Hiding places (Des cachettes)

A street in Aix

I am convinced that if I were to live here my whole life, I would never be able to discover all the shops in the city. I spot new ones all the time, even on the walk to and from school, on streets that I’ve walked on dozens of times already.

Chat Rêveur

The reason, I recently realized, is that they have an uncanny ability to stay discreet. For one thing, they’re packed into the city streets the way diners are packed into tiny French restaurants (it’s intimate). You could sneeze while walking down the street and miss a shop or two by the time you open your eyes.

But timing plays a role too. Some shops are only open in the morning; some are only open for dinner. Some are certainly closed for lunch; some between lunch and dinner; some on Saturdays, or Sundays, or Mondays. And when they’re closed, the storefronts are covered with a metal door, so they’re almost impossible to notice. You walk past them like a Muggle walking past the pedestrian entrance to Diagon Alley: You’ll only see it if you have a reason to stop and stare at it.

On Thursday, for example, I found this adorable stationary store, Chat Rêveur (Cat Dreamer), in the place (plaza) next to my school. I walked out of it and turned left, and suddenly found myself in front of a tourist candy shop. I literally had to walk right next to it to notice it.

Today, I returned to the Chat Rêveur. I couldn’t find it. But I walked closer, squinted, and confirmed that the store was, indeed, in the same location I had last left it. It was just closed.

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