Saturday, 27 April 2013

The belles of Notre Dame

So I saw this poster on the way home from today's travels:

"The number 1 site for extramarital affairs thought up by women."
And after uploading it to Facebook I decided that this was what I should write my year abroad project on - the fact that the French apparently invented the word "blasé" to describe how they feel about extramarital affairs. It should be interesting, and hopefully suitably culturally-centered. We can but hope.

To get to that point, let's go back to this morning. I though I was meeting Kate and Mary at 11, and not 10, which is why I was stepping out of the shower when my phone rang this morning. Kate wanted to know if I wouldn't mind meeting them at a different location - one that would be easier for me since I was already on the train.

(I definitely was not already on the train.)

I got dressed, grabbed my camera, and bolted out the door. A speed-walk to the station and a mere three-minute wait and I was on the train and on my way into town. Once again I'm stunned with glee that a ticket for all public transport in Paris on the weekend for young people is 3.75€. It's incredibly good value and stands in stark contrast to, say, First Aberdeen, who charge a little under that for a student day ticket. First Aberdeen are thieving whatnots, and it's an ongoing struggle to make them lower their prices even a smidgeon.

But that's Aberdeen's problem, and not yours. Onwards.

I arrived a mere five minutes after I was supposed to and snatched a moment with Mary before greeting Kate. Greeting is really too small a word for the huge bosie I gave her and she in return gave me. I felt ribs creak. They'd stowed their luggage at Gare de Lyon - the luggage storage at St. Lazare is now closed, for reasons currently outside the wit of man - so that's where we met, and from there we headed to Chatelet-les-Halles. A short hop on and then off the train again and we found ourselves strolling through the warm morning with blossom showering around us. To get from where we were - Chatelet - to where we wanted to be - Jardin du Luxembourg - we could have caught a train and sunk once again into the stinking underground. The system of trains in Paris is wonderful; the smell of sulphur, however, would make even a Satanist baulk. Instead we strolled across the river and took the opportunity to sit outside the cathedral and take some snaps.

I say we. I gave Kate the camera, since the last time I did so she got some cracking photos - and I got it back before she left with another 200 snaps to work through. They're almost all golden. Kate sings like an angel and takes photos like a pro. Being around her is jealousy-inducing to the highest order. All of the photos that follow are credited to her.

It also means that rather than being behind the camera all the time, I got to be in front of it. Very much in front of it, on one occasion.

A little too close for comfort perhaps.

We strolled in the direction of the Garden and along the way ducked into my favourite Parisian haunt. I'm pretty sure this is the third time in a week and is now bordering on an obsession, but Shakespeare and Company is the greatest English-language bookstore in Paris.

There's barely enough room to squeeze past books upon books, all ordered but not only on shelves but tables too. Books spilling out and words, just words, everywhere.

I love this shop.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat in a pizza and pasta place run by genuine Italians, which meant they understood English better than they understood French - don't know how to feel about that - and which made Mary roll her eyes just a little.

The reason Mary rolled her eyes is because she is essentially sensible, and if she were to have a food intolerance then she would avoid that food in particular. Since Kate has an intolerance to gluten and I have an intolerance to lactose, a pizza/pasta parlour is literally the worst place for us to be. Everything is made with dough and cheese. Everything.

Did we listen? Am I a sensible person?

What do you think?

In any case, after our grub stop, we made it to the Garden. They looked incredible, with flowers in full bloom and small children setting boats free on the central pond. One of the children had a pirate boat, and I suspect I was not the only person feeling just a pang of jealousy. I mean look at it, it's a pirate boat. I wanted a pirate boat.

How much did I want a pirate boat? Enough to make me pull a very ugly face. How ugly? I can't say. It would make your eyes pop out, one-two, and then you'd never read this blog again.

We did a tour around the Garden, encountering a Giant Sequoia (that "only" reaches around 40m in Europe, according to the delightfully understated sign) and a woman doing sprint yoga.

By this I meant she would do a yoga stretch in the middle of the path and then carry on walking and then, as if she had received instructions from some other place, promptly did another one. She hopped, skipped, jumped and stretched around the circumference of the park, and by the time we parted ways we all felt absolutely exhausted. The girls had only an hour before their train, and so we wound our way back to Gare de Lyon, and stood outside it for a second.


I have very strong memories of this place, and they all seem to center around this particular girl:

Pictured: Demon-spawn. And a blueberry muffin.
Your year abroad - I make a huge assumption in saying this, but I think many of you will be going on a year abroad - will expose you to new cultures in ways you could not possibly imagine. It will change the course of your life, and sometimes that course will collide with someone with whom you will click in every way. And sometimes these relationships won't last; you've only got a year, and so do they. Even with Skype, and aeroplanes, and Facebook, some things can't survive the distance.

So seize the opportunities that I know you'll get.

Pictured: Opportunity being seized.

Also: blueberry muffin.

And blog about it, so I can read your adventures.

Anyway, before the nostalgia set in, I was talking about Gare de Lyon and the girls. We had a quick drink and retrieved their luggage. Kate rushed in and assured us we needn't come in with her, which was transparently both untrue and crafted to give Mary and I another moment. She is a great friend, and I can't wait to get back to studying with her next year. I owe her a lot, and it may well be repaid in dinners.

We seized the moment, as if you need to be told.

On the way down to the Metro, the escalator was out of order and the train was at the platform. Kate dragged her suitcase down the stairs at some speed and she had almost managed the whole lot when we heard an awful crack. We leapt onto the train, manhandling the suitcase, and took stock of the damage. The handle had snapped right off the bag and so had a white tube that was previously hidden inside the handle. It seemed to be made of fibres, so I grabbed it to try to twist it and snap it completely. It was, indeed, made of fibres - fibres of glass.

Nasty, nasty little fibres of glass that were now stuck in my fingers and next to impossible to see because glass, of course, is transparent. Hilarious when this property results in children and small animals running into it, less fun when microscopic fibres of it are jammed in your fingertips.

In any case, with the judicious application of gloves we got the suitcase on the train, said our goodbyes, and parted. 

I hate parting.

So that's been my Saturday. It's only six now, but I don't foresee anything interesting coming up before midnight. A massive thank-you to whom I am sure are responsible for the vast majority of my readers, as well as running a site that got me really prepared for my own third year abroad.

That's all for today folks. I read something lovely the other day that I'd like to share with you:
"The evening news is the only television programme that opens with 'Good Evening' and the goes on to tell you why it's not."
It amused me, and I hope it's amused you too. Thanks for reading.

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