Month: November 2011

The Reality of a Tuesday Night in Paris

As much as I dreamt that studying in Paris would mean a series of nights spent in classy Parisian cafes, thinking profound thoughts, soaking in the energy of France’s long line of great thinkers – on a Tuesday night like this, it becomes quite clear that the conditions could not be more different. The kettle is on, another pot of tea is coming up. The supply of biscuits is running low. The mood in the apartment could do with some music to keep the creative juices flowing – Nothing does the trick quite like the voice of Yves Montand and the reminder to keep the rose tinted glass on tightly! There is a PhD to be had in the long term and in the interim, yet another draft to resubmit. It’s going to be a long night.

Homelessness in Paris

The weather is probably slightly higher than it was this time last year,but the difference in degrees is lost upon the homeless men and women we encounter daily on the streets of Paris. The struggle for survival, I imagine, becomes more intense at this time of the year as the weather takes a nasty turn for the worse – and as the already limited choices for shelter from the cruel elements become even more limited. I came across this report from last winter which provides a glimpse into the homelessness dilemma in the city: Encouragingly, though, French authorities have been sensitive to the plight of the homeless in the past. Last year, the defense ministry opened up military training centres across the country to provide beds to hundreds of homeless men and women in the face of heavy snowstorms. At city level, the “Mairie” has allocated hundreds and thousands of Euros targeted at various interventions for the homeless – ranging from food distribution schemes to the provision of shelter. A few weeks ago, Bertrand Delanoë, …

Diary of a Trip to Tours #5: The River Loire

During the trip to Tours, I managed to experience a small but terrifying part of the Loire – France’s longest river. Words escape me in attempting to describe it: It is a wild, wide force of nature with a long and interesting history. It is a fascinating basin of currents aggressively flowing in different directions. An attraction for adventurers ducks that let the river carry them before they make u-turns and fly back up the river for yet another ride down. At the same time it is the perfect mise-en-scene for a jog or a romantic stroll along its banks. Apparently the Loire is also one of the few European rivers that have proven to be particularly difficult to ‘tame’. So, unlike the yielding Seine that serenely runs around and through Paris, La Loire is the more ferocious sister to the docile Seine. Even the experience of walking on the “Pont Wilson” , one of the bridges over the Loire is nothing like taking a calm walk over one of the bridges over the Seine: …

The Season’s Favourite Things

Four weeks to Christmas, and we are welcoming in the season with friends old and new! It was interesting taking a mental trip back to Christmas 2010 through photographs taken then – last year’s ‘Christmas in Paris’. One thing that stands out is the difference in weather – at least thus far. Yes, temperatures have dropped and today is particularly grey and moody – but it seems to be warmer and drier compared to last year. This could all change, of course. While walking down Champs Elysées, it was clear that there is a little less ‘bling’ in contrast to last year.This could be thanks to energy efficiency or perhaps befitting of a France in the midst of weathering the Eurozone crisis. And, oh, there is a new Marks and Spencer’s that I noticed in the distance on Champs Elysées as well. As the season kicks in, I think this year will be a lot more sober than the last. The heady excitement of “Christmas in Paris’ has cooled down, and I am a bit …

This Morning in Montmartre

With the sun superimposed against a vast blanket of blue sky this morning – and armed with coats and scarves to cope with the cold – a group of friends and I spent the most part of Saturday morning in Montmartre. It is a well known haunt for tourists, and for this reason I’ve generally avoided going there too much. It always seems more dignified to not gawk at the city’s monuments so that ‘people’ notice that I actually live here. So, ordinarily, I tend to yawn and look at things like the Eiffel Tower rather dismissively. Or, better still, simply walk past and perhaps cast an irritating glance that says “Oh, it’s the Arc du Triomphe again.” Today was quite different then in this regard – because I lay aside my usual delusions and paranoia about being mistaken for someone who is visiting Montmartre for the first time. It was one of those ‘like a virgin’ mornings were a group of friends and I simply took the time to be a group of babes …