Friday, 3 April 2009

Expectedly unremarkable, how a river in a city such as Paris can look the same as a river in London, or indeed Prague or Budapest or somewhere else I have never been. All serve the same purpose, a thick brown band that alerts ones compass, I am north, I am south. On this occasion, I was in Paris certainly, because I headed over the bridges towards the streets at the foot of Notre-Dame, skirting the place for fear of the coachloads of garish amateur photographers, eventually scurrying into a busy roadside café for bitter coffee and fresh, warm bread. Heading out once full, having guilty read American newspapers, I became lost again and embarked upon the segment of that day's self-generated tour that was most easily ignored. I had embarked upon an accidental trail towards the Eiffel Tower, through a rich, aloof part of town that knew nothing of a global credit crisis.

The Tower itself, once reached was – as often these monuments are – strangely detached from the city itself, both in terms of location and, well, aura. There is nothing lived-in about these structures. Having trudged through streets and pavements full of life, of people living, there was a strange stillness about this place. Of course there were people; it was busy with tourists squabbling for photographs like birds fighting over a piece of food. But a serenity, neither pleasant nor uncomfortable, just uncustomary, filled the park in which the Tower stood. The thing itself is more beautiful than I had realised – the irrepressible, elegant spans and curves induced a calm in me, one that ensured I was happy to sit and simply stare for an hour or so. I fell asleep I think, in warm spring sunshine, notebook in hand while heavy, black birds filled the bare branches of the trees at the Tower's foot. Underneath, in the rectangle at the structure's base, some sort of fairground was underway between snaking queues of people and trinket sellers with mass-produced keychains and ornaments.

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