Sitting in a Paris laundromat, watching the numbers count UP on the machine!
Have really enjoyed it here. First night I set out, even though it was late when I got in, to Montemarte. This is where the Moulin Rouge is, and is the area where a lot of famous artists hung out back in their days. It was kinda cool, but not super vibrant or anything. In fact, one thing that has struck me so far is that even big cities like London and Paris get quiet at times. When I got to Montemarte it was about 9pm on a Sunday night, and it was kinda quiet. Except outside the Moulin Rouge… But everyone has seen that. Heres a chair that was nearby:
I walked around looking at things, and thought I would try to find a cool bar. Now, the coolest bars are always tucked away, on a back street or down some inconspicuous alley, and by following this I found a good one.
Made friends with a bunch of Canadian theater students back at the hostel, went out street drinking with them. Was a lot of fun, shady characters trying to sell us hash, getting directions to an all night liquor store from a bum in exchange for the coins he asked for, taking photos of graffiti’d white vans, and singing by a quay that Napoleon built.
Next day I was a bit wrecked, and determined not to fall into the hostel drinking trap. So after a lot more beers with some Australian dudes, and a few Yaeger bomb shots, I had a kind of early night, and woke up to go exploring the next day.
First thing first I tried to rent a bike from one of these automatic bike racks they have here. For a few Euro you can rent a bike all day, and park it at another bike rack near your destination! A really great idea, but it wouldnt accept my credit card unfortunately. Not too disheartened, I walked along the Seine for ages, seeing a buch of cool stuff, and watching people. Went past the Museum d’Orsay, but you should have seen the line! I cant really handle being in a tourist line like that, with so many rude people pushing and stuff, so I went and found a free museum with a good but small collection (enough to take in all of it!) at the Petit Palace, next to the Grand Palace. Here I saw a really cool series of pictures, done by an artist interested in prehistory. He had done these for the Natural History Museum, back in 1897:
These are actually the prelim sketches before the actual paintings, no less cool to my mind. He was keen to incorporate the new findings of prehistorians at the time, and to try to reconstruct elements of people lives in the past. I really liked this kind of interpretation: whilst it might be full of errors, its still great. In a way, maybe just thinking about past lifeways, about the different ways that people can live, is a valuable thing in itself, even if you get the details wrong. We’ll never know for sure anyway!
After this I went to get lunch, and my card didnt work again. Thinking it might be cancelled by the bank, as they sometimes do when you travel overseas, I went back to the hostel to sort it out. Wasted a few hours, trying to make a call to Australia, the phone boxes only took credit cards (which I was trying to fix), I couldnt buy more credit online coz they only take credit cards, and the hostel phone wouldnt let me call international! In the end, I spent about an hour fixing up my computer to make a skype call to an Australian number, and it worked. Card wasnt cancelled they said, just fussy, and I ended up finding an ATM that it worked at. The one right by the hostel actually…:-) So once again, my impatience got the better of me! I have to be careful of that, I can get angry when things arent working out, and kinda go into mission mode, like “right, lets get this sorted”. Problem is, I should probably sit down and be sure whether there is a problem or not in the first place.
Not to be put off, I set out for the night. Had a nice meal of Vietnamese food, best spring rolls ever, and then onto the Metro underground to the Eiffel Tower. I love the Metro here, so interesting to see all the people of Paris. People here look like they come from all over the world. Arabs, Africans, Asian people, Polish people, other Europeans, a suprising number of Australians, some stereotypical beret wearing Frenchies, and more. But I guess most of them are French like Im Australian in the end. Man, really interesting this modern world, with everyone brought together through colonialism, trade and cheap international flights!
So, out of the Metro to this stop, supposed to be near the Eiffel Tower, and I scan the skyline: Nothing! Thinking I had been misled, I walked around the building, and bam:
The tower was pretty cool, it was about 10PM by this point and it was still open. But waiting in the line a kind of ugliness came over me, and I starting hating on the other tourists around me, pushing each other, arguing with each other instead of observing. Not happy about feeling like that in retrospect. I wish I can find the strength to be more loving of other people, because I know that getting like that does damage to my soul. I ended up walking down the interminable steps from the tower, having a think.
In the laundromat where I started this entry I met another traveller, who helped me work out the machines. Turned out we both wanted to go to The Catacombs that day, so I suggested we go together. He was a nice guy, and we had a good chat. exploring tunnels filled with artful arrangements of millions of dead peoples’ bones. I really appreciated the simplicity of his company, and saw myself in his nervousness.
Stuff like that is good for my soul, I know it.
Now Im finishing this entry on the plane to Sint Maarten, flying over the Atlantic (you may have noticed the change in tone 2 paragraphs back). Now at the end of my stay in Paris, I feel a bit disappointed that I wasnt able to catch any live music. But it was a short trip, and you cant do everything. I kind of feel I will be back to Paris sometime anyway.
But for now it feels great to have the sun on my skin again, shining in through the window of the plane. I am sitting next to a very young boy who is just starting out in life. When he fell asleep against my arm and it made me feel hopeful.