Thought of the Day

I don't believe in morality, but I believe in ethical conduct as set out by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "Ethical conduct = a way of behaving that respects others’ right to be happy".

Sunday, 22 May 2005

Paris c'est toujour Paris...

After a rather light day at work, softened by a nice team lunch at the local Lebanese Restaurant and by the relief of sending for press a huge book, I got the Eurostar of 5.40pm on Friday night. The tube was crowded due to an earlier signal problem. The train was full as well, but it is always a pleasure to travel from the heart of one city to another. I didn't bring along any magazines, book or music; I was determined to sleep during the journey to get fresh and rested to Paris. Every time the train manager informs us that we are about to enter the tunnel, I always feel a sense of apnoea. At 21.17 I was at La Gare Du Nord, punctual and quite excited to meet Magali, who I hadn’t seen since the end of July. And there she was, lovely and warm as ever. While we were queuing up to get tickets, I got metaphorically assaulted by two heavy hands on my shoulders: it was Federica, my Italian friend, who was not supposed to be there. Oh no, she was supposed to be in Perugia where she lives. Bewildered (and of course very happy of this surprise number one), I asked her whether she was real. She was, and looked in great shape: longer hair and relaxed smile. We went for dinner into a nice Brasserie and ordered a mixed cheesy salad with French dressing and French wine (of course). We started our conversation mainly based on frenetic Q&As about everything, to make the time apart up. In fact, I had seen Fede for my birthday in August, but very briefly. So, we did have topics to talk about. Maga kept repeating how happy she was that the three of us finally reunited, if only for a weekend. Like me, both Magali and Fede used to live in London, but unlike me (and my persistence), they eventually moved back to their countries. At the time we used to go out together very often, mainly for drinks, meals and exhibitions. On Saturday morning we all purposely overslept and had breakfast before heading for a shopping session to Les Marais. We got to the L’Artisan Parfumeur shop where we found a very caring and chatty shop assistant who covered us with eau de parfumes. I felt a bit disadvantaged because my French, compared to Fede’s (who speaks it fluently) and Magali’s (who is French), is rather basic. I did my best to try and understand everything he said though and I eventually bought my favourite scent: the extract of Fig. We then stopped for a coffee in one of the stylish bars of the quarter, and there I got a message from Steve informing me that our offer to a flat we recently saw was likely to be accepted. We got all excited, and I was glad to be there and share that important moment with two real good friends. After some more walk and a visit to the wine shop to buy a celebrative bottle of champagne, we headed to the Pompidou Centre for the DADA exhibition (review to follow in the Art Section) where I found the Man Ray's biography for half price. Finally, we went back home for a domestic dinner kindly prepared by Magali: potatoes with strong melted cheese and dressed with mixed salad. Lush, both in taste and calories. After dinner we decided to have a late night tour by car to enjoy Paris by night. I loved it. We got to the Eiffel tower and stopped right in front of it to admire it in its splendour. It was quite atmospheric because the fog hided the top, and I thought it looked a monster about to step towards us at any time. Fede reminded me its origins: the fact that it was built for an exhibition and due to be unassembled after it. Funny anecdote considering that it is now the symbol of the city (like the Pompidou Centre, as Magali observed), and not only: it is the symbol of another way of perceiving art and reality. I pointed out how some people still find it horrible and that Verlaine used to change route in order to avoid it—the same remark I do every time I come to Paris. But the wonder was not over yet, because the tower suddenly started spitting sparkling diamonds. I was amazed—surprise number two. Apparently, it does so every hour for ten solid minutes. I didn’t know it and missed this spectacle last time I was there. We saw the show also from the top of Montmartre with even more sensationalist effects. After another deserved lie-in, on Sunday we went to the posh Saint Germain and admired some black+white photographs exhibited on the gate of the Jardin du Luxembourg. Later, we went to the Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka exhibition at Le Grand Palais (another review to follow in the Art section). After it, we had a last relaxing drink in an arty bar of Montmartre before accompanying Fede to her intellectual friend in Montparnasse and saying good-bye to her. Magali and I went on to a quirky restaurant (Ave Maria) for an international meal and more chats: I chose a Himalayan plate and Magali an African dish which was delicious, although I perhaps prefer the authentic French cuisine. We concluded the evening with a drink at her friend’s bar. My journey back the morning after went safely and smoothly except for the taxi fare: 32 euro for a ride of 18 minutes. Ouch! The taxi driver was very friendly, which would have been very pleasant if it wasn't for the time: it was 5am, I was half asleep and not really responsive enough to speak French. When he said:--Tu parles Francais tres bien, I was chuffed. But when he added:--Tu es tres jolie, I looked at the taximeter going up too quickly and I thought, that’s it, I wanna get off here as soon as possible. Sadly, all the traffic lights were red, and the last ten minutes lasted forever (what Virginia Woolf used to call the *inner time*). In London, I decided to catch the tube. I was not in the spirit to face another taxi driver. When the train approached Waterloo station, it was a sunny morning, the Big Ben was as sparkling as the Eiffel tower and I felt at home, but unwilling to start a dull working day. C'est la vie. P.S. Faithful to my style, I left my camera behind. So, I am afraid, no snapshots from this weekend break.

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