News. Chucky doesn't think his stay in Dublin was long enough, and Christopher
Reeve has just been made a quadriplegic.
Catalogued all 94 stone forts in Clare in one day. Well, that's it for a couple
of months. And tonight, Chuck is spending the night in Meath, foregoing
the pleasure of meeting me at the Museum.
Pat Wallace has just finished his speech and has asked the Minister to officially
open the exhibition. Can't figure out if he's speaking Irish, or has taken advantage
of the free wine and beer. Had both the Budweiser (a bit thin) and the Heinekin
(better) myself. I cannot understand what on Earth he's on about, he has a very
reedy, whiney voice, and even though he has now apparently switched to English.
Sinead O'Connor. I still can't believe this. At the reception for the opening
of the Viking Exhibition I have just met and spoken to Sinead O'Connor, after
being introduced to her by Barra, as "he's from Australia", and then
me telling her that "I'll be seeing you tomorrow night." I'm trying
madly not to look like a starstruck fool, which is exactly what I am at the
"Good," she replied, then murmured a bit, then bobbed.
Jesus Mother Mary. This is a truly Zen Moment.
Ground Floor of the National Museum,
next to one of the display cabinets.
Where I met Sinead O'Connor.
didn't get her phone-number ...
The footpath to Golden Lane is nearly complete. By the time we're back from
France there'll be people living there, all the travellers, deserted mothers,
alcoholic fathers, drug peddlers, and the entire crew that sell the 'Big Issues'
on the streets. The guy with the green mohawk will probably have a nice little
two-storey, with garden, so he can grow his dope at home. Isn't the Dublin Corporation
wonderful, being so considerate?
McGuinness has just won tickets to see Sinead Lohan at the La Touche hotel in
Greystones, with a copy of her new single "Bee in a Bottle" thrown
in, for being the third caller to 2FM, Wicklow radio. She was really pleased.
and the youngest
Roman Catholic priest has resigned, after his girlfriend became pregnant.
Maybe the devil made him do it.
And, at about
2:15 this morning, those thousand of us who'd packed in like live sheep ready
for export, made our way out through the maze. This time complicated by the
rain puddles, unlit.
Concert began at
12:30, and after 45 minutes of listening to pre-recorded reggae, The Israelite,
"money in my pocket, but no love", and all the rest. There's more than a thousand
here, I thought, the security must be getting headjobs galore.
Cheers. The band and Sinead are on, finally. The Emporers New Clothes, and the
crowded hordes cheering her like a returned hero. Famine. A song about not being an animal, like the crocodile in Dublin zoo. Others,
a truly awesome I
Am Stretched On Your Grave, another done accapella with the
two other women in the band, Thank You For Hearing Me, another to all the "Johns"
in her life, and during the show, Sinead's thrown a pair of black jocks, she
says she'd like more, but she 'recognizes' these ones. And, at the end, she's
handed a red rose. Mind Games, "my favourite John Lennon song," she says, then
another about there being life beyond your mothers' garden, others, then Fire
On Babylon. Pity that Troy wasn't on the menu. Waves, bye, off.
Back on for the planned encore. "An experiment," she says, and introduces Paddy
Maloney. Bejaysus, I'm going clapclapclap, probably the only time I'll get to
see a Chieftain for real. Raglan Road, Paddy playing whistle. He's off. She
finished with The Harder They Come, the Jimmy Cliff anthem. Totally right.
The woman in front of me must have become very familiar with the pattern of
my breathing as I become familiar with the pattern of her back, she had dark,
curly hair, and I imagined her to be totally gorgeous, but no, she wasn't.
And the bloke nearby who'd been kissed by his girlfriend, and didn't shoe much
enthusiasm in returning the affection, fainted at the end of Fire On Babylon.
And the bars closing at 12:30, and people making their way from one side to
the other, pushing and cramming bodies into each other. And a totally pathetic
t-shirt stall. Choice of two designs. The light blue Universal Mother cover
£15, or a white symbol one, £10. One the way out, touts selling other bootleg
t-shirts. I resist, but wasn't seriously tempted anyway.
Not enjoying the crowd, being packed in like tuna. But the sound was great,
a mixer that's not deaf, and wishing I had a ticket for tonight. Yes, I'd crowd
in there again. Tighter, if I had to.
I don't think
I've ever seen an entirely gaffitteed street before.
All declaring an undying love for U2. Wish I had a spray can.
So does Liam.
Platform 5, to your left," said the ticket collector. Down,
through the arch, to platform 5. The trains there. We're sharing the carriage
with a troop of girl scouts ...
.. who are apparently off to France too, "Montpelier, down south."
.. and the scout leaders have just taken some kind of Leader vote. Brenda? Yes,
it's Brenda. Good leadership potential there ...
.. and the girl scouts have taken up the entire smoking section of this carriage
Rosslare Harbour. Departure tax, £3 each. Boarding passes to the left,
up the escalators, through the bar. Our bateau is the St Patrick II.
Finally on the boat. We've claimed our corner of 'The Coffee Dock'.
"You haf to
wake oop !"
"Vodka! Yoo haf to drink vodka wit oos!"
Some stupid Günter is waking up the sleepers, me, then the girlscouts on
the other side. The girls accept, they're pissed anyway, but I'm still in stunned-mullet-mode.
Jaysus, I'm offered a vodka at four in the morning. No thanks. Brenda, the newly-elected
leader, has either been drinking vodka with Günter and Adolf, in which
case by tomorrow she'll undoubtedly be learning
the French for "a hangover cure, sil vous plait", or she also
passed out on the couch, in which case I can truly state that, yes, I slept
with Brenda the girl scout.
Somehow this room got cleaned while I was asleep.
Had a shower, warm until I figured out the Hot control, then it was brilliant,
so I had another one. 'Flush', in French, is 'rinçage'. Amazing what
you pick up on the way.
and the girl scouts are being hugely entertained by the 'helicopter engineer',
who has an uncle in Sydney, apparently, and he offers me a vodka on the strength
of it. Bejaysus, second time this morning I've been offered vodka. People seem
extraordinarily interested in getting vodka into girl scouts. Speaking of such,
wonder-leader Brenda hasn't appeared yet ...
In Paris, I want to re-enact the Nescafe ad. Me, storming out of some Parisian
cafe after some tiff with C, Shannon looking on shocked, but her expression
changing as I stroll back in, although I doubt the waitress with reward me with
a free coffee. Wonder what the French for waitress is? Madamoiselle, I think.
Anyway, the mademoiselle probably won't have seen the ad, so I may have to bribe
her. Don't know the French for 'bribe', but 'thank you, this is for you' is
'merci, voici pour vous'.
As we departez twenty-five minutes late, then do we arrivez vingt-cinq minutes
tôt too ?
We're due in at 2:15 (Irish time), which suddenly becomes 3:15 (French time).
Thought the 'polite' was the police at first, after drug-smugglers, was about
to dob in Brenda.
Le Havre Port de l'Europe.
There was no customs check, just a stamping of passports. Directions to l'gare
after finding a Barclays Bank and getting 2000 francs. At l'gare, l'billet chick
writes down the connections we have to make to get to Orleans. Quai 3.
Nearing Paris centre. L'Tour Eiffel, over there. But we're basically passing
metro, to Sevres-Babylon. 7f50.
Second metro. To gare D'Austerlitz. Getting the hang of this again, it all comes
I hope to God we're on the right train. Chateaubriant carriage.
Yep, there's a castle on that hill. And I could kill for an ice-cream. Chocolate,
in a cone, with cherry on top.
Next train. Les Aubrais-Orleons, to Orleans, about five minutes. No ice-cream
here, either. J'faim. We all are.
4 'shoarmas', with tartare and harissa, from some tiny takeway place near the
hostel. I hope they're something like souvlaki's. Got a taxi from Orleans station
to the Youth Hostel, with fifteen minutes to spare before it closed. 50 francs.
Hard to believe,
but we're in France.
Really in the
mood for a breadstick and a croissant, and a chocolate chaude.
Bought the croissants at some corner shop, but now we're having the chocolate
chaude in 'La Florence'. In an arcade. It's fabulous. It's very Gallic, and
there's a chick smoking over there, the smoke curling elegantly, must be Gaulois.
A supermarche. And pineapples really are ananas, and grapefruit is really pamplemousse,
and apples are pommes and potatoes are really pomme de terres, and grapes, which
Liam's in a humongous queue to buy, really are raisins. All those French teachers
I had weren't bullshitting moi.
The walk begins.
Chapel-St-Mesmin. So beautiful, C can hardly believe it.
La Fôret. So beautiful, I can hardly believe it.
Saint Ay. We've just ordered ice-creams, I think. Yes, it's arrived, in noir
art-nouveau type glasses, with masses of cream.
Supermarche. Miel Pops! Riz! Choco Pops! Pétales de blé Chocolate!
And, as it turns out, the place we had the ice-creams is the only place to stay
in Saint Ay. L'Orangerie
A bier et une vin rouge. Comes to 29f. Hang the expense. And above us, the kids
are watching TV. David Hasselhoff is speaking French. So is Kit, the French-speaking
car. And later, 'On The Waterfront', which is, apparently, 'Sur le Quais'. Fair
Meung-sur-Loire is, I think, the most beautiful town I have ever seen. Ever.
Winding streets revealing more winding streets. The Eglais, a Gothic essay in
In the Café du Commerce, reading the menu, are cakes 'gateaux' ?
Hamburger frites 39,50f
Hamburger à cheval frites 42,50f
and I've just been served a 'café noir' in the smallest cup I've ever seen.
It's a tad bigger than a thimble, but not much. Oh well, the Francais experience.
French music plays on the radio. Le café est strong, formidablé, and
they really do say "Bon Appetit".
Sitting in a kind of snug, with small green-tiled tables, lead-lights overhanging
All the "Footpaths
of Europe : Walks in the Loire Valley" book has to say about this place
13th century church, with an 11th century
spire, dedicated to Saint Liphard, built on the site
where this monk founded a monastery in the 6th
century. The 13th century château adjoining the
church, residence of the bishops of Orléans. Famous
local wines are Gris Meunier and Auvernat.
On our way, again, unfortunately. Wish we never have to leave, I could grow
On the train to Mer. 2nd class, but that's d'accord. Through verde Français
En Mer, en centre ville, en jardin. Manger l'petit dejeuner. Yoplait en pain
Mer looks like a nice enough town.
Used to be that if
you made l'attempt to parlez-vous Francais initially, l'Francais would make
l'attempt to parlez-vouz l'Anglais. Ne pas, anymore. Now, if you je ne comprend-pas
l'Francais, they speak Francais slower, as though they were dealing with some
kind of retardé. Not true in every case, but it's l'general rule. Maybe
in Paris it's different, more cosmopolitan. Maybe they're just not very used
to d'touristiques in le petit Francais villes.
Chambord 10 k's
Over the bridge crossing the Loire. To Muides sur Loire. Looks like a Francais
On the way to Saint Dye, 4k's. It's hot, we have almost no water. Tell the kids
the old Scout survival technique of keeping your mouth shut if you've little
eau. It works, it's brilliant.
We have two rooms, in 'la Renaissance'. Utterly bourgeois.
To describe Saint
Dye sur Loire as picturesque would be understating it. C wants to draw it.
All of it
Buying supplies. The bread and and chocolate for dejeuner. Shop assistants speak
text book French. "Bonjour," when you walk in, counting out the appropriate
change, and "merci, au revoir," when you leave.
Down in the ivy-covered courtyard of le Renaissance. Two bottles of Kronenbourg,
now there's a beer worth the name.
From St Dye-sur-Loire, we've walked to Chambord. Through Pierre's farm, the
trail looked like a well-tractored path, through Pierre's wheat field, where
l'path was less well kept. Through Pierre's fôret, which was trés
pleasant, then through some more of Pierre's fields. To l'Parc de Chambord.
Right down the road, a spire of the chateau is visible, but we're taking the
apparently more scenic route, through yet another fôret.
At the entrance,
there's a triangular sign, warning motorists of prancing deer. Shannon thinks
it looks like Blitzen, Liam's vote is Donner. And next to that, another sign
'Espale Ouvert au Public', whatever that means. In the fôret yet more signs,
one warning of wild boars. 'Lets Go : Frogging' says that if you're lucky you'll
see a wild boar, hope the author of that little gem gets lucky some time.
Salle Francois Sommer, the hunting lodge, the walls decorate with dead animals,
the boar, foxes and ibexes, and chandeliers made from antlers, and antlered
skulls, and tapestries of the boar hunt, and the tapestry by the fireplace has
two men fighting. Did they hunt humans too ?
And six hours to wait for l'bus to Blois. What's the French for 'feckin' hell'
? Still, l'pique-nique lunch avec encore baguettes, with the view of Chambord,
just, there. Not quite floating, but light, its extravaganza of a roof standing,
and the 3.6k walk to Chausse-le-Comte was a breeze, although C described the
forest as feeling 'slightly sinister'. This place is described as a 'hamlet',
but there's not a Shakespearean sentence being spoken anywhere.
Husseau-sur-Cosson. Et sacre-bleu, C has just bought trois sacs d'cacahuettes,
et eau, now she's on a search and destroy mission for a patisserie.
The bus for
Blois leaves at 6:45, from outside l'pharmacie. The only one. Only une bus per
day. As it turns out, we were the only passengers, and the driver appeared totally
nonplussed about actually picking up passengers, had no idea about the fare,
had to check his 'tarrif billet' book to work it out. 12f each, eventually.
Probably gave him a shock to actually have passengers, probably talk about it
for weeks with all his French mates down at the Blois bus depot.
Blois .. bleeaaagghhh. Hi-rise apartments and it's as ugly as hell. The room
we have is, something else entirely, no windows, but if you stand on Liam's
bed, and peer through the gap of the opened skylight, you get a really ordinary
view of the Blois railway station.
And this city had better produce something spectacular tomorrow, as, so far,
C and the kids have been hassled by some gold-medallioned shite in the park,
who must have been waiting and watching, we've been ripped off by some fat slag
serving in a pub called The Garden Bar, and we could leave right now, except
the washing's gotta be done. Why is it that you can stay in the cheapest room
in town, eat rolls in the park, buy the cheapest bottled water, and then get
ripped off in the first bar you decide to have a drink in. 20f for a Coke, 75f
Dublin is supposed to be a dangerous city, but I've never felt seriously threatened
as much as I do here.
We're going to Amboise tomorrow, on the 10:34 train. It must be better than
this hole of a place.
I expected my tirade that ended with "you stupid French fecks" to
have received a round of applause, but no, they just thought it was good. Wishing,
at the time, that I knew how to say it in French. The people who run the Youth
Hostel here, should be taken out and shot. Complete arseholes. Couldn't be bothered
letting anybody know that the Hostel was completely booked out. How long does
a note take to write?
Anyway, C thinks
that finding this place, the Auberge de Mail, was a miracle. Moi, l'miracle
homme. Yeah, right. So after refusing to pay 520f per night at the l'Lion D'Or,
and finding the 340f Hotel de France booked out, and leaving C in a state of
catatonic panic, try a few places. Walk on, one place, I'd have to take two
doubles, totals 420f. Merci, but non merci pas. Further on, find this place,
en chambre pour en famille .. quatre personnes, deus adults et deus enfants
"Qui," replies the seriously cute one, who is, no doubt, impressed
by my pathetic French.
"Quelle-el le prix ?"
She points. 260f. I silently whoop with joy.
"Voulez-vous visage le chamber ?" and she indicates that I should
look at the room. By this time, I'd haven taken anything. Nothing could have
been worse than Blois anyway. Up the weird steps.
We have trois nuits here.
and C has every intention of getting utterly pissed on the blanc vin, from the
enormous plastic Dunnes cup. Back from the ice-cream search-and-destroy mission.
Norgen-Vaas is 19f a shot, forget it. 3 eskimaux, 5f each, now that's more like
it. I chocolate et 2 noisette, et un Coke from the 5f machine.
But the best thing about this place, is that that you can climb out the window
onto the balcony, take a chair if you want, and just gaze out, over the road,
past the small carpark, behind the rising green embankment to a stone wall,
and just beyond that, La Loire.
Why does the 'Brasserie de l'Hotel de Ville' have a large army jeep pictured
in its wall? And what's a 'hippocamp'? A camp for hippies?
is everything that Blois is not.
It's beautiful, and the people are nice.
In the centre of town there's shops selling swords. I could buy an 'Excalibur'
by 995f, a 'Christopher Columb' 1210f, a 'Roland' 1360f, a 'Conan' which is
apparently a bargain at only 1690f, a 'Lancelot du Lac' 1080f, or a 'Charlmagne'
Like the Conan. Or go the whole hog, and the suit of armor of my dreams could
be mine for only 12900f. Cool.
But, over the road, the Conan is a mere 1584f, and a chainmail suit's 1700f.
en route pour la deliverance d'Orléons
fit etape a Amboise,
23 et 24 Avril 1429
And for 380f I could have my very own Van Gogh painted vest, for 180f a Monet
'Water Lily' tie, or for 90f I could have Mona Lisa on a T-shirt, or for 120f,
De Gaules poster from 18 Juin 1940:
A Tous les Francais
la France a perdu une batance!
mais la France n'a pas perdu la guerre
... Viva la France !
The inventions, the
story of the connecting tunnel between here and the chateau so Leonardo and
the King could get their intellectual stimulation. The best bit is the window
looking out onto Leonardo's garden.
Watching 'Live and Let Die' on telly, and the dialogue we've all been waiting
"Je m'appelle Bond .. James Bond".
In French, Stephen King's 'The Stand' is 'Le Fleau'.
Rue des Violettes. Now, there's Community Gardens worth talking about. But,
I don't know what the blue uniforms are about, are they prisoners that tend
the vegies ?
Having croissants and jus d'orange on l'banks d'Loire. On the way, passing some
of the troglodyte caves. There's some 4-star hotel caves.
Chargé, another pretty town though seemingly deserted. A school bell
rings to l'son joyeaux l'ecole enfants.
A sign. Chasse interdit. What's a chasse ?
Back, passing Anushka's at 69, and Baluettes at 23, into Ambois.
And nous avez power, nous avez l'adapteur. At last we can charge l'camcorder.
From the Electricitie Shop near the Co-Op mart. Tried it, which involves the
Australian lead, into the Australian/Irish connection, and that piggybacks onto
the Irish/French one. Works like a charm.
Just filmed Chris leaving by the window onto the 'verandah' out there.
At the 'Bigot',
on the corner of Rue Nationale and Place du General le Clerk, un tea et un grande
cafe noir, which has just been brought to the table, with the percolator. The
kids are at the cinema, the Theâtre Beaumarches, watching Ace Ventura
in French. The chateaux is just over there. Things are perfect at the moment.
Still here. On the table just over there, there's the 50 year Cary Grant try-hard
and the secretary he ran away with. At least that's my scenario.
The sun is setting on the Loire, a bright white light, sending a long silver
reflecting ray from one side, the far side, to this side. Things have stayed
Just noticed the
sign tucked behind the wall telephone:
"il est interdit de pique-nique dans les chambres". Oh dear. We've
pique-niqued now and then, in here. And not only that, but "nous etre manger
le pique-nique petit dejeneur dans le chambre". Nous mal, tres mal. We're
leaving this morning anyway.
Le Gare. We have half an hour to wait.
And we have a room, next to the station on Rue de Nantes. It's a bit ordinary,
but what the hell.
And the kids are trying to buy a francs worth of bon-bons, and ended up with
some marshmallow things, but could have bought something called Pizza Aphrodisiaque.
On the train again, to Chenonceau.
Right now, I'm on the 'gallery' on the bridge over the river, the wing of
Chenonceau that's always fascinated me. The floor of black and white, the
white tiles worn more than the black, The walls white, with arches, and
windows looking out over the river. The rest of the chateau was just a bonus,
the bedrooms, the study, the chapel, the drawing rooms, even the kitchen.
But the gallery is the big one, the main event.
This is almost a spiritual moment.
L'Orangerie is lined with orange trees, naturally enough, but 'veuillez ne pas
toucher auz oranges'. Merci.
And not only is it interdit to manger dans le chambre, it's interdit to manger
dans l'parc. As we just got tossed off the grassy bit by some stupid prique
enforcing the equally stupid Tours bylaws. But, it's good to see that some things
in France never change. The absolute belief that grass is for dogs to merde
on, not for people to pique-nique on.
Looking out the window of the hotel, high above the street, over to the other
side, where cleaning ladies are mopping the floors of some building, spraying
detergent from a bottle, putting chairs back where they're meant to go, emptying
the waste paper baskets, turning off then lights after securing the windows.
And down there, people are making happy noises, one whooping like an Indian,
there's laughter, but I don't understand a word they're saying. Not a word.
I have to drive today.
I have to collect the car we've hired for the week and drive out of this town.
Driving on the wrong side of the road from the wrong side of the car. I find
this just a tad scary.
Okay, we've got the car. The engine is running. Take a few deep breaths and
pretend I'm in total control.
Not much hassle so far. Leaving Tours, from the Europcar depot, into Rue Emile
Zola, then Rue Nationale, over the bridge, avoiding the bus lane, then the left
turn into N152. Simplicite itself.
Chateaubriant. Following Monsieur Rimbaud's van into town, giving the finger
to some Pierre I annoyed with my first time efforts at negotiating a parking
spot. Well, he was yelling at me too.
Jaysus, the park has been invaded by other Australians, also enjoying l'pique-nique
spot. Turn your back on them for an instant and they just creep up on you.
L'Hermitage. Gave up trying to negotiate Rennes. My driving skills just weren't
up to it. Still, the kids think l'Hotel Lemarchand is the most bourgeois place
we've ever stayed. The rooms are really large.
A thing to keep in
mind for next time. Places called Hotel de Ville are not hotels, more like Council
Offices. Still, the woman that emerged from the place knew a place where we
could book a room, directed us to this place. Actually, we followed her in her
car. Merci, madame.
Out the window, the l'Hermitage-Mordelles railway office is being renovated,
and behind the station is the town of l'Hermitage itself. From here, only the
rooftops are visible. Underneath these rooves, I think the l'Hermitage people
probably lead very plain lives. The people, such as those who are now beginning
to wait at the station. A bald man waits by himself, as does a woman in a blue
jacket. Another reads the paper, and three women chat, as they're joined now
by two others.
The train arrives. It's heading towards Rennes.
Today is actually
Bloomsday, but we're in the wrong country. I doubt the French do much to celebrate,
even though Ulysses was written while Joyce was living here. I'm wondering what's
going on back in Dublin. There's probably people in costume all over the place,
walking here, walking there, walking every bloody where, having a pint at the
Ormonde, maybe even walking all the way out to Glasnevin, maybe looking into
the windows of Hodges Figgis, maybe tonight they'll even be recreating Monto.
And impossibly beautiful Sinead types everywhere will be reciting Molly
Bloom's soliloquy from memory, and
their little hearts will be going like mad and saying yes I said yes I will
Yes. yes, yes, I will, yes.
a bit later
Some town, a little out of l'Hermitage, with flowers in the window boxes of
it's stone houses, and a market is happening, and the crepes are wonderful.
I get the urge for a black and white striped Breton shirt, but refrain.
Les Fourgieres, where the forges used to be. Down by the lake. Where there's
a sign, 'Pêche Interdit', okay then I won't pêche there. On the other
side is forest, the Paimpont, where Merlin didn't mind being forever trapped
by the fairy Viviane.
Paimpont Village, outside the Creperie du Porche, cafe noir, une thè,
et deux Cokes. An incredibly picturesque street, and not really touristy.
And the 'Brisson Maree' van arrives, through the arch, sounding his horn,
for the housewives of Paimpont to buy their fresh fish, and they do, almost
running. Intend to find Merlin's grave, l'tombee d'Merlin; Viviane's,
too, if fairies have tombees.
C thinks it's appropriate that Merlin's tomb should be hard to find, but
found it anyway, exactly as its described. Between two schist slabs and
holly between. Souvenired a leaf from the holly, the poor tree's just
about stripped bare by previous Merlin hunters.
About to head out, to the Valley of No Return. Le Val Sans Retour ..
And this is the valley, Morgana's haunt. She's had bad press over the years,
one, she was a woman, two, she was a Druid, and from this place, 'wicked youths'
would disappear. Maybe the crow flying over is Morgana herself, ready to do
great battle with those boyos over there carrying a beatbox through her territory.
I'm sure there's some kind of link between Morgana and the Morrigan, and maybe
it's the same person. "Did she throw them into the lake ?" asks Shannon.
Probably, it's tempting, as it's a nice lake down there. Maybe I should just
fling myself off.
And what the hell is this? A golden tree, surrounded by fire burnt ones, in
a 'garden' of thousands of smallish standing stones. This is a work of somebody's
brilliant imagination, and hard work, why's it so hidden and what does it mean?
From the lake, a chorus of croaks; around here, birds sing.
and we have the best possible view of Josselin, it's a bloody ripper, très
formidable! The Centre Ville, the Chateau, the Spire, everything.
And the humongous cup of coffee I could have killed for yesterday was delivered
to the table this morning. A cup the size of a soup bowl, into which the coffee
was poured, and poured. And crepes. I think the trick is to make a line of honey
from one side to the other, then roll it up, and eat it with a knife and fork.
In the CD shop, et
j'acheter l'nouvelle CD per Alan Stivell, 'Brian Boru'. We're staying here tonight,
in Le Cadoudal, who was apparently some kind of incorrigible Breton rebel, whose
claim to fame is an attempt to kidnap Napoleon. Cadoudal was executed.
We were warned by the hotel owner that there's a rock concert scheduled for
tonight out our window. It's a bonus, as far as I'm concerned.
Carnac. Centre Ville.
Nous manger le petite fruits en le petit foret apres marche le rue avec les
megalithiques. Kilometre apres kilometre de standing stones et un tumulus. If
we'd wanted to, we could have bought Obelix Sandwiches for 25f, or the rather
more ordinary Megalithics for 20f.
themselves have green fences stretching as far as they do.
You can't walk between them.
Auray, back again. The rock concert has begun. This band has a rock line-up
but with two bombardes. Not tres mal at all. But I like this stuff. Still, the
band's not real happy playing in the rain.
Down the main street, discover a zig-zag path, and oh my god, there's a town
on the other side of the river that's just breathtakingly beautiful. I just
know I'll be exploring there, tomorrow.
The bands' play on. But continually intermittent, the rain is creating havoc.
I think they're about to call it quits.
And from the
TV, Madonna is asking me to get unconscious. Sorry, Madonna, I just woke up.
a walk around the town. Passing a house with an open window, through which I
could hear a man singing, is this to 'chanter' ?
On the other side of the river. Having drinks at the Bar Du Port, near the Rue
Saint Serveur. Over there, a man fishes from the bridge, and small yachts are
moored near the dock, and everything is just incredibly serene. Over there is
the Bar Franklin, which has something to do with Benjamin Franklin who signed
some kind of deal with the French at Auray. Except it's not called Auray on
this side, it's called St Goustan.
As we about to leave Auray, bombardes are playing somewhere. It seems fitting.
And who'd have thought that the Landerant drum and brass band would be here
to greet us, cômplet with marching girls with their blue and white pompoms.
On the plage, somewhere near Le Bloque. We've climbed down the dunes, over the
rocks, to the waterline. Out there, some surfers are waiting for a good wave.
This must be the true Breton experience. On the sea, the wind in your face,
the salty tang of the water.
A walk through the town. St Croix is closed, even though we tried every door.
Bit bloody rude of a church. But up to Rue Dom Morice, to No 7, the Archers
place, which turned out to have both an exhibition of modern painting - actually
the works of someone who's preoccupied with cubist portraits of fighting men,
and an exhibition of Breton history, with hats, stuffed animals, mannequins
in costume, a painting of some barefoot Breton girl, somebody's bombarde in
a perspex box, with a biniou behind it. But the girl who took the 45f entrance
fee was an exhibition too, l'Breton spunquette.
To the St Michel Church, but that's closed too. Why are the churches in Quimperle
closed on a Sunday? Down some cobbley steps. Maybe I've missed something here,
as apparently the population of Quimperle is greater than Auray's, so where's
the main drag, and where are the people, where's the supermarche.
More walking, out to the fôret, the Fôret of the Legendes. Lancelot
was supposed to have died here. Maybe he couldn't find the supermarche either.
Along the river, the walk back to Rue Terre du Vannes, passing Rue Claude Lancelot.
Didn't know his given name was Claude.
And Mitch, in Baywatch, has just hastily exited his own wedding, with a quick
"Je t'aime" to his nearly married wife, to save a burning boat. What
Somehow I thought Quimperle would be prettier than what it is. I wanted it to
be sensational. I suppose it has its moments, up the stairs and around the churches,
but I wanted it to be better. The walk was good, and the hotel's okay, we can
disappear through the window to a balcony, but it's not enough.
There's a French talking head, who comperes some morning TV show, who's totally
gorgeous. I wonder how many Frenchmen have suddenly developed an interest in
rock videos. At the moment, I'm at one with my fellow French countrymen, wishing
this Bjork video of "Army of Me" isn't on for too much longer.
Walked to the square that I'd absolutely swear Keltia Musiques was. Up the road,
passing the stream with all the metal footbridges, the flowers, the oddly angled
banner posts, the Cathedral, down Rue Kereon. Nope, not here. Must be the next
one, nope, it's a ladies clothes shop, renovated. I'm totally convinced it's
gone, probably squeezed out by the upmarket tourist trade. Liam and I walk absolutely
everywhere, every street, every rue, ending up, somehow, in the Quimper suburbs
and back again. Don't know how many times we ended up in Rue Kereon.
Liam suggested trying the Post Office. La Poste.
Ask for what I think is telephone book. What? She shows me a telephone card.
Telephone nombre? Qui. She gets the book. Musique Keltique. She looks under
'M', nothing there. Damn. She suggests 'Keltia Musiques'. Qui qui qui. She finds
it, writes the address, then draws me a map.
Katerderal. Kereon. Rue de le Beurre, first on the right.
Merci beaucoup beaucoup.
We head off, map
in hand. Cathedral, Kereon, first right, nowt.
I ask the ice-cream
man 'ou est ...' Apparently, I'd walked too far, back, premiere guache. Okay.
Down, left, and there it is, in all it's glory.
Keltia Musiques. Folkie Heaven on Earth.
Walk over, almost like walking to a mirage, expecting it to disappear if I blink.
It's closed, damn.
A la memoire de Monseigneur Andre Fauvel
Chapelle de St Paul
The angel with the wings, her finger silencing .. the golden stars on the blue
rooves of the chapels .. St Joseph .. Sainte Anne ... Saint Yves ..
The glacé bar. Mentille? Chocolate? deux avec Chantilly, served in
And a pink tourist train just cruised past, with not one of its passengers
smiling. They must know they look like utter dickheads, may just as well
have 'Dickhead Tourist' tattooed on the foreheads. "Warning! Warning!
Gradlon looks down from his horse from between the spires of the Cathedral.
and from the top of Mount Fruggy, you can take in
all of Quimper. The twin steeples above all, the single steeple further
to the left. The distinctively French gray rooves, spined with orange, mostly
three, maybe four storeys. The ancient quarter surrounded by suburbs. The
two cemeteries. Catholic and Protestant, maybe.
Skateboarders down there in the carpark clank their planchette du roulettes.
The Odet flows, full of fish in its shallow waters. Buses arrive, others
This is a brilliant place.
Rue Kereon, with Liam, to his favourite tower, the one that inspired him so
much last time we were here, eventually to the Cathedral, passing the statue
of Lanneac, almost entirely green. To a video shop, original movie posters for
85f, or 80f if you're a member. Liam would like it noted that Waynes World 2
has 'Gigateuf' across the top of the box, and the Cool Runnings, here, is called
Rasta Rocket, and it has the largest 'adult' section he's ever seen, all kept
in a special room. With 'nouveau' stickers all over the boxes. Nouveau, maybe
they've found new places to stick it. Similar displays of 'adult' literature
in one of the Librarie places, some dark haired young tart with 'nouveau' over
'tres longue' (very far), essayer (to try), mois (months), maison estranger
(foreign house), sang-froid (self-control), tard le soir (very late). Amazing
what you can pick up watching Nosferatu.
In the high up window of the building next to La Pascal, an old woman looks
down, her hands moving aside the curtain, peering out, a vague disapproving
look. Maybe she remembers the old ways. Perhaps her Breton clothes and her lace
menhir cap have lain in her wardrobe, unused, unworn, for some time now. Maybe
only brought out, ironed, starched, for some occasion, a wedding maybe, a confirmation,
some religious procession, who knows. Maybe, maybe not.
by Jean Yves Guillame,
photoshopped by me
On the way
to Raz Point, the 'Hotel l'Rion' standing totally alone in the middle
of a field, looking utterly at ease with itself, as though it didn't need
neighbours, majestic in its simplicity and its solitude.
The last house
One of those islands out there is the one that the bodies of Druids were sent
to, from Baie de Trespasses. Wonder which one? There's a large one over to the
left, and virtually straight ahead there's a smaller one. Who rowed the boat?
Who was at the other end to help do whatever they did with the body? What were
the actual processes involved in getting the body out of the boat? And where
was it taken to on the island? Who dug the grave, if graves where what they
had? Who made and lit the bonfire if they were cremated? Or were they just dragged
ashore and dumped, their bodies left to rot, their bones to bleach, to be endlessly
blown about by the ever present wind?
There's another family in here, which includes a girl who has absolutely no
interest in the finer points of some pieta or other, she's denim-jacketed with
and has 'heavy metal' across her shoulders, and a Grateful Dead logo on her
back. And there's one old woman using this place for what it's for.
The calvary, the chancel house now turned into a museum, the church, with details
on every column. Saint Corentin and his fish, Saint Herbaud and his cow, Santes
Genofera who's reading, Saint Joseph, Saint Roch and his biscuit carrying dog,
the ornate confession box, the altar, the Virgin with child on the left, the
right one empty but the columns adorned with ivy and grape vines, the crucifixion
with JC pink, nailed, cut, hammered and bleeding, Saint Alar and his dopey looking
horse, Saint Anton who's reading too, probably the Bible, but maybe he's just
peeled the nouveau sticker from the dark tart's fanny.
Le Menage de la Vierge. Can't see any resemblance to ktichen utensils. Um, okay,
there's her wok, there's her blender ..
Lover's Lane. Bit of a hike, be a bit of a bummer for the lovers, too. By the
time they reached the top, they'd already be stuffed ..
But the walk back along Allee Violette is brilliant, everything a forest should
be. Running stream, mossy rocks, tempting paths between an amazing variety of
trees, dark canopies, dappling sunlight, the works ..
or, as we learnt to pronounce it, Summerlow.
In the Square.
Place du Marché aux Legumes, off Rue Andre Desilles. Flower beds. Bars
and restaurants, and further down, clothes shops. Inter-sport. And a band set
up, but not playing. Not a comfortable city. Too many people, too many cars
on the cobble-stone streets, too many yuppie stores, too many leather jackets,
too expensive. Creperies. Bar Amorique. Le Charly Bar. A pretend city, no soul,
not like Quimper, or even Quimperle.
Bought the requisite four baguettes from across the road, the girl writing down
the 31f50 on paper so I'd understand.
Sur le plage. Pengwen, or St Cast, or one of the little towns that make up this
'commune'. Drove through other towns, avoiding Dinard, over another bridge,
driving over beached boats, hundreds of yachts leaning on their keels and hulls
marooned by the low tide, like a boat graveyard.
Still here. The kids are loving this, even C is getting into the zen of the
Less frenetic and less touristy that Pont Raz, not as rocky, but just as pleasant.
The cliffs as they should be, green, dropping away, almost vertically, to the
At the Freheloise creperie. Deu crepe banane, un crepe miel citron, et un crepe
"Bonjour,'" to an old Breton woman making he slow way down the path,
second one we've seen. Maybe there's some kind of home for Breton women over
there behind us. Maybe they live the old Breton ways, maybe they have competitions
amongst themselves for the thinnest crepe, maybe they sit around listening to
traditional Breton music, maybe at night they even whip out the bombardes and
binious for a bit of a session, maybe they tell old Breton stories of the sea,
the sizes of the catches caught by their long gone tattooed husbands, maybe
they compare the times they waited on their fateful days when the fishing boat
did not return. Then again, maybe they just sit.
St Malo plage. The kids have swum more often at St Malo, than they have at Rosebud.
I'm proud of that fact.
The ramparts of the walled town. We intend to walk the entire circuit.
You can't walk all the way around. I feel gypped.
L'Arrivee bar. A Heineken, and C's red wine. All of the seats by the windows
are taken. In one, a man sits by himself, in the next sit six young people,
the one in the Cleveland cap blowing smoke-rings, maybe he thinks his talent
will impress the two girls at the end of the table. Maybe it impresses the rasta-haired
one, but the one in white doesn't look the least impressed.
Mont Saint Michel
And here's Saint Michael himself, in armor, with chain mail, and his metallic
Beatle-boots, a plaid-like cloak wrapped across him. Helmeted, he holds a sword
high, maybe about to dispense with the clawed reptile that's climbing up, mouth
open, ready to strike from underneath the column on which the Saint stands.
But Michel will prevail, he has wings, like any self-respecting angel of desire.
In his other hand is small shield, which actually looks like one of those things
buskers perform string-and-top tricks with.
stained glass surrounding the pulpit area, letting in so much light, and
the arches a maze.
Mont St Michel is the greatest thing that mankind has ever created. No
Yep, it's 'olde worlde'. Even the people playing bocce are olde world.
Bought Shannon some new shoes. And mistakenly thought the Vitre library was
a secondhand bookshop, was really impressed with their collection.
a long zig-zag walk down from le jardin, along the steps leading to the 'artisans'
quarter. Rue de Tanniers, along the stream flowing, the houses jumbled, stone,
inspiring, ducks nibbling the underwater reeds, following the path along the
stream to the castle. It has a moat. A real live water flowing moat. Through
the Notre Dame arch with the pigeons roosting on the heads of Mary and Jesus.
Heading to Chartres. You can see it coming for miles out ..
Inside Chartes Cathedral.
The back pews are turned around so you can see the stained glass. Really need
binoculars to see them properly. Clive Barker said that Chartres was the absolute
pinnacle of human achievement. He's wrong, it's second to Mont Saint Michel.
Rue Sainte Même.
Gargoyles for sale.
This is a brilliant place. I imagine scholars of religion, architecture, artistic,
whatever, have spent lifetimes studying the Cathedral. Just one afternoon leaves
the details a blur. The stone images, carvings, statues, blending. Tried to
find the gargoyle of the devil carrying a woman over his shoulder, but couldn't.
Maybe it's higher up than can be seen from the ground, or obscured even from
the spires. The easily visible ones, the statues of religious figures are identifiable,
I guess, if you know the stories. But maybe, further up, less accessible, less
visible, are the weird ones, the strange ones, up there with the gargoyles and
monster water spouts. Maybe totally hidden, maybe you have to know where to
look. Maybe the artists created their monsters, their fantasies, and placed
them just out of sight of the masses, the middle-age peasantry, the clerics
themselves maybe. Yes, they may have thought, as some kind of middle-ages in-joke,
this marks the spot that is forever mine, while the obviously religious ones
are forever the public domain. Which, of course, Chartres totally is.
"Avez-vous beurre ?"
But then, rattling his French, probably saying that if you stupid tourists want
butter then you'll just have to pay twice as much for it. He then sends the
trés cute shop assistant into some back room, from which she returns with
a packet of butter.
"Au revoir," he says, which, in his terms, probably translates into
"Good God, I didn't think anybody was crazy enough to pay 15f for beurre."
the cathedral was lit, gold with the spires an intense grey light. This morning
it’s misty, with the sun an orange disc behind it.
And here’s Johnny again, he's old, but apparently some kind of French legend.
Que je t’aime, he's still sweating, and the video cuts to some naked female.
Now there’s something you don’t see on TV everyday, never saw a nipple on Video
Not the sun, the red moon, now gone.
Now the moon, a silver white disc, between the spires, appearing and disappearing
and reappearing behind moving wispy grey clouds.
At the Chartres Station. Wouldn’t want to be late for the train or anything.
Croissants, crumbly everywhere, and ‘Minute Maid’ jus d’orange in the station’s
waiting room. A few guys trying to sleep, jaysus, just give that game away guys,
the Nokes have arrived.
Twenty minutes to Paris. Within the next 1½ hours we’ll arrive, find a room
and get there, dump our bags and be on our way to the Musee D’Orsay ou la Musee
Rodin. This might be wishful thinking. Probablaire.
These must be Paris’
western suburbs. Ugly.
St Quentin (didn’t
stop), St Cyr (didn’t stop), Versailles-Chantiers (yep, stopped)
Four minutes, glimpses of the city.
Montparnasse, Paris, arrivez, here.
We have a room.
Téléphone: 43 26 96 16 - Fax: 43 29 73 34
QUARTIER LATIN et SAINT-GERMAIN-DES-PRÉS
The Hotel St Andres
Des Arts. Room 20. Third floor. Found for us by the woman at the Hotel des Ecoles,
who rang ahead for us. 2 nuits guaranteed. We're hoping for a third. We have
a view overlooking the Cour de Commerce.
And, over there is Dejeuner sur l'Herbe. Bigger than I expected. But as you
sit down, in the chairs provided, surrounded by Courbet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne,
whatever, and rather than be totally impressed by the wonderness all around,
all you can think is "Christ, my feet hurt."
Dans un Cafe dit
L'Absinthe by Degas, and Renoir's Bal du Moule de la Galatte, and Monet's Water
Lilies, and van Gogh's La Nuit Etoilee and La Chambre, and over there Rousseau,
La Charmeuse de Serpents, while Gauguin's Portraite de l'Artiste au Christ Jeune
is just there, and Seurat's Cirque and quite a few Toulouse Lautrec's.
I'm wondering if
you can still buy absinthe. An Absinthe and Coke, please.
La Salle de Fetes.
Holy Jesus, what a room.
The Musee Rodin, impressive enough, especially the Gates of Hell,
and The Thinker, which always brings Dobie Gillis to mind, and The Kiss,
and I know that the kiss was all these lovers had, but bejaysus it's powerful,
later, the chick with the 'TinTin in Tibet' t-shirt was impressive too.
A monster walk from through to Rue St Germaine.The people watchers out in force
in the Salon de Thé's, brasseries and bars. Wonder how I was assessed.
Mon Dieu! Comment ca va this personne? Le baseball cap! Le army jackette! has
il non taste? Ne taste pas!! Even the beggars are better presented than moi
and, down at the Quicktime, which is now called something else, learnt that
Chirac's decided to resume nuclear testing, and the French Embassy in Perth
has been bombed, and Keating's protests to Chirac have been useless .. Also
learnt, from an Australian couple who've been living in Paris, not to get too
loud in my own criticism of Chirac, because, apparently, you never know who's
listening. Mon Dieu! And New Zealand has won the America's Cup and the Australian
yacht sank. At least there's some good news.
And while brushing her hair at the window, Shannon's brush just leapt from her
hands, took flight, falling the three floors, and took out the Saint Andre Des
Arts neon sign, nearly clobbering some bloke down there. A quick flit down to
reception, and there's a pissed off Parisian waving the offending brush. I make
all the humble apologies, but I'm thinking that we're not going to get the three
nuits here, not now, probably just tonight.
there, from the hotel window, green-uniformed garbage men have just cleaned
the area in front of the Cour du Commerce, the alley on the other side of
the street, 59 and 61 St Andre Des Arts.
Breakfast, downstairs, in the pews in the foyer of the hotel, rolls with cherry
jam, and hot chocolate.
Again, apologized to the concierge for last night's hairbrush episode, but it
appears that everything's d'accord. Still hoping for the third nuit, though.
On the metro, heading to Trocadero.
Eiffel Tower. And ready to climb the bugger.
Second etage, been here for some time. C is writing postcards to everyone she's
ever known. The kids have gone in the elevator to the top.
And after descending the Eiffel Tower, the day degenerated into a bloody nightmare.
Lost the kids at the Eiffel Tower. Found them, eventually, but only after the
panic buttons had been well and truly hit. Then to the Arc de Triomphe, explaining
stuff to Shannon, the eternal flame, the unknown soldier. Down the Champs, C
has to find a hole-in-the-wall for some money. We find one, only for the screen
to tell us that transactions are impossible as we have no money. And, as C says,
quite simply, "we're fecked." I'm having visions of an enraged concierge
killing me when we can't pay the bill. A search for another hole-in-the-wall,
it's not much better. C managed to extract 900f from some account somewhere.
Phone calls, to the Dublin AIB, and the money hasn't come through from Australia.
Our fecking Australian bank has royally screwed things up. If I could reach
through the phone and rip someone's throat out, I would. We're practically moneyless,
in Paris. Another call, to Australia, and things will be sorted out, and they'd
better sort it out pretty fecking quickly. I'm in a mood, and a woman who hassles
C to get off the phone gets told to feck off. I'm sure 'feck off' is universal
in any language. Liam and I leave, as C thinks she might be able to sort things
out, but needs space, not the entire family. I have this feeling that C will
be able to work this out.
So, down the Champs with Liam, into Virgin Records where Liam is sure he'll
find the Fifi of his dreams, star struck lovers meeting near the Cure CD's,
but no, not to be, not this time. Then, other places, and passing the constructions
for the Bastille Day celebrations, the Place de la Concorde, crossing the bridge
over the Seine, and Liam being eyed off by the cutest Fifi I've seen in a long
time, a pity he didn't notice. Along the Seine, to the Pont Neuf, looking into
the courtyards of the buildings along the way, down Rue Dauphin, to our Rue.
Things are better,
we have the room for four nuits, and C's kind of worked out the money problem,
and Shannon and C have found the supermarche, and bought tea and a snort of
red wine. Helps. Liam and I leave for more walkies, to the Rue Mazarin, the
CD shop there, and he buys the soundtrack to Leon. The French version has a
different cover, then out, and down to Notre Dame, most of the facade is covered
with scaffolding, one of the spires is creamy white, the other blackened. Liam's
seriously impressed by the flying buttresses. Sidewalk artists, your portrait
drawn. Back, not along the Seine, but the area slightly behind it. Artemis,
with Egyptian replicas. Poster shops, fantastic buildings in narrow streets,
through to the Latin Quarter. Paris is getting better. Back to the Hotel.
Around near the supermarche, there's restaurants where people are having their
40f or 58f petit dejeuners.
Rue St Germanine, I think.
The theatre across the road in this area of St Germaine is showing Kiss of Death,
Ed Wood, Augustin, Rob Roy, and La Haine .. jusque'ici tout va bien.
The Sacre Coer. And I'm not quite sure what a 'monstrance' is, but there's one
above the altar, beneath which five white-robed men chanted. On either side
of the monstrance are five candles, each looking about two metres long. Above
the monstrance, in what I think is called the apse, is a mosaic of JC, also
white-robed, with rays of golden mosaic, like Ra the sun god. Then the dome,
dizzyingly high, the stain glass the only thing allowing light in, keeping the
entirety of the place very dark, the monstrance somehow lit, it's the brightest
object here, the candles just pinpoints of light.
a bit later
The accordion player on the street, the steps down to Montmarte, then down into
The kids are somewhere inside. I've told Shannon to sing every time Liam films
something. On the stairs, mannequins are set up, as though they were performing
And the Opera was a ripoff. Didn't bother telling anybody that most of the inside
was closed for renovations. Charged you just the same. Shite, the kids only
really wanted to see the chandelier and the Music Hall. Both were off limits.
Jaysus. The costumes were good, apparently.
Along the Seine, we're vaguely heading for the Pompidou Centre. Walking along
the Seine, there's drummers somewhere. On one of the bridges.
The Pompidou Centre may be an architectural wonder, but bejaysus, it's ugly.
Surrounded by touristy garbage, and a Millennium clock counting down the seconds
to 2000. The pool nearby is better. People are having fun, the kids cooling
McDonalds. A quarter pounder really is the Royale, 18f50, and a quarter pounder
with cheese is Royale Cheese, and you really can buy a beer, Kanterbrau, in
plastic cups, for 9f50. And, as Liam discovered, filming the menu so he can
prove this to his friends, later, is interdit. The Maccas menu is copyright.
Notre Dame. There's a woman singing, a chorus coming from somewhere. Tonight,
in here, there's a 'Spiritual Concert', and lots of incense is being burnt ..
yes, I know that this is the place of Hugo's hunchback, but all that seems kind
of irrelevant once you're actually inside, and I'm more aware of fact that this
is the place where Joan of Arc's reputation as a witch and heretic was officially
repudiated, and from where she was declared a saint, rather than that there
might be some deformed person up there near the bells.
At the I'le de l'Cite, once again. There's the Vedettes cruising past, giving
their commentaries, about how Pont Neuf is Paris's oldest Bridge and about how
one of the carvings is a caricature of Henry the 4th, which I didn't know before,
but it seems that every tourist vedette has the same commentary, so we've heard
this pearl quite a few times. The drummers are still playing down on the metal
bridge, and the sun is a golden orange ..
out for walkies. "Bonjour," to the concierge, who had to unlock the
front door, "merci." Down the Cour du Commerce, where some French
guy and his girlfriend were walking the other way, "Mon Frere," I
think he said, making a step towards me, I step aside. As far as I'm aware,
I don't have any brothers at all, let alone French ones. To Saint Michel, the
Salon du The's already serving their first customers of the day, a few older
women, laughing. Down Rue Mazarin, although that section of the street is called
something else there, and up Saint Andre Des Arts, shop windows, African caps,
jewellery - bracelets for just over 600f, books "it was a cold afternoon
in November" read the beginning of one, in French "apre-midi froide
en Novembre", water gushing the gutters. Up to where the reconstructions
are happening on Boulevard St Michel. The water sphinxes aren't spewing forth
their streams yet. Turn back, determined to unpeel the Vivaldi poster I'd seen
on the way. Luckily, no-one's around when I do it, at least, I don't think so,
in Paris you can never be sure. It's placed on with sticky tape, not glued on.
So, it's unstuck. Roll it up, and back to the hotel.
Somehow I was expecting
the Nescafe ad, of fat ladies "bonjour" to the world outside on a
bright Spring morning. But no, just "mon frere", and it's not Spring
and it's going to be another hot one, I could barely work up the spit to lick
the paper of my second cigarette.
And as C queues to buy the breadsticks, Shannon is the first to step in the
legendary Parisian dogmerde. We had kind of a bet going. The groceries, Champion,
same check-out woman as yesterday, the one with the lazy eye that always looks
2f50 to take a piss at Versailles. Jaysus, what are they going to do with it,
bottle it and sell it? Maybe the loos are as impressive as they rest of this
Think I'll just go and piss on Jim Morrison instead.
Jim Morrison 6e Division below 16, Edith Piaf 97e, Oscar Wilde 89e, Marcel Proust
85e, Chopin 11e. The attendant at the gate takes my pen and writes in my diaries
the locations of his own personal Pierre Lachaise Greatest Hits, he thinks Moliere
and Champollion should be visited.
Didn't even know they had Champollion, bless his little hieroglyphic heart.
And Isadora Duncan ..
James Douglas Morrison
and roses die.
People Are Strange.
And every goth, freak, and Jim Morrison wanna-be is in town.
But they're nice, in a Doors-ish kind of way.
And the camcorder died, in the cemetery, just after Liam video'd the Famille
Bastard tomb, and just as he was about to video Fred Chopin's grave. Just winked
out. Dead. I should have buried it. Be a nice place to be buried in, cool shady
trees and cobblestone paths...
A can of Kronenburg, an enormous souvlaki avec frites on pita bread, in the
forecourt of Notre Dame, and a cooling breeze blowing. Life does not get any
better than this.
Walking back, along our favourite street, with the bars and restaurants and
food sellers ringing their bells, clapping, inside one a red cummerbanded waiter
playing violin, in another two Greek men dance, a dark man holds his hand out,
begging, and people are paying too much for a Guinness at Le Mazet, a busker
on saxophone, another a duo of flute and guitar playing Irish music. We buy
cold water. A trick to remember, the coldest are always at the back.
And it looks as though the three guys down there in the Cour Du Commerce
have has absolutely no luck with the two girls they tried so hard to impress
Leaving. We're on the Metro. Shannon with the breadsticks, me with the croissants,
we all have backpacks, again. Les Halles, Etienne Marcel, Sepastopol, Strasbourg
St Denis, Gare de l'Est, and the next one is Gare de Nord. Quell quai pour le
train de Calais ?
Gare du Nord. Grande Lignes. Waiting for the 9:25 to Calais to shunt in.
And with a precision that's close to being scary, the train to Calais rolls
out. The last glimpse of Paris is the Sacre Coer.
Amiens, and according to the announcements, it's pronounced Airmeeyahh, apparently.
Ugly city, from the train at least.
Rue. There's actually a town called Rue. I'm wondering what they call the main
street of Rue.
Marquise Rincent, almost like a country station, and yep, there goes the station
masters whistle, and now through the green fields of France.
Calais-Ville. Here, so it's load 'em up and move 'em out time.
And the guy behind the 'closed ferme' sign beneath the 'tickets billets' window
is determined not to even look in our direction, as he counts out French notes
and coins. Behind him, Marcel Copyans shuffles pen and paper from one side of
his desk to the other, while beside him, some woman has been telling people
to come back in ten minutes for the last fifteen.
Out ferry is not called the Tinkerbell, as I told Shannon it was and was believed,
it's the Challenger. Smooth sailing predicted and welcomed aboard, a safety
announcement, who really cares, it's almost inaudible anyway. Something about
being handed a life jacket.
Moving on out. Well, goodbye France, goodbye La Loire, au revoir Brittany, bye
And now England is much closer, the white cliffs beginning to look like they
should. Announcement, docking in Dover in 20 minutes. And watches go back now,
to English time, so it's really an hour ago.
Caused British Immigration no end of hassle. Yes, we're Australians, who've
been touring France, coming into England, but at the moment we're living in
Ireland. Can it be any more simple ?
We have the car. It's actually more like mobile tooth than a car. But at least
we're headed for Canterbury.
And we have a B&B. Raemore House in New Dover Road. The kids think Canterbury
is grouse, quote, because it has a Blockbuster Video and a Safeway.
"Is that flake ?", asked Liam in the fish and chip shop.
"It's fish." came the reply.
Still, we're eating whatever kind of fish this is down by the Stour River.
Looked through the
bookshops, and nearby, another place with an enormous range of Jim Morrison
postcards. Seems strange that only yesterday, I left a message on his grave.
At least we can understand the news. A leadership challenge to John Major from
somebody named Redwood, and Hugh Grant's been caught in some kind of sex offence,
Pamela Anderson has had a miscarriage, and Garth Brooks now has a star on Hollywood
Canterbury Cathedral. The place of pilgrimage, the place to which Chaucers pilgrims
made their way and told their tales on the journey.
There's French schoolkids here, en masse. These must be the kids of the rich
French, who get to tour English cathedrals, rather than the French ones.
We've just been asked to keep still and silent, while the priest welcomes us
with two prayers. The first for peace, while the second is the Lords.
There's a mark, like an x marking the spot, of Beckett's martyrdom.
And todays special treat, the bellringers from Fort Worth, Texas. Among their
tunes are 'The Home Of The Brave', and now their into 'Claire de Lune', which
is apparently "right offa thuh peeana scaw".
Back from The Canterbury Tales, one of those multimedia 'experiences'. It was
great. Listening through headphones as the tales are being told.
Don't know what Canterbury youth do for a good time here, but plenty of guys
around here seem to be taking advantage of the weather to display their tattoos,
while plenty of others seem to be permanently attached to a can, while the younger
women all seem to be pushing a pram. Guess there can't be that much to do if
you're living in a pilgrimage town.