Monday, 31 May 2010
A rainy Thursday in May, so much for springtime in Paris
In Charles Stross' The Merchant Princes series of books the characters are divided into clans and because these books combine science fiction, alternative reality and general all-round nuttiness the device these characters employ to move from one world to another, known as world-walking, seems entirely plausible. They stare at a design called a clan knot and before you know it they disappear through a portal and end up in who knows where.
I was reminded of this knotwork device last week as we were about to board Eurostar. We'd printed out our tickets at home and had to hold our own knotwork (otherwise known as a bar code) against a reader before we could pass through our own portal called security and passport control. Our train was on time, comfortable and included genial neighbours and was over before we knew it. Honestly, it takes longer for us to get to Newcastle than it does to Paris and in that sense Paris does not feel as though it is in another country.
Earlier this year I'd enjoyed reading Marta Szabo's account of her recent trip to Paris which you'll find here and it is a fascinating read as it was her first trip to the city. This was definitely not my first visit - and I'm beginning to feel as though it could become a second home - in that it has that comfortable old pair of slippers feel. We were staying with friends from Canada who every year for the last four years have rented the same small apartment in the Latin Quarter and they generously lend us the sofa bed. Whenever we see them, either in the UK or France, we always pick up where we left off. I hadn't seen them for two years but it might as well have been two weeks ago - there's always plenty to talk about.
We always buy a two-day museum pass and belt around the city on foot wearing ourselves out and now I am back home in London I'm recuperating by writing this while camped out on the sofa. One place I have never been is the Conciergerie. It began life as a palace and ended up as a prison that had the reputation for being one of the toughest. It held many people the State regarded as dispensable during the French Revolution including the Queen, Marie-Antionette and Charlotte Corday who murdered Marat in his bath. Most prisoners were there for only a short time before being sentenced and dispatched but Charlotte Corday was there long enough, and was presumably wealthy enough, to have her portrait painted before she waved farewell. Perhaps it took her mind off thoughts of the guillotine.
Only the lower part of the medieval halls exists now and it is a large space with vaulted ceilings built in a warm coloured brick. It is uncluttered by monuments and you can simply sit in it and soak up the atmosphere which is calm and peaceful, nothing like a prison but oddly more like large church.
Anyway, bye for now and more of our trip another day.