A Room with a View

 

It is what every Francophile dreams of isn’t it?

A room with a view in Paris.

I watched an excellent inflight movie on the way over to Paris this trip.  In fact I watched several movies but, it was Diplomacy that struck a chord.  It focused on the diplomatic dance that saved Paris from destruction by the Germans during WWII.

It is unimaginable to think how this magnificent city of Paris would have appeared today if destruction had occurred and what vistas we would have been robbed of.

Paris is famous for so many iconic views including the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and of course, the glittering, golden glory of the Eiffel Tower but sometimes just the cluttered roof-tops is enough to conjure up the romantic in us.

That is the view that I have.

Pretty Paris rooftops against a wintery grey sky …. from my bathroom window.

Hey!  I am not complaining and I am not sure whether all the Parisian residents who watch me shower, windows sans curtains, with the bathroom lit up like a Christmas tree for all to see, as I go about cleansing my body of 28 hours of travelling, are complaining either.

Given that I am on the subject of roof tops; a roof across the other side of the world is currently being installed.

Before embarking on my annual Parisian adventure, I tried to move mountains to ensure I had a new tin roof installed on my house.  With storm season in full force, and the recent gusting winds and hail storms that have hit Brisbane of late, I wanted to go away comforted by the thought that I wouldn’t come home to a roof-less house. 

Instead of a leisurely last day but still ensuring all was in order before heading off on a long anticipated break, I felt harassed as three men stomped, banged, hammered drilled and threw 50 year old sheets of iron crashing and banging as it landed in my front yard.

To find the blazing sun, streaming through the ceiling in a front room that I use as an office had me looking bewildered with raised eyebrows, up to the scorching blue sky, down to the rubble on my clean floorboards.   One of the skilled roofers dropped a hammer, right through my ceiling.  This was not going to deter me from enjoying my holiday, they assured me that it will be repaired when I get back home.

Twenty- eight long hours in motion can wear even the most experienced traveller quite thin, tired I was, sleep depraved and in desperate need of a shower but as I neared Paris a shot of adrenaline surged through my body at the sight of familiar scenes.

Being dumped off at a cafe and waiting with my bags for 1.5 hours whilst I waited for the apartment agency guy to turn up, sapped the life out of me.  I was starting to get cranky, this was not the plan.  I should have been at a market, choosing fine food to stock up my apartment with but no, instead I drank espresso coffees and watched the rain settle in for the day.

Finally we made our way to the apartment but as we climbed the awkward narrow staircase I learned that renovations were being carried out on the building.  It is a little noisy he shouts, WHAAAAT, I try to call out above the noise of hammers and power drills, tears starting to prickle my eyes.

Call me a cry baby but I think the wait, the lack of sleep and the disappointment of the apartment, took it’s toll.

We will move you he explains, his fingers shaking and sliding across the glass of his iPhone, as he tries to find another available apartment.

Ok, I whimper, failing at trying to act brave and not show emotion.

If he had offered a    ‘ aaww – come here,  give me a hug, it is going to be alright’  – I think I would have wept in his arms like a child.

I am off on a little adventure tomorrow and by the time I get back another apartment will be ready for my arrival, hopefully with a private shower.

Wandering around Paris in the drizzling rain, everything felt familiar, I felt as if I had arrived home, with roofers thrown in for good measure!

 

Gripping my lime green umberalla, patiently I stood, gazing up at the Notre Dame as I waited for three groups of school children and an English couple take about 20 photos of one foot, then the other, and listened as he told his wife ‘now, get me close up, now you full focal length, let’s get one together, oh take one more with both our feet.’

 

 

 

Finally, my turn presented itself.  The self imposed ritual I undertake each time I arrive in Paris and that is to stand on the copper disc implanted into the pavement in front of the Notre Dame.  Legend has it, if you undertake this pleasant exercise, you will be sure to return to Paris.  I mean, seriously, come on, who would tempt fate on that one. 

The large stadium that has stood in front of the Notre Dame for the past two years to celebrate it’s 800 year history, has thankfully now gone and allows tourists to spread out more evenly across the giant square that was created by Baron Haussmann to show off the magnificent cathedral.

I am not sure if it is my imagination but the Christmas tree looks bigger this year. The very sight of it cast my memory back to Christmas Eve last year, the night my bag was stolen. I found the tree, lying on it’s side, a crumpled mess, it’s massive length measuring almost as wide as the Notre Dame.

I didn’t take any photos of note.  The ground felt like it was floating under my feet, after too many hours on a plane and the rain was drizzling down and quite frankly, it was simply nice to just be. 

No agenda, no plan, no where to be.  I took a short stroll and literally soaked up Paris.

It seems over the past few years I have met quite a few people.  Of course I know all the crew and my friend at my favourite bar but not long after my arrival, text messages were flying around and my dance card is looking full.

 

Darling Julien who I met last year at one of Jim’s Sunday Dinners has kept in constant contact since then and we had a rendezvous  at a wonderful bar, that was once a brothel, frequented by no other than Napoleon.  We met here last year, I wonder if this is another tradition that has begun.

He had to rush off to a Christmas party and although he kindly offered for me to join him, I had to get a decent nights sleep.  I could barely keep my eyes open.  Opting to walk instead of catching the metro, thinking the 1.2 km walk to my favourite bar, in the cool night air would do me good – it worked like a treat. 

A quick meal and hello to my friend at Petit fer a Cheval and an early night, of course nothing ever goes to plan.

I seemed to be the chick magnet or something.  Weird, but a funny night.  Especially when a drunk, flamboyant local, dressed in a camel coloured suit with a matching trench coat slung across his shoulders, a dark brown hat and a scarf, artfully placed around his neck, jewels on his fingers that would have looked better on a 21 year old girl, and for extra added drama, a cane.

This eccentric get up had him looking like a cross between Poirot and Columbo, the American TV detective from the 70’s.

He managed to ruin the quiet ambience that had fallen over the bar with his drunken bigotry and racism, mouthing off in both French and English that had everyone in the bar speak their piece to him to no avail, he was relentless and wouldn’t give up, until it was my turn.

Calmly but forcefully, I gave him my two euro cents worth.  Smiles grew on the staff’s faces, including the boss, the charming gentlemen standing opposite me, who was quietly, propped at the bar, with a glass of white wine and immersed in a book, clapped his hands together, beaming at me across the bar.

Columbo shut up.  He looked around the bar, searching for support, no takers.  The quiet gentle hum, once again descended down and across the bar, with subtle smirks on our faces, and the occasional, inconspicuous glance and raised eyebrows that the French seem to turn into an art form, we had become a quiet little hub of solidarity.

My friend sat down at the bar beside me, slapping his dinner on the marble bar, at least he will be able to enjoy his break in peace. 

I leant across and whispered gently, ‘you see Bouba, it just goes to show that women do have the last say’.  He looked back at me with his bright shinning eyes and beautiful white teeth smile and raised his eyebrows.

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