No less than 6 weeks have passed since we rolled off the ferry in Porto Torres and officially began to call Sardinia 'home'. The last 2 of those weeks I've spent back in Cork for work. My complete inability to blog in the 4 weeks in Sardinia is an indication of how completely and quickly I've settled in. I find that I can blog when I'm on the road (I'm writing this from Cork airport on my way back, erm, home, to Cagliari), but I haven't yet found a place in my normal life's routine for this activity. I will, though. Promise. In the meantime, I'll catch up where I left off.
We left peaceful Brittany and made the 4-hour drive (in five-and-a-half hours) to Paris, a place that by contrast manages to make an awful lot of noise. New York might be the city that never sleeps, but Paris is the city that never shuts up. It even snores. Certainly the Quartier Latin where we were based, has a variety of auditory expressions that would rival a philharmonic orchestra. The morning is announced by rubbish trucks and delivery vans, emptying the detritus of the previous night's excesses, and stocking up for the reprise. They are kept company by the bells of nearby churches, each with a slightly different opinion as to when the hour strikes, and how it should best be announced. The Greek restaurants start their plate-smashing from around 6 in the evening, competing with all the other tourist restaurants for the cobble-weary, knapsacked footfall. The buskers kick in on every corner with a different instrument and genre, which mixes into perfect dissonance by the time it reaches our window on the second floor of Rue Saint Severin. The final movement of the day's symphony includes a clutch of beer-soaked choristers, shouting instructions to each other from distance of 1 meter or less, before rolling in to passing taxis, or passing out in hotel foyers. The curtain goes down. You may sleep now. You have 4 hours before the garbage collection begins again.
Paris was our first city together. Letizia and I met in Dublin, but shared our first address in Paris. We stayed there long enough to know it as a living city rather than a collection of monuments. Paris is one of our horcruxes - we embedded a little splinter of ourselves here. Every time we come back, we experience a familiarity that disarms the foreboding of its features and facades. But we know its disadvantages too. I associate Paris with fatigue. It is a place that sucks the energy out of you - though of course you may enjoy the experience. Paris (within the peripherique) is a relatively small city when compared to say London, and it has a public transport system that works well. But somehow, inexplicably, everything you want to do takes a lot of time, and every joule of energy you spend seems to attract a hefty tiredness tax. (This isn't just me showing my age - I remember the very same effect 15 years ago as a - sigh - young man.) The street drains you with every footstep. It surely didn't help that for our three days there, most of those steps led from one clothes shop to the next or from one Disney attraction to the next.
For those readers who followed us around the world on this blog, I can tell you that my duties as a shopping companion correspond very closely with those of Assistant to Official Tour Photographer. In both roles, the most frequent instruction (by now unspoken, but completely understood) is 'hold my bag and keep out of the way'. Such is my expertise on the matter, I can offer tours of Paris' most authentic shopping experiences, complete with an explanation of where to find a place to sit down in even the most minimalist of shop interiors.
One thing that surprises a lot of visitors is how well and how *cheaply* one can eat in Paris. The high price of beer no longer leaves the Post Celtic Tiger Irishman breathless, but the low price of food - if you go to the right place - still has the power to shock. One of the most enjoyable was a fresh noodle restaurant recommended to us by our Sardinian friend Silvia who came to live in Paris around the same time we did and lives there still. Paris isn't the only thing Silvia and we have in common. Silvia also has a daughter called Nina - though much younger than our own. When dining together with friends and their children, sometimes a little patience is called for from all parties, and the younger the child, the more patience is required. In such circumstances, I would not normally complain about the behaviour of a friend's offspring, and certainly not on such a public forum as this (Silvia is a reader of this blog). But I have to make an exception in little Nina's case, when we met up with Silvia for noodles one lunchtime. Perhaps it was the heat of the day, perhaps the noise of the waiters shouting at each other in French and Mandarin, but this young lady did nothing but irritate her mother from the dumpling starter to the final sip of coffee. At one stage - I'm not making this up - she actually kicked Silvia. I did my best to look the other way, and pretend that nothing had happened, but obviously it was a very awkward moment. All I can hope for is that her behaviour gets better after she is born.