Wednesday, January 03, 2007
In the adjoining Cour Carree, a flautist is playing Vivaldi. It's a cliche, of course, but then Paris is full of them. The familiar notes ring sweetly through the silence. Less ornate than the main Louvre courtyard, the square has a sparseness that is rendered almost luminous by night, when thousands of tiny spotlights make the friezes float in an amber aurora. Somehow it calls for calm and couples whisper on the stone benches, a dad tells his children to keep quiet.
The main, western wing is the most elaborately sculpted of the facades, abundant with tangled vines and bursting buds, lions' heads, wise philosophers, and angels. Cherubs gambol, their playful bottoms rendered in round relief, entwined with flowers and fruit and swooping swallows. It is a homage to nature and power, to royalty and religion, to literature and grand ideas. There is Homer playing a lyre, and next to him Virgil, pen in hand, a scroll of poetry falling over his knee. A majestic Moses brandishes the tablet of God's law.
It doesn't matter how many times we do this walk: without fail I'm struck by the heart-stopping beauty of Paris. You'd think the shock would wear off, that seeing it would no longer have the power to leave you wordless. But every sighting feels like the first. Frederic is as captivated as I am.
I used to marvel at Sydney Harbour too, whenever I saw it. Sparkling blue carves the city with covers and inlets; it's a wonder of nature. But somehow in Paris the feeling of being awe-struck is even stronger. Perhaps because it is still relatively new to me or perhaps because it somehow seems preposterous that such beauty could be created by people. The city is a testament to civilisation. Of course, I know from the last year that living in a gorgeous environment isn't enough to make you happy. But breathtaking beauty of any kind is moving. It makes tourists of us all. It anchors your heart to a place. Just like Sydney Harbour, the wonderful sights of Paris inspire emotion, yes, even love - Almost French novel by Sarah Turnbull
30 DEC 2006
0745 - The coach departs from Ye Olde Salutation Inn in Nottingham
1000 - 10 minutes rest at Stevenege
1045 - Journey continues down the south via A25/A1081
1330 - Arrives in Dover
(At the Dover Passport Inspection going into France, we did not have to step out of the coach for the individual inspection by the officer. Relieved happily, as all the passengers did not have to go through the hassle which is norm when dealing with immigration officers. Then, the jocose coach driver told us that there is a new kind of inspection which requires all of us to place our passport photo page on the window. Like children obeying their parents' order, we did as what he said only to be spared with laughters after realising the foolishness of it ;p)
French Time (1 hour ahead)
1700 - On board Pride of Calais cruise ship, crossing the English Channel
- Proceed via A1 highway passing by Aire de Souchez
- On coach entertainment; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang directed by Ian Fleming
2100 - The sight of State de France marks the journey into Paris
2200 - Rest in repose at Campanile Hotel in St. Quentin, a business area in Paris
31 DEC 2006
The walk started from Place De La Concorde - walked through Jardin Des Tuileriesa; vast, long walkway surrounded by naked trees among millions of people from different countries, stretching out along side the Seine, the Tuileries Gardens were created in 1564 by Queen Catherine de Medicis - detailed observation of the Louvre pyramid; the work of architect Ieoh Ming Pei - crossed the Seine towards Institut De France - street stalls of classing French paintings and books formed part of the street - arrived at Place Dolphine which situated across the Seine; a land that holds Saint Chapelle and the myth of the hunchback of who once upon a time rang the bell at Notre Dame - arrived at Pantheon, the major patriotic monumentin Paris, since 1885 when Victor Hugo’s funeral procession carried him to this burial spot, it has become the prestigious tomb of the most distinguished women and men of France, those whose works and spirit raised the Republic and honored humanity: Emile Zola, Marie Curie, Jean Moulin, and Alexander Dumas who wrote the novel entitled 'The Count of Monte Cristo' - arrived at Jardin Du Luxembourg; had a few minutes rest by sitting in the rest chair in the middle of l'observatoire while listening to the chirpings of the birds - walked along Boulevard St. Germain and had a wonderful French dessert at Latin Quarter - met a new French, Cameroonian-born friend; Christian - his eager intention to learn english slowly formed the rapport between us - as the night arrived; strolled along Avenue Des Champs Elysees (went into one of the shops and curiously appreciating the touch of Peugeout) a place of high end street shoppings towards Arc De Triomphe; a popular location for patriotic events and home to an unknown soldier - had dinner in Montparnasse - by midnight, stood beside a couple from Italy; among thousands of people waited for the new year's celebration in Palais De Chaillot; Eiffel Tower stood with sparkling elegance showering gold all over Parisien.
1 JAN 2007
Disneyland Paris - The child in this man jumped in joy, in a world of children accompanied by parents only the purity of innocence, I felt. My train of memories brought back my childhood inclinations; Snow White's dwarves, Pinocchio's nose, Beast's beauty, Star Wars' R2D2, Indiana Jones, Legends of the Wild West, Aladdin, Phantom Manor; they explained it all. The song 'It's A Small World' conveyed a message to the visitors that regardless from where we come from, it is our duty to make this planet a lovely and harmony place to live; only with the innocence of children in everyone's heart leads to such achievement.
2 JAN 2007
Journey back to the UK - had a half an hour stop at the duty free zone near Calais - reached Folkstone via Euro Tunnel - again, this mind opened up and I learned new perspectives from the Gallic land; and travel and observe are not a dichotomy, they are one worth of wisdom that must blends well.
The French are elegant, good self-appearance is imbued since birth, the love of arts and museums is nurtured since childhood, perfectionists in culinary, well known as cafe connoisseurs.
ps: Merci beacoup to Zhaf, Afny, and Christian for the French-words assistance and the joy shared in the romantic air of Paris, et Emir for giving me the second thoughts.