Tuesday September 13
Paris is a full belly, the Metro subterranean blood vessels stretching beneath taut skin carrying sight-devouring tourists from attraction to attraction. Normally I’m only in Paris for a couple of days and a sense of urgency keeps me underground on the Metro. But as this visit is longer time is affoded to walk. It’s a surprise to find that Place de la Madelaine, Place Vendome and Place Concorde are just minutes apart on foot. Place Vendome, where Lady Di left the Ritz and then crashed. Place Concorde where Marie-Antoinette lost her head. Paris can be rough on royalty. When the history of violence is written, Paris will be good for a couple of chapters. Templar Knights burnt at the stake, bishops tortured on the grill, St Dennis carrying his martyred head through the streets of Montmartre, The Terror, The Commune, the Gestapo knocking on your door, Lady Di’s car crash. The sun sets over Concorde.
Wednesday, September 14
Jacqueline’s three-hour train journey from Nancy to Gare de l’Est is delayed by one hour and fifteen minutes “du a un acte de malveillance.” We buy a sandwich and wait. A young man asks customers at the bar for money. He is quietly agitated. A pigeon glides into the entry hall and lands on the floor. It is the same colour and pattern as the marble tiles. The pigeon has been painted by Rene Magritte. Jacqueline’s train arrives. She looks frail.
Thursday, September 15
Colette takes us to La Taroudant II, a Tunisian restaurant in rue Capucine. Colette had worked in Tunisia and knows the food.
Couscous au mechoui avec merguez
Vin marocain rose (guerrouane)
Desert – le mystere (ice cream)
We sit amongst flashing fairy lights, tiles like Byzantine mosaics, brass teapots, stained glass lampshades, long barrelled rifles and daggers. Joelle, Jacqueline and Colette dip sugar cubes into fig liquor. La Tarouant II is named after an oasis.
The bell rings at the cemetery, its 5.45 pm, time for visitors to leave. The sun will be setting in 2 hours. 7.30 pm sitting on a bench on the corner of rue Des Saules and rue Cortot with the Nikon on my lap, I’m asked if I know where Vincent Van Gogh lived.
Around the corner at 54 rue Lepic.
I’m asked what I’m doing?
I’m waiting for the streetlights to come on.
I’m told last night they came on at 8.15 pm.
Friday, September 16
The sky is grey it’s raining. The walk long to rue du Quatre Septembre and the Bourse. The rain is steady so into the Monoprix to buy an umbrella. A scrawny young man talks to the matronly cash register operator. He is quietly spoken and repeats his request a couple of times. She finally understands. He wants sex she says. The French flag on the roof of the Bourse spoils the Greek temple look and the drizzling rain continues all the way back to avenue Rachel.
Lunch is with Bertrand at well worn and authentic Restaurant Tifinagh. High school students hand rolling cigaretttes occupy one table and a couple occupies another. The woman is from Brassai’s book, The Secret Paris of the 30s. She has peroxide green hair, smokes tailor made cigarettes from a red packet and is wearing an over designed pink leather jacket. She never smiles as she talks. Her male companion nods between bites of cake off a fork. She is probably a local. I see her up at rue Lepic a few days later.
A huge full moon rises over Sacre – Coeur.