I just got back from Paris. A quick weekend away with girlfriends. I didn’t go to Paris until I was 18 years old (in truth I didn’t go much of anywhere before then, except to see relatives in Northern Ireland!). I have been back many times since that first visit thirty years ago. Back then we had about £10 each to spend and an address scrawled on an envelope of a friend of a friend who’d put us up. Of course they weren’t in. They’d gone out of town for the weekend. We spent one night on the staircase of their apartment block and cut the trip short by a day. Still, it was Paris!
I haven’t been to the city for about ten years, barring the terrifying peripherique, which has regularly challenged my sanity/marriage/holiday spirit. This time I went by Eurostar and was capital to capital in less than three hours. This always delights and amazes me. We stayed near Strasbourg St Denis and it was great, a cheap budget hotel, right in the centre, lovely cafes, real French people (including those of the oldest profession), it felt proper, authentic, un-glitzy. I know it was February and a bit chilly but I was surprised by how few tourists there were. I didn’t hear a single American accent and Paris, like Rome, is usually full of them. It was quiet, too quiet for business. I have a friend who works in the travel industry and she says business is down by about 70%. My friends and I discussed this over one of our 2 hour french dinners. Is it really fear of terrorist attack? It’s a bit ridiculous if it is. What would happen if everyone stopped visiting the States because of gun crime? Actually, that makes more sense, given the weekly massacres. My girlfriends and I all lived in London during the mainland IRA campaign, the underground was suspended regularly and any stray bag brought evacuation to our offices but we didn’t barely noticed at the time. Terroism doesn’t scare me paarticularly, it’s not as if it’s a daily occurence here, we have it easy compared to other countries. In fact the attacks last year made me want to go back to Paris. I felt like I’d neglected her. As Victor Hugo wrote,
It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live.
You can’t let your life, or holiday choices, be dictated by fear. Everyone visit Paris, she looks lonely.
On the last day we made an express visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery, you might think this is an odd tourist destination but I’ve been three times now! We weren’t the only ones there either. Its graves are crumbling, over-crowded and eerily beautiful. Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Flaubert and many more are buried there if you have a map and a few hours. We didn’t have much time so we only wandered about a bit and went to see Jim Morrison. I have written a short story about someone being possessed by the spirit of Jim Morrison after standing on his grave. That story is in my collection In The Future Everyone Will Be Famous For Fifteen Minutes. I have been trying to find a publisher for it for about a year and I’ve just learned that it has been accepted by Unbound which is a cutting edge crowd-funding publisher. I am very excited by this news, it looks like an interesting and innovative way to get books that are outside of mainstream publishing into the hands of readers. I will be posting about this throughout the process. Thanks Unbound. And Vive La France!