A Shambles Ramble: Paris (Part 5)
Updated: Nov 7, 2022
Oh my god, I think I love ballet. I can’t even think of one negative aspect of the experience, even if I tried. The whole experience was just incredible! The costume design, the set design (the forced perspective on the ton sets was insanely effective), the choreography, the dancers, the music, the incorporation of narrative into the dancing! Just everything about it was exceptional and I cannot express strongly enough how much I enjoyed myself last night. Alice was the happiest I have ever seen her. Her two favourite ballerinas, Hugo Marchand and Dorothée Gilbert, were in the starring roles of Romeo and Juliet. One of her favourite conductors was there with the orchestra. It simply could not have been any better. And ok, yes, the Apprentice theme appears in the ballet as the theme of the Capulets, but that aside it was one of my favourite sequences! I loved the use of brass as a motif for the Capulet family so much. And when the priest was talking to Juliet about the plan to feign death, and in the background, they had ballerinas acting it out in real time! Ugh, so perfect. I completely understand now why Dad’s been going on about for years whenever he brings up French ballet. I think I love ballet I want to perform onstage again now. There was one unusual aspect, however. That is, the extras in the ballet almost all had to wear masks, because Covid. This worked surprisingly well in the first scene, where there’s a plague cart and a train of mourners. It didn’t work so much in scenes in the market, or at each of the family’s estates. It’s a unique quirk that’ll only ever be relevant to this particular place in time, so I suppose I’m quite fortunate to have experienced it, in that regard.
I couldn’t stop staring at Marchand’s thighs. He’s an incredibly handsome man. In fact, just talking about him at length nearly ended Alice and Nicholas’ relationship last night! I whipped up a quick cheese sauce to go with the macaroni Alice was boiling, and whilst we were eating, we naturally talked more about the ballet. The more we talked, and the more we teased Nicholas about how much Alice loved Hugo, the less funny it seemed to be to him, so that she legitimately had to reassure him that she loved him more than anything. And then she blamed me! I told her then that if I was able to sabotage the relationship in one night, then it can’t have been that strong in the first place! It was all banter, just so you know. No hard feelings came of it, it was just teasing.
Today’s entry is going to have to be a little less meandering, because I’ve been spending a lot today wondering what to do with myself. The job in Hong Kong fell through due to the new travel restrictions on UK flights. Don’t want to go home instead, though. I think I’ve decided on Italy. This pen is running out after only a week booo… Naples maybe? Or go to Marseilles and Rome on the way there? Genoa? Who knows, haven’t decided yet. Greece for sure, they’re specifically open for the tourist season. A shame I’ve had to stay inside planning things because today’s been absolutely gorgeous.
Crêpes again. This time it was at Alice’s favourite Crêperie, La Crêperie de Josselin, on the same street as before. I spoke to the waiter in perfect French, according to the others at the table. Zahra came to join us before we went inside, but since Nicholas was held up by a dodgy train, we decided to wait for him in a nearby pub that was awful. The music was Heavy Metal, and it had overall terrible ambience. The drink I bought was a terrible beer flavoured with peach that made me wretch each time I took a sip. It’s good that Nicholas came when he did, because it gave me an excuse to neck the rest of it and not have to deal with it anymore. The crêperie was pleasant enough; a polite wooden interior ad an open kitchen (as far as stuffed crêpes require a closed kitchen in the first place). The back door opened onto a courtyard which, judging by the washing line, was meant to be private. Again, I decided to be brave and order the food and drink specific to Brittany (I assume). The cider was much more palatable than the beer. The ‘L’Amour’ was heavy on the meat and light on the greens. This I came to regret as towards the end I couldn’t even face the last few mouthfuls. Too much protein for me. Nicholas and Zahra didn’t even enjoy the taste of the sausage, which may as well have been ham considering the texture. Only Alice enjoyed it enough to help me finish. Dessert was much better; stewed apple and vanilla ice-cream.
When those at the table asked what the stereotypical French accent was, I hit them with the old “hon hon hon, du baguette”, to which they were entirely confused.
“But nobody ever says ‘hon hon hon’ “, Alice protested.
“I think it’s supposed to be laughter?” I replied.
“But none of us laugh like that.”
“I know, but that’s what the stereotype is. What’s the stereotypical way English people speak French?”
“I don’t think there is one, because no one expects English people to speak French,” Nicholas answered, in a damning and completely accurate assessment of our language skills. Oof. Also, your daily reminder that Brexit was a mistake, and that as a result there are no eligible teaching jobs in the EU as they require you to be an EU citizen. Fuck my life.
I figured out why my ankles hurt so much. The trainers Dad bought me are too tight, which is really affecting me after so much walking recently. Will need to buy new shoes ASAP.
This morning, I went to see Notre Dame, or what’s left of it. The cathedral was much different from how I remembered it the last time I was here. This time, you couldn’t even walk near it. A fence made it clear that no visitors were welcome, though it was low enough at the front end of the cathedral to for pictures to be taken without obstruction. A humungous crane stood watch to the side, inactive for now. The scaffolding reminded me of a dissection; the information presented on the walls showed the process of removing the windows and statues whilst it was being repaired, so rather than feeling like a grand project of renewal, it felt more like an old lady on life-support. Which is not to say it was any less beautiful. In a certain way, the contrast of the scaffolding and the façade helped highlight the original splendour of the church, as so despite its violent scarring, it manages to keep its dignity. It’s still hard to see it properly under all that scaffolding. The tourists (myself included) that swarmed around it may as well have been in the viewing gallery of an operating theatre. I circled it once to see it from all sides, but the south side was completely closed off. I had to view it from the other side of the Seine instead.
I followed the river for the next half hour or so, enjoying a slower pace and taking my time. Paris has an unfortunately high number of homeless people. Whether it’s because they’re just more visible here than in London, I’m not sure. What I do know is that I smell urine far too often in this city. Not just under the bridges, but in the streets too. Not very appealing.
You know, yesterday morning, Paris tested their nuke alarm. For about 40 seconds I was confused and increasingly worried, briefly considering my own mortality. For most of that time I thought I was alone in the flat, after I paced between empty rooms and found no one. As I did, questions swirled in my mind: what do I do? What should I do? Is this real? I this really real? What do I do? It sounds stupid in hindsight that I would jump to conclusions now, but I didn’t know what was going on, and suddenly I was evaluating at lightning speed my life decisions leading up to me being bombed in Paris. Luckily for me, Alice told me through the bathroom door that it was just a test and everything’s OK, but even so, I continued to wonder about if I was spending my life doing the right things. If I’d died in a nuke yesterday, would I have regretted anything, specifically recently? Did I feel like I’d missed out on life? No, I didn’t. I haven’t. If a nuke dropped now, I’d be a bit miffed, but dying in Paris is better than dying in Alton. My mind then drifted to whether I’m the kind of person to do a funny pose for the after-shadow or not. I figured that the silhouette of a man leant forward in a chair with his head in his hands would be the most poetic. Even my death would be a performance.
The rest of yesterday was quiet, but still very fun! Domestic fun, like cooking and watching things together. When I got back from my walk, I moved into the living room so that my pictures could upload onto my website better. There were 400 in total, so whilst it was doing that, I got to thinking about what I should do next again. Annecy looks beautiful, but what else could I do for the same price? Well, I was planning to go to Greece anyway, so what would it cost if I were to do that? Heraklion isn’t too bad. Faster to get there than Annecy too. I wouldn’t have to worry about all that bureaucracy like there is with getting into Italy either. There’s a pass that EU citizens can apply for, that’s basically a Covid passport for the whole Schengen zone. Can’t apply for it since I’m not an EU citizen, have to quarantine in Italy even though I’m fully vaccinated because the NHS record isn’t accepted. Daily reminder Brexit sucks. So, the reason I looked at Greece is because it’s much easier to show up with what I have with me already. I’ve always wanted to see Knossos too. Ancient Greece is my whole thing. It sounds like a good plan in my head anyway. This was my thought process yesterday afternoon.
England was playing Denmark in the evening, and after asking if anyone else wanted to go out to watch it, it looked like it would just be me and Alice. We decided to eat before we left to save some money, and after much deliberation we settled on a chicken and pesto pasta. The meal for two became a meal for four when Nicholas and Swan, his friend, asked for some too, and suddenly I’m in the kitchen playing “Little Bitty Pretty one” off my phone and spinning on my heels when getting all the ingredients. I feel like I was maybe a bit too extroverted for the others, but I had a lot of fun so it didn’t matter to me. Swan chose the next song and ended up choosing the rest of the music. Firmly 80’s. Not too bad. The chicken took a bit longer than anticipated and came out drier than I would have liked, but everyone seemed to like the end result. Alice was a great sous-chef. Unfortunately, we finished eating too late to make it to the bar, so Alice and I cracked out a glass of Rosé and watched it in the kitchen, which was just as good. I slipped into my geezer-speak while watching it for fun, and Alice tried to imitate how I said “come on!” in that slightly aggressive tone some lads say it in. I also taught her how to make a wine glass sing, so now she can annoy people at dinner to her heart’s content. And England even won the game! All in all, a pretty good night in.
And it was a pretty good day out too. Spent about 3 hours trying to find a pair of shoes that fitted me properly, but no lunch. There must be something weird with my feet I’ve decided. Maybe people will pay for it. After that I met up with Alice for a walk-through Jardin des Plantes and to see the Grande Mosquée de Paris. The gardens were pleasant and laced with myriad scents. It was nice to watch the bee do their busywork. Cities are fun, but I do miss the small aspects of nature now and again. The sun was strong today; the worst time to be resigned to jeans but my shorts were in the wash, not that anyone cares. We dipped into the Museum of Evolution, but after seeing the price and considering how nice the weather was, we decided against it and opted for the Mosque instead. It was closed, much to our disappointment, so instead we went to the teahouse. It was gorgeously decorated with cool-coloured tiles and tall green plants. The seating was full of patrons but we managed to fins a space out the back. The aromas from the tea and mini cakes permeated the air, and what tea we had warm, minty, sweet, and refreshing. Originally, I described it as warm toothpaste, but then Alice accused me of always being negative about things like this. I tried to defend myself by explaining it wasn’t a bad thing because it tasted nice regardless. It’s just fun to come up with unorthodox descriptions.
Afterwards, we walked down the Seine and across the bridge to find Alice’s favourite ice-cream place.
“You’ve been asking about ice-cream all week,” she laughed. I was very happy to oblige. A man stood silently on the other side of the small lane from the ice-cream shop. The message scrawled on his sign, like so many others in the city, said something about needing change for food. It was in French so I’m not 100% certain. He held a lit cigarette in his right hand as he held up the sign to face the crowd of people seeking sweet relief from the heat. Nobody even looked at him. Even the people who walked directly past him failed to acknowledge him. In hindsight, I realise that I could’ve asked if he wanted some ice-cream too. I have no change to give anyone, so buying them things I the best I can do. I feel awful I didn’t even think about it now. He even managed to muster a small smile at people as they walked by, perhaps sincerely, perhaps to make himself look more approachable. Nobody cared. I was having too much fun to think about him either. I’m disgusted with myself.
That was not the part I assumed I’d be writing about, but there we are. As far as the ice-cream goes, I chose two flavours I’d never tried before: Yuzu Yoghurt and what amounted to Terry’s Chocolate Orange ice-cream. If I’d known what the sign said, I would’ve chosen another non-chocolate one, but carpe diem and all that.