Departures

21.03.09 — London to Paris 12:30pm

Listening to Tom Waits singing “Somewhere”, the suburbs of south west London a blur to my left, beside me the Marrakech and Madrid guides which will keep me entertained on the journey. I feel wonderfully calm, looking forward with excitement, and a small but healthy touch of anxiety, to the long journey ahead. This is a trip I have meant to do for some time now — I’m finally on the first leg of the longest train journey I’ve ever embarked upon. Tom’s “Blue Valentine” is the perfect accompaniment.

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22.03.09 — Paris 11:00am

The dull light of an overcast Parisian morning still hurts my eyes. Memories of sangria and cognac slowly filter through. We returned to an old haunt of mine, L’Ecurie, for steak and sangria in the claustrophobic cellar, then on to the 10 Bar in Odéon to continue the sangria. The same grinning and winking barman served us, we watched as he gleefully emptied litre after litre of red wine into a barrel, followed by a bottle of anonymous clear alcohol, for which I’m blaming my hangover. Squeezed onto a tiny table in the cramped wine cellar, we shared the evening with a young student crowd. The atmosphere was refreshingly clear compared to previous visits, as the locals now venture outside for their Gauloises Blondes. Parisian bars without clouds of smoke is a new experience, it’ll take a little getting used to. I’m going to head to the Pompidou today for some much needed culture, hangover permitting.

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22.03.09 — Paris 4:00pm

Some good exhibitions today — a visit to the Pompidou led to a surprise show, a retrospective of Alexander Calder. Split into two parts, the curation was excellent and the sense of childish wonder came across entirely. I particularly liked the use of spotlights on his wire sculptures, adding, literally, another dimension for the viewer. Wonderful and incredibly serene. Also at the Pompidou, the Voids exhibit left me cold — I might have enjoyed it under other circumstances but my fuzzy hung-over brain could not happily process the existential content. Shame. Later in the day we visited the Maison Européenne de la Photographie which had five concurrent exhibits. One or two were not really worth the effort, but some quality black and white work, in particular some modern ethnographical work which was fascinating. By this time I was relatively clear headed and able to appreciate the subtlety of the work. A successful day of culture.