I am standing, dithering – all gluttonous overwhelm, all heart-eyes emojis. Shelves and shelves of chocolate at Galeries Lafayette. A man – fifties, statement glasses, woollen jersey tossed over his shoulders – leans past me, and selects a bar. Places it in his basket.
He turns. Twinkly co-conspirator eyes.
(Something in French.)
Oh, pardon Monsieur! Je ne parle pas Française!
This – (he pauses, waves his hands over the bars with art nouveau logos – bars wrapped in white, pink, yellow) – is some of the very best chocolate in all of France. He tells me he loves it.
Delighted, laughing, I ask him to show me his favourite.
He makes an agonised face.
Non! I can’t! ALL is wonderful!
I select two bars of Chocolat Bonnat – Hacienda El Rosario, Vale do Juliana. Chocolat Noir 75% de cacao. I pay a bobbed-haired woman eating sugared almonds and say goodbye to the tiny jars of mustard, the finely embellished tins of tea. I ride the escalator down, exit the gloss of the glass doors.
Back down to the gulls and the salt and the masts of the yachts.
Le Vieux Port de Marseille.
Marseille is beautiful. The port – the gulls and the salt and the masts of the yachts – are wrapped by the curved stone walls of old forts, striped cathedrals on hills, terracotta roof tops, macaron-coloured shutters. Soft rosy-peach mediterranean light.
Everything looks like a fresco.
I feel lighter here. And, gratefully, warm. My wool coat hangs in the closet.
My gloves, my hat. Asleep in a drawer.