A Shambles Ramble: Paris (Part 2)
Updated: Jan 16, 2022
Yesterday started off early for me, as between the monastery bells and measly one hour time difference, I found it very difficult to decide how guilty I should feel about still being in bed. I woke up to sun streaming through the window, but went back to sleep. When I woke up again I felt awful for wasting what little time I have in Paris. I checked the time; 7:30. Relief and annoyance competed for control in my mind. The ultimate response was to get up anyway.
To be entirely truthful, I can’t say that I accomplished that much yesterday. I failed to find a plug adaptor, which was sad, but it did give me an opportunity to walk through Jardin du Luxembourg, which was nice. It’s nice to see a capital city where the fountains are actually operational. I feel like most of the ones in London (outside of the Italian Gardens) must be paying by the droplet. My ignorance led me to largely ignoring the Senate on my way to the shop, but fortunately I can always go back. I understood the warning on the fence was warning me to not touch the fence, so that was one small victory for my French comprehension. I passed the Pantheon as I returned to the flat (which it turns out you can also see from Alice’s balcony), and although I only stayed there to eat lunch, I can safely say the area is quite impressive. I’ll go back at a later point and write a full report.
The highlight of yesterday was definitely the crepe feast we had in the evening. And I suppose the football too, though typically the one time I’m not in London is when England finally beats Germany. I’d never had savoury crepes before, no idea why in hindsight. Maybe I always viewed them as a dessert, that’s why. In the end, they were quite similar to omelettes, except drier.
I’m currently writing this on the steps of a church, and am feeling very hungry, but I think I’m in the fashion district; not sure that Paco Rabanne does a decent bacon bap. Maybe Chanel instead? I do want to write more, but I’m too hungry to concentrate. This break in the narrative is proof. Ugh.
I found food yay! But the table I’m writing on is wobbly noo! Oh well. Should be more embarrassed I went to a Pret instead of somewhere more exciting, but food is food. Plus, it gives me a wobbly table to write on. Anyway, the crepes were great, despite how much Alice worried about the quality of the ones she’d made. Nicholas brought out some cheese that he deemed too old to be eaten. He put his life on the line to try some first, and as a result nobody else had the opportunity to do the same. C’est la vie. He asked a lot about ‘yield’, about how we use it in English. It’s used with more flexibility in French, the ‘yield’ equivalent. This table is getting annoying so I’m taking my tea and finding somewhere more steady.
And about 4 hours later, here I am in my room, having finished the walk, napped, gone shopping, broken bread with Nicholas, eaten too many choccie biccies, and now having a sugar rush. Classic Alex.
So yes, yesterday was good, if quieter. Today was also quiet, but in a different way. I spent it walking around central Paris, starting towards Invalides. On the way, I was treated to a variety of smells ranging from cheese to petrol to sewage – momentarily, of course – and sometimes at the same time. Cheese and sewage is not a very pleasant combination one after the other, though I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that. My mind was quickly overtaken by a stray German Shepherd that, after allowing itself to be pet once, scampered off down the road, pausing to wee once or twice. I hope to see more dogs to pet soon, and avoid the wee.
One thing that struck me while walking is just how much construction there is in this city. Maybe my timing was bad, just like it’s been with the weather, but even the tourist sites like Invalides (and later the Louvre and at Place du Concorde) were covered with scaffolding. The Colonne Vendome was being washed! Nothing was safe from the machinery’s machinations. Alas, this meant my first impressions of Invalides were soured; I couldn’t even find a way in, though I could clearly see people inside. Hopefully if I go back later, I’ll have better luck. We’re about to go out for dinner now, be back later.
Hello, I am now back later. Oh my god, I’m so slow about writing out what happens each day, this is dreadful. Then again, these private asides don’t help much I’m my own worst enemy, as ever.
To return to today, following the perimeter of Invalides led me all the way to Concorde. The road reminded me of the Mall on the way from Buckingham to Trafalgar Square, except no trees, and lots more police officers blowing cute little whistles, which suggests either that their bike horns aren’t loud enough, or they just transposed regular police officers onto bikes and never bothered about getting rid of the whistles. It was adorable, in an innocent way. I’m not trying to be patronising either, it just reminds me of a different time. Oh no, maybe that was patronising. I can hear them blowing their whistles at me already. I must say that the French have definitely looked after their obelisk better than we have. All the hieroglyphs were highlighted in gold. Maybe Napoleon pimped it out when he brought it back? It puts Cleopatra’s Needle to shame. This is around the time I was getting hungry, and impatient as a result. I bobbed into a side street that took me to the church I was writing at before. A couple sat next to me as I was writing; and American woman and a French man. From what I overheard, she considered 11:30 to be an early start, and he was discovering how hard it is to flirt in your second language. He was giving it a good try, though.
After lunch, and a quick catch-up with dad, I decided to take my time more, and not worry so much about hitting all the marks on the map. Instead of taking the fastest route home, I instead followed the street East, and came across Place Vendome, and the Colonne in the centre.
It is 6pm and this is all I have written today ugh. The Colonne is a surprisingly reproduction of Trajan’s Column, except with French and Germans instead of Romans and Dacians, and muskets instead of swords. The effect was just as impressive, although slightly dampened by the man on a scissor lift washing it. After attempting a picture from several angles that were all plagued by the washing man, I left for the main roue home, which was back towards the Louvre. The construction followed me there, however. First, finding a way into such a massive complex was made harder by the fact that, for reasons soon to be discovered, many of the entrances were blocked off. In fact, I thought I was walking away from the building before I finally found a way in. It looked like they were setting up for some sort of event that involved a house setting and a stage. Lots of lights and chairs framed the courtyard, directed towards an undetermined point. Further on, I spilled out into the actual entrance to the Louvre: glass pyramids stood small in the centre of the grand courtyard, flanked by fountains that were almost all working. It was the first time I’d see how many statues of independent figures could be crammed onto one building. Paris seems to love venerating figures as facades. The whole atmosphere reminded me of a truncated Vatican, with all the saints gazing down on you as you walk around the central fountain. Or, in this case, a glass pyramid. But the amount of space stopped it being anything more imposing than a grand frame.
It turned out the reason so many entrances were blocked was because of a military ceremony happening by the gardens. No-one could leave that way, so I went out the same way I came in. As I did, a man with a petition confronted me, asking questions in French too fast for me to understand. When I explained I was English, and not very good at French, he switched to broken English, congratulated me on the football, and asked if I wanted to save Africa. How could I say no? But I was more interested in removing myself from the situation, so I gave a false name, almost wrote my age as 37, and signed with a false signature. It didn’t lower my suspicion when he immediately asked for a donation and held out a large, begging hand. I said I didn’t have euros (which was true) which seemed to satisfy him enough to leave me alone.
Afterwards I continued making my way back to Alice’s. Taking Dad’s advice again, I meandered off-course, allowing the hum of individual streets to lure me in. I found some beautiful nooks and crannies full of flowers and creepers, with picturesque coffee shops and faded advertisements peeling off the walls. One street had buildings that were quite clearly sloping inward like a wilted crisp packet. Others bulged instead. It was a pleasant place to get lost. Unfortunately my sense of direction is too impeccable to allow that, so after another jaunt through Jardin du Luxembourg, I was back again.
“And about 4 hours later, here I am. In my room. Having finished the walk, napped, gone shopping, broken bread with Nicholas, eaten too many choccie biccies and now having a sugar rush. Classic Alex” – literally a few paragraphs above this one. The timeline is complete.
In the evening, Alice, Nicholas and I went out for dinner to one of their favourite bistros in Paris. It was back towards the Pantheon, and on the way, we talked about more about life in Paris, and about the buildings we passed. For instance, the names carved onto the wall of the library by the Pantheon are all the names of authors whose work is inside. The Pantheon has very few women, but will be her future burial site, Alice promises. Any why not? Why not break the glass ceiling for burials? Glass casket? Show these dusty skeletons what a REAL social revolution looks like.
The evening light was trying to turn a deep blue, but the cloud cover kept it from anything other than a soft grey as we arrived. The bistro was lively and packed to the brim, with all the atmosphere of a classy tourist brochure. I was talked out of the risotto and went for the steak instead, and spent the next ten minutes or so practicing how to ask for it to be cooked medium-rare:
“Es-que jour pourais avoir entrecote cuiture apois?” (spell check please!)
In the end, I said it right, and the steak arrived so rare that it was practically trying to escape the plate. I had a hard time trying to cut off bits with the measly knife they provided, and the whole thing felt equally like I was back at school trying to chew on the cooked leather they’d provided, as well as sitting opposite my dad trying to persuade me that the meat was fine.
“You shouldn’t have ordered it if you knew you wouldn’t like it,” echoed his words as I ate. It was mortifying, and as soon as we were finished with the bill, I fled the scene before they could discover how much I’d left on my plate.
On the walk back from dinner we passed a few notable places; we found one of what must be hundreds of independent cinemas in Paris, and Nicholas revealed more about which style of films he prefers. Superhero films are out, 50s Hollywood is in. I tried to offer some commentary on the difference between modern and classic editing styles, but I don’t think I convinced anyone I knew what I was talking about. Least of all myself. I’m sure there was something else that happened enroute, but it’s now 11:30pm and I haven’t even started writing about today yet (we had dinner while I was writing this, please don’t think I spent 5½ hours writing a page and a half) and I don’t intend to today. Have to be up early for the trip to Versailles! I hope I can write some more in the morning, because so much happened today and I’ll be disappointed if I don’t remember any of it.