Sentiment: TOJOURS ENCHANTE
(Translation: Still Enchanted).
Right, so Paris round deux.
Part of me wondered of the magic might have diminished somewhat. I mean, I’d sight sawed the City of Love, reconnoitred the rues, salaamed over the statues and been mesmerised by the monuments. Would it hold the same allure? That all-encompassing enchantment, so to speak? Or after 22 days of whirlwinding around the world (well, a decent chunk of Europe), would I be – to put it as it may be – over it?
We pulled up (after an hour of crawling in a notorious Parisian transport marmalade – I.e., traffic jam) and were immediately dispatched keys for our hotel rooms (yes, hotel not hostel, and this time totally on point!). I had been down to room with Jenny (remember the one half of the Contiki love story?) but Nic had pushed the dinghy out and booked in for a room for them to rendez vous, so I got one ALL TO MYSELF!
Fabulous! I declared as I lobbed my bag (ok, “lob” is a bit of a stretch. At bordering on 20kg now, I don’t think “lob” is very believable. Let’s go with “awkwardly-took-it-off-my-back-sort-of-dragged-it-a-few-metres-then-discarded-it-in-the-corner”) and reclined on my not-just-double-but-not-quite-a-queen bed. (I have attached a wee picky of my set up because it reminded me of when I was a wee lass and I was quite taken with the queen-bottom-single-top bunk beds on offer at Harvey Normans. I remember thinking they would be ideal for the Wortman household, what with Deb and Henio underneath and I – literally – bunking up above. Now, at the age of 24, I can see why the parents declined my wish to purchase such a contrivance for our own home and share a bedroom with me).
But I was back up within minutes; we were having dinner in a quarter hour and I wanted a refresher before barrelling down the steps to the restaurant next door. After a sensational scalding shower (high intensity, you beauty) and a flurried redress, I was on point for 8pm.
And on the menu? None other than snails for an entrée my friend. Although a “vegan” I said I wanted to get on board and I trapped one of those sluggish creatures (yes I did) in a set of pincer-type things and chased it out of its shell with a little fork.
The verdict? Not bad. Although it was drowned in a sort of pesto-y garlic butter that largely overpowered its own taste. Nic called for “overcooked calamari” and I’m prone to agreeing.
The others downed their somewhat spicy chicken, rice, salad and apple tart with whipped cream (my monstrous mound of iceberg, tomato and cucumber hit the spot on target) and then we were all back boarding the bus for a night tour of the city.
So had the magic moderated, the enchantment ebbed as I had feared? The answer was a resounding “no way mate”, as I adamantly – and happily – could claim as soon as we turned a corner and the Arc de Triomphe came into view. I have to say, while the Eiffel – or as TGTaz refers to her, “Fifi” – is the point of Paris for many, I myself prefer Old Archy. He just stands there so resolutely regal, proud of his curvature, that he takes the first place out for my Parisian on pointers.
Interesting insertation; the Champs Elysees is known as the street of diamonds and rubies, but not as a result of the expense of the place as you may think; rather, it is because of the night time car lights, what with red breaks on the one side as “rubies” and the head lights on the other as the “diamonds”.
Being after 9pm the streets of Paris had calmed down somewhat so our touring trip was quite fast paced. In studying for Contiki myself this one had been the monster of all – 52 different point-outs, plus fillers – so I was interested to watch TGTaz in action on the mike (-rophone, not the driver). Well, TGTaz rocked it. Imparting facts as we powered about Paris. And then we came to our last stop – none other than Fifi herself at 9.45pm.
Once the sun has gone down and dusk overtakes, Fifi gets her groove on every hour on the hour with a shimmy and sparkle. Being we were there at 9.47pm, we decided to all offload and wait to see the tower twinkle.
As we were waiting and all taking the obligatory selfies and what not, I was infused with a notion the Fifi looked a lot like something familiar to me – I just couldn’t place it. I wandered closer and eyed her out for a few minutes, narrowing my eyes and turning this way and that until it hit me – Fifi looked like bruised bananas! Four of them all curved in together and up on point! Forget the “metal asparagus” – mate, she was a bunch of blackened curved potassium parcels. (Set me back to thinking of banana Chuppa Chups – how good were they? Though as always my first choice was the caramel ones, followed by strawberry and cream then the nana as number three.
Then 10pm hit and Fifi got her effervescence on. Hundreds of little lightbulbs strobed and she glittered and glinted and glistened. We were all open mouthed and “wow”-ing for the first wee while, then after a few minutes the delight dulled down a dial. “All right Fifi mate, we get the picture,” I declared, and after another 90 seconds (like come on, that’s just showing off) she went back to her bruised banana state and we headed back “home” (Aussie Alicia and I p front of the bus and crooning along to Six60. Apologies for totally butchering your songs, boys. Alicia may have been on que but I most definitely made a carcass out of “Forever”). (And Amen to the lovely lad on reception who printed out my bus ticket free of charge on return. What a champ. He also offered his services to show me around Paris one day when I next return, doing the old Fb add. How is it that I just keep meeting such superstars?).
This morning I awoke in stretched out glory in my not-just-double-but-not-quite-a-queen bed. After a 30-minute yoga session, I repacked my bag and then bounded down for breakfast, my last with the Contiki crew,
They were off to a perfumery to see the ins and outs of scents, which I was down to also go to. But on awakening I decided to elect out; I had a handful of hours left in Paris and I wanted to tick off my last to-do’s on my list. So I sat with a bundle of buddies as they downed Nutella croissants (I murdered some punnets of apple sauce, it must be said) then went to get my ghost on and slink away unseen.
But as always, there were a few I couldn’t not say goodbye to and when they heard I was skipping out on the squirt shop (perfume place, you sick canine) I was smothered in squeezes, clinches and clasps with promises of future re-meets.
Isn’t it insane, I’ve spent the last 23 days with these fellas, shared rooms and meals and bathrooms, yet for the majority I won’t ever see them again? That thought used to make me so sad, so downtrodden and glum, but nowadays what with having met so many people over the course of the last year, that contemplation doesn’t get me so disheartened (plus, FB friendships mean the link is always there if need be). And the ones that truly touched my heart I will make sure to see again – Sheri is coming to NZ in August, of course there is the locked in Dubai quest with new matey Katie and I am hustling in hang outs with the one and only superstar Melissa.
So after a warm hug with both TGTaz and Magic Mike, I waved them off (ghosting the others that hadn’t realised I was leaving, but sent a PM to the ones that had touched my heart for a fond farewell) and went back inside to get my belongings on my back (and front; backpack each way baby) and be on my way.
And my friend, I was back in my element. Having had everything organised for me and being told where to go and where to be the last few weeks, to have the day free to me was a terrifically tantalising thought. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my Contiki crew and the structured sprees, but I am truly the most blissful when just getting lost and being on my own (or with one or two others who are the same way inclined). I got a map from the man on reception and loosely got the direction I was to go in and then took of up the rue (like my little French inclusions here and there? The vocab list is cultivating).
I passed through a local market (more like a trash and treasure garage sale, it must be said) and purchased a name train for the August arrival of Hank III (and is it turns out to be a girl, the train will be a sensational regift come November 15 for Henio’s 60th) (Also need to move heart carriage to before the H, as as you will see below looks like “THANK” when the “H” follows the engine). Then after a meander in the gutter (ok, I’ll disclose the occurrences here. I despise littering, like DESPISE it, and when the label from my Evian bottle – oui oui, how French – somehow let loose and flew off from the neck, I tried to chase it down, managing to step on it on the curb side. However, bending down to pick it up with a 17kg or so pack on your back as well as a 9.2kg one on your front ain’t no mean feat. I turtled in the gutter for a wee while unable to get up – but clasping the rouge wrapper, I must point out – before finally garnering the strength to re-stand, bin the offending rubbish, and be back on route) I delightfully came across the reuired metro station I was after (Porte de Clignancourt, to be precise) and chugged along the 14 stops to Saint Michel – aka, Notre Dame.
You see, I had it hell bent I was to return there to do the dislocated shoulder blade shot and channel old Quazi, with my “Popback of Notre Dame” (a pun as well, what with me “popping back” to get the pic”). As I blinked into the daylight as I came out of the underground zoom around, I was distilled with a sense of sadness; last time I was here had been with the SS7 and it made me miss them. But I shook off the sensation – who has time for that shit? – and barrelled my way to the forefront of the cathedral and got my shot.
After that I had a nosey in each of the souvenir shops lining the river. Last month I had picked up a purple Fifi key ring (now missing a pillar – drunken antics out saw her legless also) with the intention of getting another or two on return. When I had flirted with the idea of skipping out before Switzerland (so glad I didn’t – Lauterbrunnen was a plus! Positively! So glad I didn’t flag it!) (Pick up on those ones there?) I had been slightly saturnine at the thought I wouldn’t be able to collect any more from France. So it was a greatly chuffed self who purchased a little trio of Fifi, old Archy and a poppy (Poppy among Paris! Fitting, non?), a little bejewelled heart Fifi for the mother Deb and of course, a padlock (not one of the more touristy “love locks” with the word “Paris” encased in a heart to write on for sale all over the show, no no. This was a proper lock and key my friends).
You may know, you may not, but the Ponts des Arts Bridge stretching across the River Seine in Paris was the original and most famed love lock bridge. Adorned with more than 45 tonnes of padlocks, in late 2015 the whole heaving lot of them were bolt-cutted away when an arm of the bridge fissured under the strain and fears went into flurry for the bridge as a whole. Glass partitions were put up so no one could lock their love there anymore (though a few sneaky souls – including myself today, before it didn’t “feel” to be in the right place so I unlocked my lock and moved it to another spot – have managed to latch their one on to a sporadic spot here and there) so the bridge of armour is now at the end of its affair.
However, the romantic ritual abounds around the rest of Paris, with other areas now designated as bolting in bonds. Si it was on my lit to join amorous others and Pop, lock and drop it myself with the two loves of mine I know will never die – that being with puns and with Harry Potter.
As I aforementioned I initially snuck my lock onto Pont des Arts itself (with some on pont – get it? – tomfoolery involving stretching over the glass partition and locking it it) but the thought of some police-guard-man coming along and snaffling it in two made me hesitate, unlock and head off for my own secluded spot. So instead my lock joined the eons of others on Pont des Neuf, right next to the statue of Oldmate Henry of Navarre. (With a little secret message on the back as well, but that’s for my own know only).
I have to say, I’m pretty brilliant at deflecting all the rogues roaming around. While I may appear a s a pickpocketer’s dream target, my carefree appearance is totally at odds with my always-at-hand passport, phone, money and biometric ID card. Should someone dare to attempt to cross me they would be alarmed at my reflex face slap and what not (well, I like to think so).
I have a pretty off stranger danger ranger, as I am rather – well, very – trusting of all around. But now and then I really feel an insanely strong vibe that a person is not good or genuine and I completely freeze up and go frosty. Same goes for in Paris; while I am on much more high alert, for the most part I seem to sense when someone lurking or loitering is a bad sort and am more on point as to myself and my valuables. (Though when it comes to late night dark roaming I am probably a bit silly at times). (Actually, as I was walking to my first metro stop of call I sensed two lads lurking before and behind me. Rather than freak out however, I simply stopped and backed onto the bridge and smiled out at them; nonplussed, they sort of sauntered to look as though they were not dodgy – looking seriously dodgy in doing so – and then perambulated off to schlenter their next schlemiel. Don’t cross the Pop).
I continued to peruse Paris for a wee bit, taking photos here and there and dallying about in the surrounds (randomly had a yarn to a San Fran man who farewelled me with a shukka! I was well impressed). I wandered about the river side stalls (absolutely love them – like little markets that the “shop” owners come and unlock each day and display their wares – pic of a closed up one for your own appreciation) and traipsed up and down a few narrow lanes (really starting to feel the loads of mu backpacks at this point) before blowing a kiss to the city centre and going underground to metro to the Bercy bus station.
Where was I off to? Well you see, instead of heading back to London as was the original plan, I had booked in to catch a 15-hour overnight to Milan to go and meet up with none other than PMS. We are going to scout out Northern Italy for the next week, before I fly back to London for HP World (fuck yes!) and take off to Barcelona for a long weekend with my cousin Sarah. So a bus from Bercy it was (for 39 euro no less, a Mercedes-Benz complete with wifi, charging sockets and a nice pink and blue frontage) to go and get my Tuscan traipse and Lombardian circumambulate on.
Although my anxiety with missing flights/buses/trains has tapered a tiny bit, a good bout of it still abounds; thus me being three hours early for boarding my bus. But the sense of achievement on navigating the metro and getting to my desired destination with no faults or flaws necessitated a fab fist pump with myself – when things work out to plan with a tip top P. the feeling of feat is real.
So I roved and rambled about for another hour or so, finding a supermarket to buy some raw carrots, a new water and a mango as big as my head (cheers to the storekeepers who let me put down my backpacks and then proceeded to guard them as I skipped about the shop) before standing in the street deciding what to do. I’d seen an Indian restaurant on the corner declaring free wifi; I dithered with the idea of going there for a Coke Zero and whittling away the next 90 minutes. With my bladder and its need to be relieved adding a big go-for for the option I headed in the restaurant’s direction, but was suddenly invigorated with a swell alternative avenue when I saw the glistening green sign announcing an Ibis.
Honestly, if you act like you’re meant to be anywhere and at least semi look the part, you can get away with anything. This is how I came to be cushioned in the comfy couch of the Ibis hotel, munching back my mango and going to town on the ultra-fast free wifi to upload a blog post and a fair few pictures. Whenever any staff approached me or went by I’d beam a sunny I’m-right-where-I’m-meant-to-be smile, and I wasn’t questioned once. So I had a lovely and warm last hour and a bit in Paris, before heading off to board my bus.
I am now en route back to Italy, having set up shop in my window seat arena (pays to become boys with the bus driver). I am quite chumly with my passenger partner next to me (only French speaking we attempted a convo where I utilised all the vocab I know) (which I’m happy about, as on after our first pit stop I mimed asking if he had been able to get something to eat and he thought I was offering him some of my massive wad of chewing gum, which is not always the best basis for a companionship). It is almost 11pm, so I am hoping I can tire myself out enough so as to bend forwards on my tray table and coma the fuck out for the night, but we shall see.
But yes, Paris; still enchanting as its “word”. I will miss it. But I will be back (next time I hope with Deb in tow, hopefully Henio too if it is Tour de France time) to see Fifi and Old Archy again. Of that I have no qualm. (Locking it in).
It’s well and truly worked its magic on me.