Sunday, September 12, 2004

Nighttime in Paris

They have gone to bed, my companions have. Yet I sit here by the light with a pencil in my hand.

Perhaps it was the strong coffee I had earlier as we sat along Boulevard St. Germaine. Or perhaps it is the evening air now filling the room since I opened the windows after they fell asleep. Or perhaps it is the fact that the two of them took the brunt of the storm today while I huddled in a slightly sheltered spot, out of the wind and out of the rain protecting our digital camera.

So they have now gone to bed, and now fallen asleep, and now the light of day is fully gone. Outside the window, there is only one other light to see, lit perhaps for some other highly caffeinated traveller scribbling down his or her fleeting thoughts.

Are these fleeting thoughts?

I think they are, for now, although the cool night air is a welcome relief and the sound of periodic raindrops outside no longer holds the terror that they did while we waited for the Tour to come thru Chartres today, although I am full of many little thoughts that come and suggest themselves, I cannot for the life of me remember what it was that I intended to say when I started out only a few paragraphs back.

A sign, perhaps that it is time to join my companions.

Trip to France - Day 13

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The Midway

After we ate our soufflés (so many that we thought we would pop), we decided to walk back to the hotel. It was getting dark, and the air was chilly, but we had jackets.

Two weeks ago, carrying jackets with us in the middle of the summer would have seemed silly. Such is the experience of living in Texas. But we were coming to the end of two weeks of travelling thru northern Europe, so the Texan in us was lying dormant. We had jackets with us and were undaunted by the chilly Paris nighttime. So jackets in hand (or on shoulders), we decided to forego the Metro and walk back.

It wasn't far -- just across the Tuilleries, across the Seine, and back to the Latin Quarter. Trudy and Ben and I had walked this part of town at the beginning of our trip. But it was daylight then, with the bright sun reflecting off the white gravel walkways making us squint. Now it was night, and the place seemed quite different.

Quite different? There was a carnival in full swing smack-dab in the Tuilleries.

The Ferris wheel was turning, its white lights shining brightly against the night sky with the edifice of the Louvre looming in the background. We decided to investigate.

Across the street, and thru a wide gate in a chain-link fence, and we were in another land. In spite of the dark sky overhead, the midway was ablaze. Orange lights. Red lights. Long tubes of neon blue.

Behind Ben, a King Kong sized gorilla head sat mouth-agape on top of a trailer. Behind Trudy, the neon lights and arrows flashed and blinked. Behind Gregg and Kelley and Trudy and me, a carousel turned. And we stopped there to pose for a picture by Ben.

Whereas I might have been tempted by the carousel, the Ferris wheel that we had seen from across the street tempted me not a bit. We all stood at the base for a moment wondering if we should ride it, wondering what the view might be like from the top. But it tempted me not a bit. In the end, we all turned our backs on it and walked up the midway.

There were not very many people there. Perhaps they had just opened that night. Perhaps the night was yet young. Whatever the reason, there wasn't much of a crowd as we walked past the rides and the photo booths and the stands where you could prove your skill and win a stuffed animal. We kept walking all the way to the end and then turned around and walked all the way back, because our stroll had taken us in the opposite direction from where we intended to go.

The night wore on. We left the midway behind as we worked our way thru the Tuilleries in the direction of Boulevard St. Michel. We sat for a moment and waited for the on-the-hour strobe lights on the Eiffel Tower do their thing for ten minutes.

By the time we said goodbye to Gregg and Kelley and found our hotel again (after some wandering that we did not altogether intend), it was dark. I mean, day was completely done. It was one of only a few days on this trip when we went to bed fully after dark. And when we got back to our room at the top of the five flights of winding stairs with uneven steps and carpets designed to catch tired toes, we collapsed.

I briefly tried to write some things onto paper, but in the end the effort was futile, and I followed Trudy and Ben into tomorrow.

Trip to France - Day 12

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