The day the world stood still

Not everyone experiences ‘jet-lag’, for some lucky individuals the rapid change of gravity/polarity doesn’t effect them, for many the sensation of the world grinding to a halt and being suspended in time never occurs. If you’re one of these people, you are undeniably enviable, and in the best possible terms, I hate you. When I was younger and first started travelling overseas I was one of those lucky few. My parents would reel and complain of ‘the wooze’, of feeling like a kid that’s spun around in too many circles and now needed to find a soft cushion or piece of stone free lawn to collapse onto. Now I too share this state. Perhaps it was the over enthusiasm of yesterday’s exertion that’s caught up with us, maybe it’s the jet-lag, who knows, but today was the day of sloth.

We arose at an hour where Paris was still soundly sleeping – they do this a lot we’ve noticed, no true Parisienne wakes and stirs before midday – and began our day with the best of intentions. A sedate breakfast, showers and dressed ready to face another day wandering the streets, first stop, the Gare Saint Lazare and retrieve our tickets for our departure tomorrow morning. The streets we walked along were lovely and quiet in the early hours, it had rained during the night and this went a long way towards cleansing the city of the.. err.. eau de parfum au pissoir… that adorns many of the streets. Rambling our way along the cobbled roads, darting across the overflowing gutters we did reach the station and managed to navigate our way to the ticket office – not without a bit of humour at the ‘ticket machines’ that were not user friendly to the uninitiated. The SNCF/TER staff however were lovely, and in a rather bizarre conversation – the SNCF representative speaking in English and us responding in poor French – we collected our tickets and returned to the now slightly livelier street.

We did have every intention of returning to the Louvre, not because either of us was desperate to cast our eyes on the Mona Lisa or sit by the fountains and pools near the pyramid, but because we honestly couldn’t think of anything else that our minds could deal with. That was until we began the trek back from the north-east of the city towards the Seine. 30 minutes of walking later and it became evident that our plans for the day would not see fruition. With aching feet and taught calves we limped and grimaced our way to Rue du Montmartre and instead of turning right towards the Musee, we turned left, and continued our self-inflicted torture as we returned to the apartment and it’s four flights of stairs before collapsing onto the bed, groaning with relief as our shoes fell away. Yes, yesterday’s trek probably was too much, especially for feet that were wearing what turned out to be not suitable shoes afterall – you know, the shoes you buy before a trip, that you wear for days and days and can find no fault with, so with confidence you pack them with the surety that they’ll serve you well, only to find upon your first activities that you’ve been duped, that whilst comfortable enough under usual conditions, that they are sadly lacking once put to the real thing. Nevermind, at least we had the day to rest up before beginning our cross-country adventures that will follow a short train trip to Rouen.

The rest of the day was spent recouperating in the apartment, catching up on emails, on organising our bags, and on getting some more sleep – something we’re both struggling to maintain given our ‘what time is it, where the heck are we’ state that refuses to leave at present. I do personally feel somewhat justified in my attempts to ‘find myself in Paris’, our ode to Sabrina (with Julia Ormond, Greg Kinnear and Harrision Ford), yesterday I encountered a very surly saleswoman at our closest Boulangerie, she was so rude that I was speechless at the time, so this afternoon I managed to haul myself back down the stairs and wandered off to find some light supplies for dinner and lunch tomorrow. My wanderings took me to a nearby supermarche – something we could have done with finding on Saturday – where I managed to share a laugh with another salesperson (she asked me something in French which I had never heard before, my blank face answered better than any words ever could. We then did the ‘oh, funny foreigner’ dance and conversation. At the end of that a garbled message came over the PA system, we looked at each other and shrugged, as if to say “was that in your language, because it wasn’t mine?” before bursting into laughter). Determined to get some fresh baguettes I returned to the Boulangerie from the day before and waited patiently to be served. The same female noticed my return and smiled weakly, at seeing my face and without skipping a beat I managed to state exactly what I wanted in near perfect Francais – even if it was obviously not with a French accent. Success! She smiled, I grinned, we exchanged goods for payment and went on our way. I know to most that may seem trivial, but for me it was that moment where I could say ‘yes, I can do this! If I had to, I could survive in France, I could take my place in another society, learn another culture. I could, if pressed, make a new life’. Not that I plan on moving to France any time soon, or ever for that matter, but it’s more the reassurance that you can achieve something if you put your mind to it.

As for now, it’s time to organise some dinner – we seem to be constantly hungry at the moment too, which is odd given the amount of bread and cheese we’re eating! – and get the apartment cleaned before our departure. It’s been a magical little place, and though it may be the size of my bedroom back home, it has been a lovely respite from the city, from our adventure, and yet added so much to it at the same time. It’s exposed aged dark-wooden beams with stark white plaster ceiling, the tiny kitchenette with it’s sink/2 burner stove/bench area that in total would be lucky to be 1.2mtrs long, the bathroom that, well, you’ve no doubt heard the jokes about dropping soap, it’s one of those bathrooms. It’s a charming and quaint apartment on the fifth floor of an average Paris building on and even more nondescript street, but it has been truly spectacular, not because of it’s view, or its appointments, but because it simply couldn’t be anywhere else in the world. It’s Paris, in springtime, with light showering rains, cloudy blue skies, and the aroma of fresh baguettes wafting down on the air. Bonsoir Paris, vous êtes belle (Good evening Paris, you are beautiful)


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