Last week I spent four lovely, bitter-sweet days in Paris. Unfortunately I forgot my camera home so it will be difficult to convey the freshness and excitement that were omnipresent in the streets during these first several spring days.
For me this trip was the real return to the place where I spent a year in 1995/96. Ever since I have been to Paris twice but only for several hours and in rather unhappy circumstances. So, I needed this trip just to convince myself that I can be in Paris without something bad really happening. It was also a reconciliation trip with my past self of 13 years ago. I had to thread in my past steps, take the same streets and squares just to prove to myself that there is still a connection between my old and new self, some continuity. I had to do this as well in order to feel the pain of the passing time and to recognize and accept that I have also changed. It was a process of mourning and acceptance.
But....of course it was a lovely trip as well. I deliberately took a hotel in the very centre, Le Quartier Latin, the end of Rue des Ecoles, close to L'Institut du Monde Arabe. I took the RER from the airport and got off at St Michele and my heart was in my throat when I went out and dived in the first real spring evening, in a neighbourhood which is loved not only by me.
I dropped my bags in the hotel and then took a huge walk along St Germain des Pres, the St Michele fountain, this wonderful neighbourhood between there and l'Eglise St Germain where I had some Vietnamese food, then Rue St. Pere, walked along the Seine at dusk, crossed the river, walked past Chatelet and Rue St Martin, entered into Le Marais, had a falafel in Rue Roserie, reached Place des Vosges, crossed the two big boulevards and the market Richard Lenoir into Rue de la Roquette and rue de Lappe, walked to our flat at 49 rue de Charonne and then back through Rue des Faubourg St Antoine, across La Bastille to Hotel de Ville, crossed L'Ile St Louis and was back to my hotel. That's a huge and exciting walk for those who know Paris but the itinerary would not mean much to the others.
The next day I started the day with some work in a cafe in the Place des Contrescarpe, the fragile, tiny square at the upper end of Rue Moufftard. I met my friend Alexandre Schnell who is already a professor in philosophy at La Sorbonne and with whom I am really proud. Alex had a lecture in a post-strike university (Sarkozy is giving it a try to reform the statute of the researchers) and then we spent an hour sunbathing and discussing life in Les Jardins des Luxembourg. Although Alex is an expert in time he would not tell me why it flies so fast. Then we went to cool down in a small Moroccan restaurant where we had mergez couscous. Alex played the bad guy criticizing the quality of beer but when the owner got really pissed I played the good guy saying that the couscous was really tasty which was the case.
Then the afternoon and the whole next day I had meetings but in the evening I travelled to Joigny in Burgundy to spend an evening in Alex's beautiful newly renovated house and to meet his new partner, Aurelie, and his 5-month old baby Anselm. Anselm gave me a happy smile and it was obvious he was already musing over the issue of time in Chinese culture. I am saying this because Aurelie is an anthropologist dealing with China and Alex is the master of time. We had a lovely evening discussing among other things why Chinese rip the skin and then dismember those who have assaulted the king and why these guys take this in ecstasy. We also talked about Chinese language and dialects, life in the countryside and what not.
The next day I travelled directly to Lille in Northern France where I had good meetings before returning to Paris for the evening to meet my old friend Krasi. Krasi is an excellent translator from French to Bulgarian and vice-versa and an interesting and amusing person. Although it is not easy to take the floor in Krasi's presence I didn't mind that arrangement as I was happy to listen to him, life in Paris, his changing attitude to the city, his working experience, the challenge of translating Arab poets into Bulgarian through French and many other things. Well, he talked, I listened. Now, I know how he is doing and he doesn't know how I am doing.
The next morning I had another adventure and I almost missed my plane as the trains didn't work so I and an Uruguayan girl had to be quick enough to get a taxi from Gare du Nord before hundreds of others. I was at the check-in 29 min before take off but managed to make it again.
* First line from Cole Porter's song 'I Love Paris'
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