10 November, 2012

Birthday and Paris

As a belated birthday pressie I have been to Paris for 4 days, Two days were partly used for travelling up and down there, but it was great. My skin had not been good at all the weeks before and I had spotted my first seb derm/eczema rashes, due to the colder weather, so wasn't too thrilled to leave my micro climate at home initially. I was red in the car and had a blanket with me to cuddle up in. I noticed over the years that I am most red and swollen and burned up when it is cold outside. I thought for a long time that this was actually the best weather, fall and winter with nice cold air, but like I wrote earlier, it is the worst in fact. So I changed my tactics recently and put the air ventilation on slightly warmer air. Just very mildly warmed up, like a spring breeze, say 16 degrees, but not 8 degrees like I used to. I am less red and not too flushed then and I can handle indoor temperatures way better.

The drive up to Paris was nice.  Although I felt slightly moody still. Tried to imagine worse situations however and to talk myself into being very content with all the things I have in my life. I worked on a massive university publication, a series of 13 books about the reception of the modern art by Dutch art critics and in the media. I was asked by my uni prof and was flattered with it, and liked the work immensely. But for a long time it was just a project without funding, and without a publisher even. I don’t care about money, so I was fine with that and I trusted on it that there would be publishers along the way. And they came. Only to go bankrupt some time later.. It has something to do with the difficult times publishers have nowadays with the existence of e-books etc. But the contracts were signed and when the last one dropped out recently, it was a massive blow for us all. So I was grumping about that too. I am not sure if I want to spend more time and energy on highly rewarding and challenging work that doesn’t pay a thing. I can get round, and I am thankful that I can do something that I am good at and that I like, to be able to work during unorthodox times and most of all I like the feeling that I am 'contributing' something to the world. Even if nobody might read those books :D Just, to be occupied with it and finish something you start, makes me feel good I guess. I had high hopes and aspirations as a starting student. Not too much actually came from them, although I am proud that I finished my studies and side studies in a decent time frame, despite it all. Have work. Managed to maintain some good friendships.

Had a phase of just avoiding anything and anyone when I had a flare, but managed to find ways to go out now no matter what. Stick to promises regardless of. So that changed somewhat, but I am still very picky with friends and my first (and second) reaction to invitations for things are usually No and No. In my mind that is haha, in reality I probably say yes and then hope something comes up so that it gets cancelled :D SO, what better place to go to than Paris :)  Where the beautiful, slim (!) ladies tiptoe over the streets with adoring chocolate box like children besides them. And that is no romanticism, I have been to Paris often enough to know this as a fact. But of course I didn’t go there for that. I was taken there for my birthday. I had Laura Marling on the cd player once more on the way there. I should know by now that I can only handle her when in splendid spirits. But as soon as we entered the Paris periferique all started to lighten up. Arrived around 10 pm and I had looked up a cheap garage to park the car for 3 days. I wanted to go to a hotel in Montmartre after that, but the car was parked in the 13th Arrondissement, near Gobelins, and it was a massive undertaking to go all the way to Montmartre at this time of night and being tired from the long drive. In the street where we parked, we saw another hotel and it was nice and cheap and clean, so we stayed there. It was pretty perfect finding we found out later, costing only €64 euro per night for a double room and everything was at a walking distance. Well, for walkers like us. We walked through the 13th arrondissement, to the Panthéon and further to the Seine. One big street from our place we walked through a new upcoming student area which was beautiful. 
Very lively café’s and little restaurants, very clean, lots of bohemian dressed young students everywhere. We sat down and there were a bunch of girls sitting at the café outside smoking and singing songs. We guessed they were from the conservatorium and I managed to make a small video (scroll down for it). Was thrilled to have found this area. We walked for 3 hours and made pictures of the things that caught my eye. I tried to use my new camera, given on my birthday, to try and capture some ‘old Paris’, no ruined by neon lightning and capitalism etc. So old fashioned things. I will add some pictures later. I also brought my new Meindl walking shoes, that are fabulous. Even being a bit too heavy myself, and struggling to walk for hours on bad shoes, I found myself easily walking everywhere now. The shoes really seemed to walk by themselves! 

I had asked the hotel receptionist, a big dark trunk of a man who was very friendly but who always seemed to sleep in the evening when he was on duty, if he could put my two cold packs in the fridge. He didn't seem to understand why I wanted to have cold packs when it was 12 degrees outside haha, but I fainted a tooth ache. I had brought my small clip on ventilator and we switched the central heating off in the room. Because it was fresh and nice outside and not too cold or too warm. The next day we walked first to the Marais. We passed ‘our’ nice streets again and saw what it looked like in day light, Still very nice. Had a drink and a yummie pain au chocolat and in the Marais it was busy as usual. It is the old Jewish neighborhood and I love it there. They still have old fashioned family shops there, kosher bakeries and falafel eateries. Maybe it are my far Polish roots (the Hollak family from gran's side and my mums grandfather was Polish as well), or my friends jewish background but I have this thing with wallowing music. Beirut, folk music, Balkan sounds or just modern bands like The Boxer Rebellion. I just like sorrowful music. Listen to the soundtrack from Everything is Illuminated (but forget about the movie itself, the book is much much better) and you get the 'feel' perhaps. So I was happy walking there and a boy with a kippah on his head started to make no signs with his hands when he saw my camera (making agitated horizontal movements with his hand before his chest). Yeah right. It did however keep me from making a great shot from a bakery woman sitting outside puffing on her cigarette, with her old fashioned bakery clothes on and a tichel like head band on. Really too bad. But I also understood he wanted to prevent the place from becoming a tourist spot. Although, in fairness, it already is and I guess they do good business too because of that. You can't have it all (and how well do I know that phrase), so I still made a few shots anyway :)

We walked further to the Tuileries, passed the Louvre first and walked in the park, sat down for a drink and X. had some food and ordered chips. At this point I was sortof hungry, but we had an appointment with friends later that afternoon for the art exhibition of the female friend, and we were supposed to go out to dinner with them. I feared making myself very flushed when I ate the chips he ordered, so I stuck to mineral water. So very Paris chic, oh yeah baby. I made a ghastly picture of the Eiffel Tower, that turned out kind of funny in the end, as it is totally faded out and out of focus, making it less of a tacky, predictable picture perhaps. We later made another one of ourselves pointing at 'it', in the same out of focus style (but this time intentionally). We went to the gallery area in Rue de Seine, in the 5th Arrondissement and X. tried to find some galleries that he liked for his own work. He sells just enough at home to come by, but it's not easy, yet he gets very good reviews and posh people like to buy it. But it was nerve wrecking for him to go to the grumpy Parisian galerists and 'offer' them his portfolio. We visited an exhibition of a friendly French guy who's work resembled X's work a lot: he is called Yan Marczewski and we liked his work a lot. He was not too posh to talk to us either and was actually very nice to talk to. But the gallery owner himself was far less friendly. We stood in front of his desk for at least half a minute before he looked up from his work, gave us a complacent look and when X gave his cards with work and talked a bit to him, he just nodded, said thanks and put it on a stash of paper and continued with his work. Sigh.... Dreadful.

Dinner with the friends was really nice, although I had dreaded it. Not because of the dinner (hey, I love food), but because I had such a long and full day already. Normally I plan such things ahead, I try to eat healthy and stay cool the days ahead and bring cold packs and a bag of small ice cubes.  Now I had strained myself all day, hadn’t been home to ‘cool down’, no cooling down opportunities really (the one I brought that morning had been warm by 11 am) and I had eaten a pain au chocolat. But I wasn’t too flushed, just rosy and red. That changed in the restaurant. It was hot in there and although I ordered water with lots of ice cubes, I did heat up a lot. X commented quietly to me that I had turned very red and if all was ok and if I could handle it in there. But it was a good atmos and we had so much fun with the coupled friends, that I tried to ignore my face. The strange thing is, that there is a pattern in the flushing sometimes. There is the ongoing dreadfully painful hot throbbing flush, or there is the flush that I had now: it is warm and tingly and tight and painful, but not excruciating and when I sit it out, drink iced water and relax, I sometimes find it to clear up by itself in an hour or two. Like I have to ride it out or something. So by 10.30 X whispered to me that I looked very pale all of the sudden. I had just finished the tiramisu and superstitiously (wishful thinking more actually) said it must have been that desert. Can I have another one now? :)  But I doubt it had anything to do with the tiramisu. I had nice lamb chops with small potatoes as well and salad with goats cheese as a starter, that I couldn’t eat for the biggest part, because they had put vinegar on it instead of the olive oil I had asked. Normally I would call the waiter and apologize and explain but now I was more preoccupied with my red face and just left it. It was a really fun night and I was very happy that I could sit it out. We walked for an hour afterwards to the other side of the Seine for a drink in a bar and I was still pale. I had apricot juice there, while the others had become very tipsy from the wine and beers. We stayed in the bar with nice jazz music for an hour and then made the long walk back to the hotel.

The next day we walked to the Montmartre and that was a great place. I have been in Paris a lot of times and the first time was at the age of 17 with high school. It was magical, I was so impressed with the city and we also visited Montmartre. It is marked by the Sacre Coeur, that towers over the area, and is built up a hill. So you have to walk many steps! It was originally a village outside Paris and in the 19th century it became a bohemian area, where many artists had their studios, such as Monet, Van Gogh, Modigliani, Mondriaan, Dali and of course Picasso. The Dutch writer Guus Luijters wrote a great book about it, Montmartre Really Existed (I couldn't find an English translation unfortunately). We walked to the Lapin Agile and looked at the vineyards where the black cat sign is attached to a house. Then, a real black cat appeared! It sat in the vineyard and looked about to disappear when I could call it and keep it interested. Then it sat down in an almost similar position as the famous Black Cat and I managed to make a picture as well. We walked past the many artists who paint at the square on top of the mountain for tourists and saw a nice band playing at the steps of the Montmartre. We had lunch at the bottom of the Sacre Coeur and then walked through Pigalle (very ugly and tacky during the day, of you have to go, do it at night). We walked took the subway for the first time back to the hotel for a freshening up and had dinner with 2 good friends who live in Paris. They talked about the new movie he is making (movie producer and maker) and it was again much more fun than I had expected. before going there I had even wallowed that I didn't want to go. 
The subway trip had made me flushed and hot and I was so tired from all the walking and sightseeing. I could stay in the hotel alone, but that wasn't an appealing thought either. And I normally don't go out to dinner weekly or anything like that, or to any outdoor activity actually, so I went anyway. Same thing happened, it was warm in the restaurant ( a lovely place called Melac, www.melac.fr). Gorgeous food, I had the best duck with the most delicious honey and orange sauce I ever had). Crème brûlée from chestnuts at the end and we took a cap back to the hotel. I was well red by then however, and burned up but the night had been so nice and
the food so good and we had laughed, so I took it for granted.
It felt like I had a smell of the real life out there. Just as I had that during my trip to Australia, or during any other trip in fact. And when we arrived back home the next evening after a full day of driving, I felt sad again. When I had felt so alive and so much less bored the days before. I still have to get used to the every day drear at the moment. But had a lovely few days. I just saw Paris!

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