It’s a skeleton without a backbone. The remaining timber joints are scarred with the carved and painted identities of those who stopped by. It sits alone, empty cans of beer and discarded cigarettes at its feet. But this bench is the most romantic in Paris.
Merely getting here is a pleasure earned. It sits above a 100 step staircase, a climb up past people preparing dinners or washing up at rear windows. At the top, a film set of calm domesticity. Rows of houses curve around the hilltop, a sheltered village above the city noise. Turn a corner and there is the bench, alone, facing a strip of white railings. You wonder why it is there at all, but beyond the last building in the row you see the view.
It’s all about location, angles and timing. This bench is a perfectly positioned gnomon on a sundial, a witness to an ordinary scene that becomes truly magical at one particular moment of the day. As evening arrives, the sun slides down the sky and bleeds into the horizon, slowly plunging behind the Montmartre hill. The waves of rooftops glint in the dying orange and the Sacre Coeur, a building I don't even like, becomes shadowy antique splendour.
In biting cold February it’s a shelter or a temporary picnic table, but its apex is in late summer or early autumn. It sits above a pocket-sized vineyard, and when the air is heavy with ripening grapes, the only sounds you hear are the whispers of the wind through the vine leaves.
The scenery behind the bench completes the stage set. Two foliage clad houses, with arms of thick ivy stretching across the road, slowly turning the mineral vegetable.
But where exactly is this bench? I’m not going to tell you. I’ll share most of the city but this part is mine!