil tomato sauce, served with rice with peas and carrots.

She ate an entire chocolate mousse by herself. A piece of wafer or homemade shortbread came with the mousse. Coffee of course, and l'addition. She told the waiter that she had enjoyed her dinner. He replied that she was sympa, very nice.

After dinner, she and the Italian boys went to an English pub where the beer was expensive, but luckily, the boys were buying. The music playing was silly old American and English songs. After a while, she became tired, and the boys escorted her back to her hotel.

At the hotel, she sat in the salon for a few minutes to catch her breath. She chatted with the desk clerk, who was a young man about her age. Together they watched the end of a French western. There was an advertisement for INDOCHINE, and she told him that she had already seen it in America. He seemed impressed.


I just realised that yesterday was Palm Sunday, and next weekend is Easter. In New Zealand, we are on Day 11 or Day 12 of the Level 4 lockdown. Where can you buy Easter chocolate when you're quarantined, and there are no options for online delivery?

The author, age 23, in Eze, France

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