Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Unanticipated Paris

We'll take free days in Paris any time, so when Ally's flight from Hong Kong was delayed by 24 hours we happily crashed in with Andy, Graz and Jessie from one clan and Liz, Tony and Cammy from the other. Eight of us in one apartment, but we fitted in remarkably well. Not too many fights. Well none, really ...

Highlights for me included a stroll up to Sacre Coeur with Andy to check out the artists plying their trade in the tourist square that everyone visits when they get to Paris (and why shouldn't they?). I would cut off both my arms to be able to paint/draw like those people. Rolf Harris: Eat your heart out! Walking is probably the best way to suck up the 'vibe' of Paris (or any city really). Life appears in miniature, from scurrying mums with little kids clutching their hands, through lounging males with suits and nowhere to go or do (How do they afford the suits?), to the ever-present beggars who sit, seemingly in vain, holding their little cups up to the passing crowd accompanied by either one/two dogs or children. The way up to Montmartre took us past poorer areas of Paris, populated by more recent immigrants from Africa and Eastern Europe. The language, the sights and the smells are quite different to those experienced in the 'museum piece' that is "Paris-by-the-Seine". No less enjoyable for that, however. [We got a bit lost coming back from the hill because one of us (I think it was me, but wish it was Andy), set his (or her) phone to the wrong Rue de Faubourg. Why, oh WHY do they need TWO Rues de Faubourg in Paris?].
nother highlight was watching the procedure involved in getting a boat through the lock at the end of our street. The drop in water level in the canal is quite marked at that point. There was probably a waterfall there at some stage. Everyone knows how locks work, but the great thing about this one is the lock operator , who appears to be quite a character. He chats away to all and sundry, walking briskly between the electronic booths/stations that operate the gates. I would have thought that a single, central station would have been more appropriate (and possible), but that would have de-personalised the operation and taken all the fun out of it. The process unfolds as follows: Greet boat captain; explain paperwork; stride to operation point 1 and open booth with key from huge bunch; chat to captain while boat being secured;
stride to booth at point 2 at other end when lock filled/emptied; chat; open booth with another key from huge bunch; chat and return to start again with next boat. All this proceeds with a great deal of enthusiasm and this chap certainly appeared to enjoy his job! Who wouldn't?

Tony's friend Laurent ("Lorron") was another highlight. He told us about his acting experiences and meetings with Jean-Paul Belmondo, Gerard Depardieu and Famous Others on various film sets. [Laurent would make a valuable contribution to the cast of Ricky Gervais' Extras series.] He had photos of himself in costume taken with various of these famous actors a d showed them off to us in between puffs of Camel cigarettes. [I don't know too many people who smoke any more and anyone who does, should stop]. Anyway, Laurent is a character and I was happy to meet him. We all went out to dinner and ate cassoulet (slow-cooked sausages, chicken and other meats in a slurry of white beans - a speciality of Provence and one TO DIE FOR). The restaurant was very friendly and very welcoming and we all nine had a ripper of a night.

Catching up with Jess and Cammy were also higlights for me. We don't see
much of them in Australia and offspring of friends change quite rapidly in interests and size in those intervening years. It is fascinating to see what sorts of adults they are becoming. These two are no exception and they should keep up the good work. Cammy promised me he would give up smoking soon.

Every moment is a highlight in Paris, but they are too many to be relating here. The Ramblers hopped up early on Tuesday and drove to the airport to pick up Ally. In the carpark our car documentation was checked by a plain clothes police officer straight out of one those Jean-Paul Belmodo movies referred to above and his off-sider who was learning the ropes (Laurent could have played him 'on his ear'. "Any proplems?", I asked. "Non", replied the captain, "c'est OK". As they left us to our Ally-collecting, I heard (at least I THINK I heard) the off-sider ask his boss whether the people they had dealt (ie The Ramblers) with were, in fact, French ...

Back to Annecy then. A big drive, but to a place we know that Ally will enjoy.

See youse!


No comments:

Post a Comment