Monday, 6 June 2011

Heavy with desire the sky/ To rain.

The weekend: An afternoon wandering around Montmartre by myself, the Montmartre museum isn't really worth the entrance price, in my opinion, but it had a wonderful little courtyard where I sat for about an hour, on a bench, in view of the Sacré Coeur and thus a stone's throw from thousands of tourists, and yet the loudest noise I could hear was birdsong. A quick text around got me a dinner invite from a French friend, and with two hours to spare I tried to walk from Montmartre to St. Paul. I got as far as Galeries Lafayette, where I stopped for a while as I hadn't been there before. Verdict: beautiful architecture, and it's always fun to mentally gasp at the amount that designer clothes cost. It was full of Japanese people, and even the announcements were in Japanese. Dinner was interesting, even if my friend and her flatmate's very fast-paced discussion on the inevitable downfall of capitalism led me to be unable to contribute much more than agreement of certain points.
Fish in an aquarium in the Galeries Lafayette.

Eglise de la Trinité, near the Gare St. Lazare

Saturday: A trip to a lake in Torcy with my flatmates, a swim in the glacial water was the only way to deal with the sweltering pre-storm heat.

Sandra and Fiona

Baignade interdit!

I went out in the evening, although I had a pretty terrible time at a party and was glad to leave, and was glad when it started raining as we crossed the courtyard of the apartment block. It had been so hot all day that Tiffany and I happily walked through St. Germain and the Latin Quarter, down to Hotel to Ville, enjoying the freshness. We saw a clarinet player under a shop-front. We saw the café where Sartre and de Beauvoir went to write and to discuss existentialism. We crossed the river and saw the gigantic Hotel de Ville, still standing, still statuesque after centuries of Parisian upheaval have raged around it. Scratch everything I said about this being a city like any other, my resigned admittance that it's not where you live that's important. I don't want to go home. I don't know exactly what I'm doing this summer, but real life starts again on Saturday 1st October, when I move into a small bedroom on Warwick campus and have to start studying and working out what the hell I'm doing with my life. Needless to say, I'm in no rush for that date to roll around, although I can't deny that being on the same landmass as most of my friends and family is something I won't ever take for granted again.

Today: Taking 3 children to school in the rain at 8am, pronouncing Arthur's name the English way which he found very amusing and kept repeating, doing a pretty good job on the "th" for an 8 year old French child. Then I went home and slept till lunchtime. Homemade brownies. Tiffany and I went to Bercy Cinematheque this afternoon to see L'Ange, which was the most avant-garde thing I've sat through, and although I can't say it was entertaining, it was certainly interesting. It occurred to me that only in Paris would an hour-long piece of wordless, experimental cinema be full at 2pm on a Monday afternoon. Then I went over to Reuilly for more babysitting - Alexandre told me about the dinosaur exhibition he went to at the weekend with more excitement than most adults would use to describe the holiday of a lifetime. We played Piggy in the Middle while blasting out some George Michael, before playing Monsters, which becomes an imaginary battle to think of the scariest imaginary creature - "Je suis... une squelette... avec des doigts qui sont des allumettes, et des grandes ailes! Je fais l'attaque des tenebres!"

"I am... a skeleton.. with fingers made of matches, and big wings! I'm doing the shadow attack!" 

Home for ping pong on the recently constructed table in the spare bedroom. Curry. A quick trip upstairs to get the can opener from Tiffany gave me a chance to admire the view from the roof, and 87 year-old Guy came out to repeat his usual phrases to us - "Vous etes mignonnes!" "English-spoken!" and "J'ai quatre-vingt-sept ans!" before chuckling away. Now for some reading in the bath, and an edit to the pantoum I'm writing (nope, I will never be brave enough to put my poems up here). 

Days like today are peaceful and interesting, and I realise I have only scraped the surface of what this city has to offer. If I'm honest, I'm not quite sure what Hemingway was trying to say when he described Paris as a "moveable feast", but what strikes me every time I cross Place de la Concorde is Montaigne's quote, "Paris a mon cœur dès mon enfance. Je ne suis français que par cette grande cité. Grande surtout et incomparable en variété. La gloire de la France et l’un des plus nobles ornements du monde".

"Paris has had my heart since my childhood. I am French only thanks to that great city. Great especially, and incomparable in variety. The glory of France, and one of the most noble ornaments of the world".

Place de la Concorde, Eiffel Tower in the background.

Place de la Concorde, different angle.

I don't want to complain, and I don't want to come across as smug, but this is truly how I feel, or at least, how I feel at the best of times when I'm here - Paris is special. Paris is a magical city. That's about as original as something you'd find on a t-shirt in a souvenir shop, but it's how I feel - I can't think of any other city in the world that can compare with this one. I wanted to be small fish in a big pond, and if from time to time French culture makes me feel like nothing so much as bumbling clown-fish, well, at least it's in the most monumental pond in Europe. In my humble opinion.

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