A Shambles Ramble: Pairs (Part 7)


(Continued from Part 6)


20th July


I was stressed out over booking flights yesterday, so nothing really happened outside of going to the cinema yesterday outside of going to the cinema I the evening, which I’ll talk about later.


But never mind that! The Sainte-Chapelle is one of the most incredible churches I have ever seen! I can hardly draw my eyes away from the stained-glass windows to write anything down, it’s so unbelievably beautiful. Hundreds of windows illuminating 14 separate scenes from Christianity, in the very brightest colours, each scene given different shapes and dimensions to make them unique. The 12 disciples of Christ extend towards the central dedication: the former resting place of the crown of thorns. The evidence is still in the reliefs: two angels hold a representation of the crown underneath the home of the relic. Key scenes including Genesis and Revelation are presented here, the figures in what once was contemporary dress, as is so often the case in medieval art. Two closed spiral staircases lead up to the gilded altar where the crown once sat, presumably. Some of the facades have faded or are fading. The floor decorations are worn after centuries of steps. Royalty has been here. I’m walking in the footsteps of the grandest ghosts, of the saints themselves. I cannot believe it is as intact as it is. Restoration works have been ongoing since the 1800s, but I seriously doubt it applies to any of the windows. If so, then it’s imperceptible to my ignorant eyes. I’ve said ‘wow’ many times in the last two weeks, but after ascending the stone staircase and being greeted with this masterpiece, I am struggling to find the right exclamation. “Oh my god” will have to do. Not entirely inappropriate either considering the subject. I could stay in here all day.

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Shockingly, I left. The boulangerie was closed which threw my lunch plans out the window. I came home hungry and defeated. Let me finish off yesterday evening quickly. After panicking over flight bookings for most of the day, and a cancellation that cost me the entire €187 fare (no compromise), I was feeling exhausted and slightly demoralised. €450 in one day because I was too cheap to pay for the insurance. Wasting money trying to save money. Massively upsetting. I’ve never going to financially recover from this.


By the time it was all over Nicholas had arrived back home, and he suggested I come with him to the cinema. I was absolutely in the mood to get away from my funk and the flat, so we scrambled together a quick carbonara before heading out. The ticket-seller didn’t believe I was 25 when he saw my ticket, and I was completely at a loss as to what was happening or what to say in response. Nicholas later told me he had been trying to work out how I could be 25 if I was born in 1995. A thrilling story completely worthy of retelling.


The film was “Annette”, which to both of our surprise was a musical! A rather predictable musical at times but I still enjoyed it quite a lot. Adam Driver is insanely talented. What a step up from The Big Bang Theory for that one guy. The film was subtitled in French, and though I tried to pick up a few phrases here and there, my heart wasn’t in it. I was quite tired.


To be honest that’s about it as far as yesterday and today is concerned. I’m all ready for Heraklion on Monday, and hopefully I can pick up some swimming shorts and sandals at the airport, or when I’m there. I feel very unprepared, but practically speaking, I’m perfectly prepared for it. I just wish I had better fitting shoes. Damn, I thought I had more to write about today, but I guess not. Huh.


11th July


Yesterday evening, Nicholas and I made dinner together; a cous-cous salad with onion, tomatoes, and courgettes. To go along with it, Nicholas also made up these fancy cheese on toast things using baguette, a nice soft cheese I forgot the name of, and honey. Not a bad meal considering it was slapped together. Nicholas also took the opportunity to introduce me to Georges Brassens, a legendary French musician that, of course, I’d never heard of. His life story sounded like the epitome of an Epicurean lifestyle. Born in the south of France, he came to Paris and lived in a shoebox. He made a fortune and became a celebrity, but never moved out to a better home. Then, for the last few years of his life, he moved back to the south of France. The songs we played were so positive and light-hearted that it had me asking myself when the last time I had listened to anything quite so sincere. I’ve been informed that not all his songs are as upbeat, but that spoils the narrative I’m going for if I acknowledge it too much. The music was a perfect accompaniment to French bread and cheese. All we were missing was some wine, but somehow, we struggled through.


The conversation turned to topics such as the surprisingly resilient Royalist movements in France. There’s a Bonaparte and a Bourbon who claim the French throne. Nicholas personally considers the Bonaparte to be the better candidate, considering Napoleon’s legacy. People who support Bonaparte do so partially because it supports the idea of French Exceptionalism in Europe. Napoleon did so much in such a short amount of time domestically and internationally, that surely France can only reclaim its proper place in the world when a Bonaparte is in charge again, goes the theory. To my mind, the idea that there are pretenders to the French throne in 2021 sounds so alien, it’s like it’s slipped out of place and time to 200 years in the future. When Nicholas asked about the British monarchy, I explained how there are three factions. First, there are the Royalists, then the Republicans, and finally everyone else who literally could not care less.


And, of course, Brexit was brought up again, but the joke’s so old now that I’ll say no more. Mari le Pen isn’t interested in taking France out of the EU, only hoping to untangle some of the shared elements such as a shared currency, according to Nicholas.


Today is my last full day in Paris, which I’ll have to appreciate despite a lack of sleep. I swear to god, if I get insomnia on this trip I will cry. I think we’re going out to watch the footie tonight. I’m expecting a ton of England fans in Paris tonight.



12th July


And that’s it! 2 weeks in Paris done! Whilst I’m on the way to Crete, I might as well finish things up. The man next to me on the flight is so large that his torso is squeezing me up against the window. Tragic. Actually, I’m really uncomfortable right now so I think I’ll wait until I’m at the hostel.

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Crete is slowly emerging outside the plane window. Mountains in the mist, except we’re just that high and Crete is already that pretty. It’s like brushstrokes have dragged the black ink outline down to suggest what landmass may lurk beneath the clouds. Even this simple outline disappears into white again before anything is given too much definition. The evening sun reflects brilliantly off a calm sea. I am rather keen to stand up and stretch my legs after this. From the sky, Crete looks, quiet, rustic, and mountainous. Even Heraklion looks hardly the tourist trap. Then again, that’s hard to judge from 10,000ft.

After all that stress I’m finally where I wanted to be. Olive groves. Tiny dots of white buildings. Jagged landscape of cliffs and sweeping valleys. The dynamism of the terrain is awesome. God, I love Greece. Wish I could speak any Greek at all. Coming in for landing now over azure water. Sides of the runway have hay bales ready in the fields, which are almost immediately adjacent to the runway. Time to get off the plane now, bye!

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So, yes, Paris. Yesterday evening, with less than 20 minutes to go before the match began, Alice and Nicholas jumped out of bed and declared that we were going to a pub named The Auld Alliance. Alice tried to soothe my impatience by assuring me that “nothing happens in the first 15 minutes anyway.” Lo and behold, we arrive at the pub to find England one goal up. There was a decent England fanbase there, surprisingly. Must’ve been the entire resident English population in one place that night. It felt very much like a British pub as a result – right down to the shitty Strongbow on tap. There were highs and lows, and then some really low lows for which I sunk to my knees. In the end, it was all good fun.


Then finally, this morning was subdued, domestic. Nicholas had left for work before I got up, so I didn’t manage to say goodbye in person, but Alice passed on his and mine in turn. She asked me, at the end, what I’d thought of Paris, honestly. I thought it was enjoyable, and I told her as much, but to go more in-depth here, I would say that Paris has the same depth that any large city has. You can’t deny that it is an incredibly pretty place. Every window has a Juliet balcony, most with flower boxes. Every bare building wall is covered in beautiful street art, or tiny mosaics of Looney Tunes characters. Every now and again, you’ll see mosaics filling gaps in the pavement too. Parisians were generally very welcoming as well. I think one person called me a putain, and the security guard at Sainte-Chapelle was a bit of a dick, but other than that there weren’t any real worries. Of course, the language barrier meant that I may simply have not registered any rudeness, but that didn’t matter so much in the end. Homelessness was prevalent, but what can you expect from a big city?


I think my conclusion was fair. Paris was genuinely enjoyable. I didn’t suffer the dreaded “Paris Syndrome”, and I certainly never felt the urge to visit the Eiffel Tower. I let Alice know how much I’d appreciated the invitation to visit. Hopefully I can return the gesture at some point. Now here I sit in Crete at the end of a long day. 10/10 would recommend a visit to Pars, but only if you have a pocket Alice to help show you around.

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