Terrible time to be reliving the Paris trip I guess?
We flew Air India, which everybody already knows is terrible to begin with. I guess everybody knows about the Vietnamese taxi driver who on Day1 almost refused to take us to our hotel because:
a) We were Indian. We couldn’t possibly have had the money to afford the taxi.
b) We were Indian. We couldn’t speak French.
c) We were Indian. We had booked our rooms in a previously unheard of hotel, way out of town (for the first night).
However, to the Vietnamese’s utmost credit, at the airport where the lackadaisical guard at the airport exit (seriously just one man standing at the door that opened to a dark empty road) had hailed him out of the taxi ‘line’, he took us in despite the above 3 doubts in his mind. Over the long journey to our hotel, he and I formed a deep bond over:
a) being Asian.
b) Speaking French as a foreign language (he said I spoke it better than him and his wife and they had been living in France for over 30 years).
c) Subsidized petrol (he seriously considered moving to India to start a taxi business after I told him our fuel rates. Didn’t have the heart, however, to tell him that his lack of knowledge of even basic English would be a major impediment.)
d) Using a telephone, or stopping people on the road to ask for directions. He had been away from Asia for SO LONG, he didn’t even dare believe in this technique, having for years relied on maps and GPS device in what was in his opinion,a rather unfriendly and selfish country. Eventually the American accented lady at the hotel directed us over the telephone. Other American tourists entering the hotel the same time as us were also being directed over phone and efficiently using the opportunity to flirt with the lady. The Vietnamese did not charge us any money from the point where his GPS directions had failed to be of any further use. Good man.
On the last day of our rather unstructured and unorganised trip, we elected (unanimously) to take one of the many bus tours available to cover quickly the many sights we were left to see.
Unfortunately, “sight” is the only sense that is satiated on these kinds of bus tours, and even that is compromised. You’re at a height and on wheels that are wont to reach quickly to the next stop. No pausing no staring no reading the inscriptions at length no time to look into your guidebooks (I carried about five). The bus stops at these predetermined spots for either too long or too less, depending on your interest in the given place. No touching no tasting. Rush before the bus leaves off. Queue at the public loo. Listen to the street musician churning out typically Parisienne tunes for the Parisienne tourists. Look at macaroons. Not afford them. Find a post office. It’s closed on Saturday. No stamps. The postcards will travel back to your country with you. What’s the name of that place? What is that museum, obelisk, pyramid, statue, angel, church, bridge, rue, marche. What a petty car. Autumn leaves in our hair. Try to touch the branches from the open air level. Cheap plastic neon green headphones in your ears, the man tells tales of Paris in a placid American accent. My guidebooks in French are better. Half the bookmarks remain. Some are completely forgotten. Some we did twice. Did we do enough? We didn’t drink half as much coffee did we? Does a pot every morning and a shot every time we needed to pee suffice? The lemon cheesecake on that Rue next to the Champs Elysee served by that cute androgynous teenager can we do it again? Can we hop over H&M again? Glad we didn’t waste time on any of the cabarets. Stop with the 1920’s music in my ears already, American man. Plug headphones into phone, ah, that’s kyo, yelle and even some U2. Edith Piaf, she’s timeless.
Au revoir, Paris.
29th October 2011
The last morning in Paris. Woke up so early that Eiffel was still flashing its hypnotic scintillations into my room. Watched the sun rise over the Seine. Spent the day in a dazed frenzy of trying to cram in every last sight, taste, sound and smell.
One of the first and last photos taken that day.