Tag: Paris

Precious Memories Safe: More to Come in Paris

Friday’s terrorists attacks in Paris painfully remind us of how vulnerable we all are, how fragile life is. On this note, today with bloggers, journalists, people around the world, I mourn the loss of the 129 people who died there and express grief for the many other lives that have been shattered, too.

Also, we mourn the loss of security, as we have known it as a free society, in this great city, at least for a while.

But as atrocities of the past have shaken us, have robbed us of liberties and caused us great pain, also they have connected and strengthened us in our darkest hours, so that we have overcome. So will this one.

As I watched the end of BBC Breakfast this morning, I was so very touched by the show of unanimity around the world, different world cities flying and displaying the tricolour, the French flag, on buildings, in the air, and so on.

Wistfully, I remembered some of my special moments in Paris, a city where people go to celebrate life, soak up youth, and quite frankly run free. Most recently, I was there on Mother’s Day, unable to be in the US, but outside of the Musée d’Orsay, a favourite hangout, I spoke to my mother, soaking up the Parisian atmosphere. How very special.

Memories are precious, for sure. And though intangible, they are safe and well as long as the human mind is so. To this comforting end, surely Paris will be safe and well again, soon and very soon. Until then, may the spirit of freedom reign, not only there but also in other notable world cities, too.






No Need to Compare Bright Light to Mysterious Smoke

I don’t know about a thousand words, but this picture certainly says a few – stroppy, serious, sad yet sanguine and simply Sonja.

Wrapping up our weekend in Paris at the Musee d’Orsay was delightful, yet I stropped at Paul for taking a close-up photograph of me. I so despise head shots and then on the way home on Eurostar, getting my second fix of magazines (the first one was on the way there), I read an article about self-image and how women could sometimes be their own worst critics.

Ouch – I sat up straight and considered the charge, flipping through photos on my iPad. The closer up the photo, the more unpleasant the emotion, proving me guilty as charged.

I found it unbelievable that I, so full of self-worth, could have self-image problems. Who would have thunk it? Of course, my problems pale in comparison to serious esteem matters, which are no joke whatsoever. Still the point is all the same – poor self-esteem leads to dissatisfaction, unhappiness, unhealthy living and so on, even if it is on a small level.

And who has time to be unhealthy, unhappy and dissatisfied when in Paris or London for that matter. So with memories of The City of Lights in the near distance, I took in the blustery air of The Smoke.

On the taxi ride home, I recalled returning from Paris to London last year with my BFF, godson and one of his friends. Having gone from one elaborately stunning hotel to a sedately beautiful one, I remember thinking that the Parisian hotel got the prize. I even said it out loud and suggested that the London beaut was a bit tired, though I wouldn’t turn down a night there anytime. I love the place.

The City of Lights shines
The City of Lights shines

Suddenly, however, this Londoner felt second-class to a Parisian. Oh dear. And now speeding through Bloomsbury, I was comparing the two cities again, having been caught up in the romantic atmosphere of Paris for the weekend. I compared the Seine to the Thames, Marble Arch to Arc de Triomphe (unfair!), our bridges to theirs, museums and so on and then it struck me that I needn’t choose one over the other.

Like their respective luxury hotels, one wears its opulence on its sleeve and the other is ever so mysterious. And to be honest, I like a little mystery now and again. No wonder I can’t get enough of Hercule Poirot.

And anyhow, I haven’t seen the real the grit of Paris, albeit it is a dirtier city than London, on the surface. Still they are both impressive cities, just different—one characteristically French and the other English. Come to think of it, so are many of those headshots of mine, different that is.

But one showing is enough, at least for this outing. No need to compare, seriously!












Fast Track: London to Paris or vice versa

Whether the city of lights has more character than the big smoke is debatable if you ask me. While the former has an unmistakable youthful buzz that seduces anyone who comes near it, the latter has an indisputable sophistication yet a mellow politeness that draws its visitors back time and again.

Ask anyone for directions in London and you will soon be on your merry way. Not in Paris. You’ll be spinning around in circles until you figure it out yourself. Better take along a compass and a translator for that matter. And forget securing a taxi, but even if you do, be prepared to feel unwanted the entire ride.

Still, if you ask my godson, he’ll tell you there is no contest. Paris has it! While I don’t agree, even I have to admit that Paris is everything youthful, even its older attractions, the Sacré-Cœur and Notre Dame, for instance, still seem to be in their prime.

No wonder so many writers, particularly American ones, have flocked there. Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Richard Wright, Ezra Pound and James Baldwin all spent extensive time there. Wright even gained French citizenship and moved his family there permanently.

In Michel Fabre’s book From Harlem to Paris, Wright is quoted as saying, “Can you imagine what this means to me? I never knew a city could be so beautiful.”

So it is. Paris is a beauty. And no matter how many times I go there, I too am lured to the left bank where Wright and others lived and worked. And repeatedly, as I looked around Paris, wherever I was, I saw a grand building or monument and was reminded of the words that my husband’s childhood French friend coined when he was a first time tourist in London.

Of St. Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, even the Tower of London, he said, “we have this in Paris but only bigger.”

He has a point. Even the gardens (jardins as they call them) are sprawling.You don’t have to go to Versailles for this. We found a vast, beautifully manicured landscape on the left bank. But still the debate goes on. London’s Hyde Park is not to be sneezed at.

Lots of differences between the two places, no doubt, but there is one particular that connects them from centre to centre–Eurostar, the high speed passenger train.

Arguably, it is the best mode of transport operating between the two. From St Pancras to Gare du Nord, it takes two hours and twenty minutes flat. This is better than flying by a long shot even if you are averse to the tunnel under the English Channel. This part of the journey only last for 30 minutes.

Well worth shutting your eyes and forgetting where you are for it is the tunnel that enables travellers to strip out the hassle that comes with air travel and cut back on the expense and time it takes to reach city center from an airport.

At your point of origination, you go through immigrations, passport control, and security and wait briefly in the Eurostar lounge–London definitely the better of the two. At your destination, you stroll pass a few officials without further delay.

But first you do need to board the train and take the journey. Now you get what you paid for: a reserved seat, comfy enough, even in coach. But don’t expect excess on Eurostar. It’s all basic, particularly the food, unless you bring your own.

Anyhow, who needs food when you’re on the fast track? Best to save your appetite for city center—London or Paris. You choose or do both.