Paris, November 2016

Paris, November 2016

18th November, Friday

Over here it’s not as cold. JP was in the hotel (Verlain) when I got there. We were in adjoining rooms. I suggested going to the Quartier Latin. We got two fine planches at La Méthode on the little square/junction on rue Descartes where I stayed in 1996 and 2000.

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Then, around the corner on rue Laplace, I showed him Le Piano Vache, which he liked even more. I hadn’t been in it since October 2000.

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The first time, it was a June afternoon in 1996, when an outrageous little flirt named Estelle bent over further than a gymnast when poking in her school bag, across the bar. Elle portait la culotte bleu pâle.

Anyway, JP didn’t care for the nearby Le Violon Dingue (nor did I, though I’d been there before too) and we soon headed back for the Cork & Cavan on the Canal St. Martin. I saw no familiar face there. We didn’t stay too late.

19th November, Saturday

Today we walked a long way. We started at Place d’Italie and headed to Montparnasse via La Butte des Cailles and Place Denfert-Rochereau.

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After lunch at Le Select, we got the metro on to Charles Michels, just a street away from the river and Allée des Cygnes.

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From there we walked past the Tower, near which an anti-Trump demonstration was in progress, and cut down to rue Cler before passing Hôtel des Invalides on our way into St. Germain.

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The metro took us from St. Germain des Prés to Goncourt, back near the C&C. D. joined us. He had witnessed a couple get shot dead, one after the other, outside a restaurant on Bataclan night. He was upstairs in a bar across the street.

The lads played darts. I’d made sure we got that narrow corner of the bar. A pretty Cavan girl called Aisling told me we’d known what we were doing by getting in there. I ended up drinking a couple of glasses of water before the end. JP and I left around one.

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Paris, December 2013

Paris, December 2013

26th December, Thursday

Hard frost shrouded the night. My throat felt like the aftermath of a tonsils operation without anaesthetic. The drive to Cork was slowed by ice and frost. I had a bit of a skid on the Youghal bypass, where a driver got killed a few mornings ago.

Rugby players: Peter Stringer was in the security queue; Ronan O’Gara was on the plane. I only spotted O’Gara on the airport shuttle train in Paris. He grunted something like thanks when I let him disembark before me with his wheelie bag.

After a shower at the hotel I went to the 15e, to the Allée des Cygnes, where Beckett used to walk.

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From there I passed the Tower in the twilight.

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I ate in a nice, informal place on rue Cler (L’éclair), where the chicken burger and chips were good and good value. I had a notion that I might watch some of a match in Kitty O’Shea’s but it was closed. The front door looked sandbagged. Last time I looked, there was a hole in the door window, like it had been shot at. I was sick of walking by then. Back in the tenth I went down the canal to see if the C&C might be open. It was. The legendary owner (Kevin) was out to play. He was up on the counter at one stage and speaking Irish at another.

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27th December, Friday

Having stayed in bed until two, my only symptoms were of the cold. Somebody on Amazon.com bought a copy of The Cynic’s Handbook. Hanging in there – my nose and chest have it now – I dined in Café le Buci in St. Germain at four, after searching those streets in the damp chill. The côte de boeuf (€22) was big and tough but the waitress was sweet. Dark and pretty too. Bonne fête, were her parting words. When I got back to Gare de l’Est it was dark and wet. I’d been filming down by the river. Some Indian then sold me two dodgy-looking choc ices, leading to some more customer dissatisfaction. The Mars bar was OK. I ate that.

Earlier I passed a place where I dined well, before (Au Père tranquille, next to Forum des Halles). That was before descending into the ant pit in a vain effort to get on the Métro there. With the swarm, it was too difficult to get a ticket. I’d go home right now because of the sore nose and the cough. By the river I took some photos and made two videos: one from Pont des Arts, when it was still day, and another of Notre Dame over the lights shimmering on the river, from Pont St. Michel.

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I’d have slept and rested better this evening only for f*ckers/guests around me constantly opening and closing their squeaking doors. The room is a return to the street noise too. I’m finished with the Sibour. In future I’ll get a better hotel.

Three pints in the C&C left no mark. For a second night I was with a Middlesbrough father and son. The son is stuck in Paris. The wife has put him on a couch. There are two kids and a bust company. Why is my tongue sore near the tip? I was sweating in the pub but can only hope it’s a good symptom.

28th December, Saturday

A night of nightmarish discomfort was followed by a lull of sorts before the more usual kind of nightmare of security at the airport. Home is colder than Paris and I missed another storm (on the twenty-sixth). Even my teeth are sore.

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31st August, Friday

Paris, hotel room, six o’clock. “Your buckle is facing the wrong way.” That’s what a stewardess said to me before take-off. Sleep had not been deep and the drive had been grey and gloomy but when I sat in, on the plane, it didn’t take us long to get going. There was a lot of empty seats. Even though I’m on a side street, it’s just off a noisy junction (Magenta/Strasbourg, 10e), I’ve just been dozing for the best part of an hour. Soon I’ll get dressed and go.

1st September, Saturday

Le Saint Jean, rue des Abbesses, 3pm. I’m in Montmartre. I just went up to the Sacré Coeur. Now I’ve eaten here and I’m working my way through a short selection of drinks. The sun is shining but this place is on the shady side of the street. When I went out yesterday, I first went to The Cork and Cavan pub on the Canal St. Martin, as planned. It had a young crowd but not of student age.

Later I had some trouble finding The Quiet Man, which was tiny. In looking for it I went a bit too deeply into the Marais, as could be seen by the growing number of gay couples that passed. Anyway, when I found it, about the only Irish thing in there was the green shirt on the barman. Beside me at the end of the short counter sat a young American couple. They were graduate students in California. She was into whales while he was studying the geochemistry of noble gases. She turned out to be related to Michael Fingleton, the notorious Irish banker. “We don’t like him,” she said. She added that Fingers had become his family nickname too. After the long walk back I found an open burger joint near the hotel and ordered two. It was late and when I confirmed “à emporter” to the black manager, who was trying to keep his staff awake, he dumped some condiments out of a bag meant for another customer and gave it to me and my burgers.

5.45pm, hotel room. The bells of the church of St. Laurent across the street are banging now. When I was walking back here, down Magenta, a green neon sign said 26° C and there was a noisy march about undocumented immigrants. It was a left-wing protest, not a right-wing one.

The bells soon stopped but knocked out another six on the hour. When descending from rue des Abbesses in Montmartre I came out at Pigalle and saw nothing scary on the quiet daytime way except a transvestite who reminded me a bit of Doctor Zaius in Planet of the Apes. Over here, some of the girls are too beautiful, for anyone with a taste for female beauty.

Will I go to Kitty O’Shea’s this evening, just to say I was there? I could take the metro but if I walk I could go straight down to the river and cross to call into Shakespeare & Co on the way. While I’m OK now, I may not feel like doing that or making much effort tomorrow.

The first time I came here on my own (1996) I was actually a bit lonely. One afternoon in Le Piano Vache in the Latin Quarter an outrageous little flirt named Estelle bent over further than a gymnast when poking in her school bag, across the bar. Elle portait la culotte bleu pâle. I was thirty-two but I’m better at chilling now, which is not the same as dossing or daydreaming.

 

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Late on Saturday: I got back to the hotel by midnight. Having taken the metro down to Les Halles, I crossed the river via Pont Neuf. When I found Shakespeare & Co upriver, on the other side, I got a black girl to take four copies of The Cynic’s Handbook. Then I crossed back and got something to eat at a nice place called Le Père Tranquille near Les Halles.

The long walk to Kitty O’Shea’s near Place Vendôme was basically in vain. It was practically empty, there was a hole in the door window, like it had been shot at, and – another bad sign – it didn’t have any beer mats. The even longer walk back made me feel what a warm night it was/is but I want to be fit for tomorrow. I’m just hoping that the weekend will continue to go right.

2nd September, Sunday

It’s gone noon. I’m out of the shower but haven’t shaved yet. How I get enough sleep is by staying in bed long enough. To pass the afternoon I think I’ll take the metro to St. Germain des Prés.

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Place St. Anne des Arts, 3pm, at a café of the same saint’s name, on a cool, breezy side street: I saw a sign earlier that said 28° but I’m erring on the side of chilly here. A girl is upset at a nearby table but the guy keeps talking like his voice is the most important thing to hear. My back seems quite cold. I try to watch my back. I think the guy is dumping her. He’s getting more agitated. He’s dumping her (“Je départ”). A bunch of teen girls with feminine intuition (“Une bagarre,” said one) are now sitting and watching from the other side of the narrow street. But here’s my food. It should warm me up.

Hotel before half eight: my work here is done. I’m after my third shower today. Madame Paris succeeded in blowing me away eventually. I must go now to eat and drink. For food, I’ll go back some of the way I came. I feel like a good night. The walk back from the ninth meant I could appreciate the beautiful evening. On my way I diverted to take a few photos of an imposing church that’s not even named in the Rough Guide. St. Vincent de Paul.

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3rd September, Monday

The early hours of Monday: I went back to The Cork and Cavan and sat by the canal until I saw a few older people going in and out. I got a seat at the bar and the young Kerry barman started talking to me and eventually he confirmed that the most tanked-up person in the pub was the owner. I ended up sitting beside him and even his Japanese wife joined in and told me they had rows over disciplining their young son. It turned out to be a place that welded a smile to my face.

Monday afternoon, at the airport. It naturally took me a while to get myself together this morning but by midday I was in sufficient shape to leave. The blanches at the C&C last night didn’t do much damage, so. There’s an American man across from me wearing a rug and it reminds me of an Asian in a shop last night who looked like he had one stitched to his forehead.

The owner of the C&C said his son was actually doing more than OK in his class. His wife also gave him credit for doing sports and activities with the boy too but the punch-line concerned a key piece of info in the boy’s possession. “He knows I’m a millionaire.” The top man insisted on getting me a last drink and before that the Kerryman had given me one on the house, saying it was a French tradition, like a buy-back, I suppose. I enjoyed the pantomime there.

I got home at seven. It’s nice to have normality waiting here. First student tomorrow, back in the temple of Apollo.