Mark Gillett

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Paris – A few notes

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I walked into a café, “une café et un croissant s’il vous plâit” I said in my very poor French for which I have no excuses.  I have now been here for over a year.

Something caught my eye on the floor and I peered down only to see a small white dog on a leash.  It was so refreshing; a dog in a café.  I have noticed more a more about how few hang ups the the French have compared to the English and not just the sex! How cctv and health and safety have not taken hold at the expense of normal human behaviour.

“Merci beaucoup”, my coffee arrives and my croissant on a napkin.  Men stand at the bar sipping their “café’s” and the dog sits quietly without a murmur.  I am sure the danger of walking out of the café with some unknown disease or chronic gastro-enteritis would no doubt put fear in the minds of many Brits who have become conditioned to the clinical behaviour and rules we now adhere to without much thought.

“Cia, au revoir” to of the men depart and are soon replaced by 3 more for café and petit dejuner.

I sip my café and ask for another – “un autre café, si vous plait?”.  The chap behind the bar is now familiar with my incredibly poor French but always smiles and is always nice.  I am on Avenue Niel not far from the Arc de Triumph but the trade is all local.  Tourists do not venture down to this more business like district.

I have fallen in love with Paris but more importantly fallen in love with a beautiful Parisienne.  Beautiful beyond belief actually and just thinking about her on this freezing January morning has freed up my mind to write.  She is off on her business meetings and I am suppose to be hard at work seeking contracts and assignments but somehow this is more important today.  You see, last night something horrible happened.  Not so horrible that you could not imagine but horrible for me.

The bar music is typical French and even today I feel like I am in wartime paris and the owners are part of the Resistance.  Its interspersed with pop, a strange mix but seems to be a radio station.  I have been in here many times but you need to sit and ‘be’ to really feel the atmosphere.

I drink my second café and feel awake. Almost too awake and the need to get to work.  But this is work too, I think.  I write for part of my living!

I take a glance up the hill to the Arc de Triumph and wonder how busy it might be.  How many people are standing on the top for the first time.  Usually young people these days with their lives ahead of them and then think back to when I stood at the top 18 months ago with my daughter and niece – the first time was back in 1984. We drove to Paris on the hottest day of the year and I have no air conditioning.  It was very painful.  When we got here we parked up and climbed the Arc and the Eiffel Tower.  Emily who was 8 at the time was exhausted but had a huge smile of satisfaction and wanted to tell everyone why her legs were “like jelly” and Gemma, my niece was also in awe as it was her first visit.

Like all major cities Paris is full of things to do.  Places to visit and sites to see.  Buildings to climb are also in abundance.  But Paris has so much more.  Its mix of French, latin, Moroccan, North African and Anglo Saxon is intriguing, beautiful.  Probably as London is to the non Brit but for me, Paris is special.

I look out of the café before I leave and can see, as usual, a zillion scooters.  This is scooter city of course.  There is so much traffic here that this has become the easiest way for the businessman (if I were in England I would have to say business person!) to get around to meetings.  Tee pavements are packed with them and on the road they weave in and out of the cars.  Often on the wrong side just to beat the queues and to get to the next very important meeting, or perhaps café.  In England this would be so frowned upon where cars and scooters all follow the law.  And the police cars drive at breakneck speed endangering hundreds in order to get to an accident or robbery callout.  I never made sense of this.

Its time to go, work calls and my Mac battery is low…..  My bill is in its little tray and it reminds of how expensive Paris has become in the lat three years!  I pay and leave.  “au revoir”.

Written by markgillett

January 12, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

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